Korean women scrap meeting Japanese mayor over brothel remarks

Fri May 24, 2013 7:48am EDT
 
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By Yoshiyuki Osada

OSAKA, Japan (Reuters) - Two elderly South Korean women forced to work in Japanese war-time military brothels canceled 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 Two.

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.   Continued...

 
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto (R) speaks to reporters at the Osaka city hall in Osaka, western Japan in this photo taken by Kyodo May 24, 2013. REUTERS/Kyodo