July 10 (UPI) -- Four South Korean men who allegedly spat on a statue memorializing the nation's comfort women told police they committed acts to "deride" victims of Japanese wartime brothels.
The men, who remain unidentified, are in their 20s and 30s. The incident took place on Saturday in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, outside Seoul, News 1 reported Wednesday.
Ansan Sangnok police station, where the defendants were taken in for questioning, said the men intended to insult the memory of comfort women, many of who died in wartime rape camps after being assaulted daily.
"They spat on the comfort women statue to mock the victims," police said. "They also spoke in Japanese in order to augment the sentiment of insult."
The defendants reportedly said, "Long live the [Japanese] emperor" at the scene, local newspaper JoongAng Daily reported Wednesday.
The men also gesticulated with their hips around the statue, according to the report.
One defendant said he was drunk at the time of the incident. A second defendant said he took part in the desecration of the statue because another person suggested the idea.
The men also spoke in Japanese to passersby who tried to restrain them.
The police directly notified surviving comfort women who live together at the House of Sharing, a nursing home and community for victims of wartime sexual violence.
The comfort women said if the men sincerely apologize, they would not file a complaint, which could be followed by punishment.
By late Wednesday the women had filed a complaint, but they said they will withdraw if the defendants decided to issue an apology.
In 2015, Japan and South Korea agreed to create a foundation to provide nearly $10 million in non-governmental funds as reparations to surviving comfort women.
South Korea formally closed the fund last week, a move that is being condemned in Japan, where the government has pushed back on state-backed reparations for the women and for Korean forced laborers recruited during World War II.