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International relations

South Korean city removes statue symbolizing forced wartime labor

Trade unions had tried to place memorial in front of Japanese consulate

The statue representing Korean laborers is loaded onto a truck in Busan on Thursday.   © Kyodo

SEOUL -- A controversial statue representing Koreans conscripted to work for Japanese companies before and during World War II was removed from a sidewalk in Busan on Thursday amid protests.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions had abandoned the statue near the Japanese consulate in the South Korean port city, after its attempt on May 1 to install it in front of the building was thwarted by police. Municipal authorities had been asking the group to move the statue elsewhere.

Labor groups protested its removal on Thursday, but about 1,500 police officers were dispatched to help district staffers transport the statue. It is now housed in the city's National Memorial Museum of Forced Mobilization under Japanese Occupation.

The statue and other grass-roots efforts to draw attention to Korean suffering during Japan's 1910-45 rule have posed a challenge for Tokyo as it seeks warmer ties with Seoul.

"We appreciate the response by the South Korean side," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Thursday.

Big Japanese industrial groups have also been hit with lawsuits by claimants seeking compensation for conscripted labor.

Similar memorials dedicated to wartime "comfort women" have been installed in front of Japanese diplomatic outposts in South Korea, which Tokyo also wants removed.

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