South Korea and Japan are in disagreement over the compensation of former "comfort women" forced to serve in Japanese wartime brothels. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Christian leaders in South Korea and Japan are calling on the Japanese government to "cease denying" military crimes related to the issue of Korean comfort women, as the fate of a statue in Germany remains uncertain amid Japanese opposition.
Lee Hong-jung, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Korea, and Kim Sung-jae, general secretary of the National Christian Council in Japan, said Wednesday in a joint statement Tokyo should cease the "act of distorting or denying the crimes of the past," Yonhap reported.
During World War II, Japan "forcibly mobilized women of their colonies, set up military 'comfort stations' and violated the human rights of women through crimes of sexual violence, organized by the state," the pastors said.
The crimes were made clear in the "courageous testimonies of the victims," but Japan has "not issued an official apology or state compensation."
"Rather it is engaging in diplomatic activities that distort past crimes," the religious leaders said.
Lee and Kim said the example of Japanese opposition to the Korean comfort woman statue in Berlin illustrates Tokyo's denial.
In 2015, the Japanese government said the comfort women policy of wartime was a "grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women," and that Japan is "painfully aware of responsibilities from this perspective." That year, Japan agreed to a foundation for distributing compensation, but activists for the women said the policy did not reflect the opinion of victims.
Japan has stepped up communication with Germany following the unveiling of the new statue. Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi has requested his German counterpart Heiko Maas remove the statue in the Berlin borough of Mitte, according to the Sankei Shimbun.
The city of Berlin reversed an initial decision to take out the statue on Oct. 14, however. Last week, a Japanese politician asked for the statue to be demolished, citing concerns about anti-Japanese racism. The statue remains in place, according to South Korean press reports.