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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs