|Seoul deplores Japanese mayor’s defense of brothels full of Asian sex slaves in war
Japan’s government distanced itself from comments by a local politician that the so-called “comfort women’’ of WWII served a “necessary’’ role by keeping its combat troops in check.
Outspoken Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto said soldiers living with the daily threat of death needed some way to let off steam which was provided by the comfort women system.
But South Korea deplored the remarks today saying the women were raped during war by the Japanese.
Up to 200,000 women from Korea, China, Philippines and elsewhere were forcibly drafted into brothels to serve Japanese soldiers in occupied territories during WWII.
When soldiers risk their lives under a hail of bullets, and you want to give them a rest somewhere, it is clear that you need a comfort women system,’’ Hashimoto said.
South Korea voiced “deep disappointment’’ over the comments.
“There is worldwide recognition... that the issue of comfort women amounts to a wartime rape committed by Japan during its past imperial period in a serious breach of human rights,’’ a Seoul foreign ministry spokesman told AFP.
“Our government again urges Japan's prominent officials to show regret for atrocities committed during Japan's imperial period and to correct their anachronistic way of thinking and comments.''
Hashimoto, who is co-leader of the national Japan Restoration Party, acknowledged that some women providing sexual services to Japan's soldiers did so “against their will,’’ something he attributed to “the tragedy of war.’’
But he said there was no evidence this had been officially sanctioned by the state and that the use of prostitutes by servicemen was not unique to Japan.
“There are many examples'' of unacceptable and brutal behavior by soldiers in wartime and “to contain such things, it is a cold fact that a certain system like comfort women was necessary,’’ he said.
Japan's top government spokesman and chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga refused to directly address Hashimoto's remarks.
However, he said: “The government's position on the comfort women issue is that, as I repeatedly said here, we feel pains towards people who experienced hardships that are beyond description and [this] administration shares the view held by past governments.''
In a landmark 1993 statement, the Japanese government offered “sincere apologies'' for the “immeasurable pain and suffering'' inflicted on comfort women.
Two years later, Japan issued a broader apology expressing “deep remorse'' for war suffering.
The 1993 statement remains passionately opposed by some Japanese conservatives who contend that the country did not directly coerce women.
Despite a hawkish stance on history, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe indicated last week he does not intend to backtrack on these apologies.
Hashimoto, who was once mentioned as a possible future prime minister, said Monday that Japan bears responsibility for the war and urged compassion for victims.
“[Comfort women were] a result of the tragedy of war so we have to take care with thoughtfulness of those people who became comfort women against their will,'' he said.
Shintaro Ishihara, a former Tokyo governor and the other co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, came to Hashimoto's defense today, arguing prostitutes and militaries have co-existed throughout history. “Although Mr Hashimoto's comments are unpleasant to hear, he is not saying anything wrong,'' he said