Japan said on Tuesday that the recent erecting of statues of a man kneeling in front of a girl symbolizing "comfort women" in a garden in South Korea could see bilateral ties between the two countries deteriorate further.
Named "Everlasting Atonement," the statues were erected at a private botanical garden in Pyeongchang, in the country's northeast, South Korean media has speculated that the male statue is supposed to depict Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Japan's top government spokesperson Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Tuesday that if the reports are true then it would "decisively impact ties between the countries."
The South Korean sculptor who made the statues told South Korean media they are designed to show "forgiving is possible only if Japan continues to ask for atonement until South Korea accepts it," local media here reported.
Hundreds of thousands of Asian women were forced to serve as sex slaves for the Japanese army during World War II, including many from the Korean Peninsula. The victims, euphemistically called "comfort women," were kidnapped, coerced or duped into sex enslavement.