Photo/IllutrationMa Ying-jeou, left, Taiwan's former president, looks on as the statue symbolizing “comfort women,” a first in Taiwan, is unveiled at a ceremony in Tainan on Aug. 14. (Hideshi Nishimoto)

TAINAN, Taiwan--Taiwan unveiled its first statue to commemorate "comfort women" here on Aug. 14 in what was clearly a politically motivated act.

The unveiling was accompanied by a demand by Taiwan's former president, now a member of the main opposition Nationalist Party, for an apology and official compensation from the Japanese government.

Taiwan was a Japanese colony from 1895 to 1945. Many Taiwanese women were forced to provide sex to Japanese troops as “comfort women” during World War II.

The unveiling coincided with the day in 1991, when a South Korean woman named Kim Hak-sun went public with her testimony as a former comfort woman.

The comfort women issue has put a heavy strain on relations between Japan and South Korea.

Women in other countries also served as comfort women.

The statue of a girl with her arms raised to show her resistance is 160 centimeters tall.

It was erected in the city’s commercial district.

The statue project was the brainchild of a group established this spring with support from the Nationalist Party. The party’s local chapter donated the plot for the statue.

The group, which calls itself the Tainan association of promoting human rights of comfort women, sought public donations for the project.

A signboard put up near the sculpture states in Chinese, Japanese, English and Korean that the statue was erected to remember the tragic history of comfort women and to show respect and support the victims.

At the unveiling ceremony, Ma Ying-jeou, the president of Taiwan from 2008 to 2016, criticized the government of the Democratic Progressive Party for shying away from examining the history of Taiwan under Japanese rule.

Ma appeared be using the event to raise his party's profile ahead of unified local elections scheduled for autumn.

A candidate expected to run for Tainan mayor on the Nationalist Party ticket also attended the ceremony.

Fifty-eight women in Taiwan were recognized as surviving victims when a local human rights group conducted a study of comfort women in Taiwan more than 20 years ago. Today, only two are still alive.

In Taipei, an advocacy group for women’s rights that helps the victims and their supporters, visited the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association’s Taipei office, the equivalent of a diplomatic mission, to submit a protest letter demanding an apology and compensation for the comfort women issue.