Japan on Tuesday strongly criticized a statue installed in South Korea showing a man resembling Prime Minister Shinzo Abe bowing to a “comfort girl”, a name given to women forced into sex slavery before and during World War II by the Japanese army in occupied territories.
“If media reports about the installation, named Everlasting Atonement are true, it would decisively impact ties between the countries,” said Japan’s government spokesman Yoshihide Suga as cited by Kyodo News.
The statue has been installed at a botanical garden in Pyeongchang in northeastern South Korea.
The head of Korea Botanical Garden said in a statement the statue did not intend to resemble Abe or “serve any political purpose”.
The two countries are already engaged in a trade dispute after a South Korean court asked Japanese firms to pay compensation to victims of its policy of sexual slavery.
In a tit-for-tat response, Japan stopped exports of essential chemicals and other items to South Korea’s tech industry.
Comfort women have remained a hot-button issue among the two countries ever since the Koreas achieved freedom from Japan in the 40s.