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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora