"Comfort women" statue in Berlin-Mitte

Removal would be a slap in the face of the victims (Press release)

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has criticized the decision of the Berlin-Mitte district authorities to remove a statue in memory of the fate of the so-called "comfort women", which had only been installed at the end of September 2020. The euphemism was used to describe women who were abducted and forced into prostitution by the Japanese army during its occupation of several Asian states between 1937 and 1945. "The district office justified the decision by stating that the statue was 'against Japan' – and to be seen as a 'targeted commentary on Japan's politics from the Korean side'. The dignity of the victims is at stake," stated Hanno Schedler, STP expert on genocide prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, in Berlin today. "In Germany, it should be more important to commemorate the victims of sexualized violence in war than to worry about the nationalist sensibilities of Japan. On Wednesday, the district office had sent a letter to the non-governmental organization Korea Verband e.V., demanding a removal of the statue by October 14, 2020 – a deadline of only one week.

"In his recent speech at the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations – on September 29 – Federal Foreign Minister Maas said that justice is a prerequisite for lasting peace. To this day, Japan is reluctant to comment on the fate of the 200,000 women from Korea, China, and other Japan-occupied countries who were abducted and forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers. If the statue in Berlin were to be removed, this would be a slap in the face of the few victims who are still alive," Schedler emphasized.

It was not until 46 years after the end of the war, in August 1991, that the first victim was able to address the public. In a South Korean television show, Kim Hak-soon reported how, at the age of 17, she and a friend were forced to work as sex slaves in a brothel in Japanese-occupied China. "The statue is not anti-Japanese! It commemorates the fate of hundreds of thousands of women who became victims of sexual violence. The surviving women suffered from these crimes their entire lives. The memorial of the crimes against humanity must not be removed. Instead of exerting pressure on its allies to prevent the erection of such statues, the Japanese government should press ahead with investigating the crimes committed at the time – and lay a wreath on the statue," Schedler added.