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Friday, May 24

Is Berlin planning to remove a statue to Korean “comfort women”?

Comments from Berlin Mayor Kai Wegner hint at the removal of a statue commemorating the victims of sexual slavery in World War 2.

Photo: IMAGO / Rolf Zöllner

Friday, May 24

Berlin mayor Kai Wegner hints at removing statue to Korean “comfort women”

The bronze statue depicts a teenage girl in wearing traditional Korean costume, sitting down. Beside her, another chair is empty. This is the Friedenstatue, the statue of peace, which was inaugurated in September of 2020. This memorial intends to commemorate so-called “comfort women”, the hundreds of thousands of women forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops during the Second World War – as well as to stand as a symbol against sexual violence more widely. But now, it seems, the future of the memorial is in doubt following some controversial remarks from Berlin mayor Kai Wegner during a diplomatic visit to Japan.

An official press release states that during last week’s visit to Tokyo, the mayor “held out the prospect of a solution to the controversial Comfort Women monument in Berlin…. ‘It is important that we make changes,’ says Wegner. He is committed to ensuring there is a monument against violence against women, but a one-sided representation should no longer take place.”

Recent years have seen the Japanese government repeatedly put pressure on foreign cities to remove memorials to comfort women, with Osaka dropping San Francisco as an official “sister city” over the issue. In the week since his remarks, the mayor’s statements have drawn protests, both outside the German embassy in Seoul, and in Berlin itself with calls for a protest outside the Rathaus on Friday morning.