Tokyo, Japan. The Japanese government announced Monday that it was returning its ambassador back to South Korea almost three months after recalling him over a statue commemorating Korean women forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War Two as prostitutes.
In 2015 controversy arose over the issue of “comfort women” which has plagued Korean-Japanese relations since 1945. Supposedly the issue had previously been resolved with a national apology and a compensation fund established for those forced to perform in such activities.
The Japanese government had said that the statue near its consulate in the southern South Korean city of Busan, which depicted a young woman sitting barefoot in a chair and was erected at the end of last year, violated that agreement.
In addition to recalling the ambassador, the Japanese also postponed bilateral “high-level” economic dialogue and talks on a new currency swap arrangement with South Korea.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that ambassador Yasumasa Nagamine would return to South Korea on Tuesday after being recalled in early January.
Kishida announced that the period of political instability after the arrest of ousted president Park Geun-hye meant an ambassador was needed to be in place in order to gather information on the situation as well as for maintaining close ties in the face of North Korea’s missile and nuclear program.
The term “comfort women” refers to young girls and women, from South Korea, China, the Philippines and elsewhere, who were forced to work as prostitutes for Japanese military soldiers. South Korean officials estimate that there may have been as many as 200,000 Koreans abused by the Japanese during WWII.