News / Asia

Korean Women Scrap Meeting Japanese Mayor over Brothel Remarks

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto listens to reporters' questions at the Osaka city hall in Osaka, western Japan, May 24, 2013.
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto listens to reporters' questions at the Osaka city hall in Osaka, western Japan, May 24, 2013.
Reuters
Two elderly South Korean women forced to work in Japanese war-time military brothels cancelled a meeting on Friday with the mayor of the city of Osaka after he refused to withdraw remarks asserting the brothels were “necessary” at the time.

The mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, an outspoken populist who has often stirred controversy, sparked a storm of criticism at home and abroad when he said last week that the military brothels had been needed, and Japan has been unfairly singled out for wartime practices common among other militaries.
       
Victims of Japan's war-time aggression, including many people in China and South Korea, are sensitive to what they see as any attempt by Japanese politicians to excuse Japanese abuses before and during the war.
 
Octogenarians Kim Bok-dong and Kil Won-ok said they had hoped their planned meeting with Hashimoto, who heads the small right-leaning Japan Restoration Party, would encourage him to change his mind but they had heard he planned to manipulate them by an “apology performance” in front of media.

“Indescribably heart-wrenching reality and history of the victims cannot be traded with his apology performance and sweet talk,” the women said in a statement provided by the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan.
 
“We do not want to kill ourselves twice,” they said. “If he truly feels sorry to us and regretful, he must take back his criminal comments and make a formal apology. He should hold himself responsible for his wrongdoing and retire from politics.”
      
Hashimoto also said there was no evidence the Japanese military directly abducted “comfort women”, as they are euphemistically known in Japan, to work in the brothels before and during World War II.
 
Historians estimate that as many as 200,000 women were forced into sexual slavery in the Imperial Japanese Army's brothels before and during the war.
 
On Friday, Hashimoto, who trained as a lawyer, told reporters he had not meant to imply that he personally approved of the wartime brothel system and said he was sorry that the women's feelings had been hurt by the misunderstanding.
 
But he declined to withdraw the remarks.
 
“I believe at the moment there's nothing I should withdraw,” he said during a news conference. “But I feel sorry if media coverage [of his remarks] hurt comfort women's feelings.”
 
CONTENTIOUS POINT
 
Hashimoto also said that it was clear that the Japanese
military ran the brothels, but it was necessary for scholars to study and clarify whether Japan's military and government were directly involved in abducting the women to work there.
 
“Whether Japan as a state abducted Korean women and trafficked them. That's the most contentious point between Japan and South Korea. The Japanese government has not made this point clear,” he said.
 
“This should be debated rigorously among historians to make things clear and to restore relations between Japan and South Korea.”
     
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe caused controversy during his first term in 2006-2007 by saying there was no proof that Japan's military had kidnapped women - mostly Asian and many Korean - to work in the brothels. Such sentiments are common among Japanese ultra-conservatives.
      
But Abe has sought to distance himself from Hashimoto's
remarks and his government has drawn back from early signals that it might revise a landmark 1993 government statement acknowledging military involvement in coercing the women, and apologizing to them.
 
The issue has often frayed relations between Tokyo and
Seoul.
 
Japan said the matter of compensation for the women was
settled under a 1965 treaty establishing diplomatic ties. In 1995, Japan set up a fund to make payments to the women from private contributions, but South Korea says that was not official and therefore insufficient.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs