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2 former sex slaves demand Japan mayor quit

By Mari Yamaguchi

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:50 p.m. HST, May 24, 2013

OSAKA, Japan » Two Korean former sex slaves demanded the resignation of an outspoken Japanese mayor and canceled a meeting with him Friday (Thursday in Hawaii) for justifying Japan's wartime practice of forcing tens of thousands of Asian women into prostitution for its military.

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, also co-leader of a nationalist party, enraged Japanese neighbors last week by saying the use of so-called comfort women, mainly from South Korea, China and the Philippines, in frontline brothels before and during World War II was considered necessary then to maintain military discipline and give soldiers relief.

Hashimoto told reporters later Friday that the cancellation was "very unfortunate" but that he respects their feelings. He said he had hoped to show his sympathy over their wartime sufferings as sex slaves, and would have apologized for hurting their feelings because of his remarks that he said were misrepresented by the media.

Supporters of the two women in their 80s, Kim Bok-dong and Kil Won-ok, said there would be nothing to talk about because Hashimoto has showed no remorse over his remarks. They suspected he may have wanted to use the meeting — to be broadcast live on TV — to appear friendly with them and calm public criticism, the supporters told journalists.

The women, who did not appear in public, said in a statement they were heartbroken by Hashimoto's "outrageous comments" and didn't want to be seen contributing to a less-than-sincere apology.

Instead, they demanded that Hashimoto, 43, apologize and resign as mayor of Japan's second-biggest city.

"We cannot compromise our painful past as victims and the reality that we still live today for Mayor Hashimoto's apology performance," the women said in a statement. "We don't need to be trampled on again."

Hashimoto also angered the U.S. by suggesting American troops based in southern Japan should patronize legal adult entertainment establishments as a way to reduce sex crimes there. He said he planned to apologize to the U.S. military and Americans for "making them feel uncomfortable because of my inappropriate remarks," but denied any prejudice against women.

The women, regulars at a weekly protest outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, and their supporters originally requested a meeting with Hashimoto last year, which was rejected. Hashimoto suddenly told them they could meet with him the day he made the inflammatory comments on May 13, Japanese supporters said. They said the timing seemed odd, and were skeptical about his motive.

Both women have said in past accounts of their ordeals that they were deceived into becoming sex slaves to Japanese soldiers.

Kim was recruited to work at a military uniform factory when she was 15, but ended up at a military-run brothel in Guangdong in southern China. She was dragged across Asia, from Hong Kong to Singapore and Indonesia until the end of war. She had to take an average of 15 soldiers per day during the week, and dozens over the weekend. She and other girls were closely watched by guards and could not escape.

Hoping to help her poor family, Kil took a factory job in 1940 when she was only 13. But she was sent to China, where she was repeatedly raped until the war's end in 1945.

Historians say up to 200,000 women from across Asia were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers. While some other World War II armies had military brothels, Japan is the only country accused of such widespread, organized sexual slavery.

Hashimoto has largely shared Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's view that there is no official record to prove those women were forced into sex slavery because of a Japanese state order.

Hashimoto on Friday blamed the murkiness of Japan's past apology and historical facts for having kept the issue unresolved for so long, hurting Japan's relations with its neighbors.

His comments come amid concerns in China and South Korean over a series of nationalistic events and remarks coming from Abe's government, which took power after winning elections in December. In April, several Japanese government ministers and nearly 170 lawmakers visited Tokyo's Yasukuni war shrine, which memorializes 2.3 million war dead, including 14 wartime leaders convicted of war crimes.

Before taking office, Abe advocated revising a 1993 statement by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono expressing remorse for the suffering caused to sexual slaves of Japanese troops. But on Friday, the Abe administration formally adopted a Cabinet decision to "inherit" the apology in that statement, responding to a question submitted by opposition lawmaker Kiyomi Tsujimoto.

Abe, however, has suggested his Cabinet does not necessarily support all of a 1995 apology by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, which is seen as Japan's main expression of remorse for its wartime and colonial past.

Tokyo in 1995 initiated a fund of private donations as a way for Japan to pay former sex slaves without providing official compensation. Many South Korean comfort women have rejected the fund, demanding a government apology approved by parliament, along with government.

Hashimoto attributed the backlash against his comments to a lack of sensitivity on his part. The U.S. State Department called his remarks "outrageous and offensive."

Hashimoto has lashed back at his critics through Twitter, insisting that organized sex services were needed to prevent sex crimes by American troops during the 1945-1952 U.S. occupation following Japan's defeat in World War II.

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tonosama wrote:
Murkiness in recording historical facts? Most Asian nations are very detailed in maintaining their own nation history and Japan may be the forerunner on this subject with detailed documentation since Day 1 of their existence. But for this "comfort women" event, this portion of their history mysteriously disappeared. How odd? False hope in hanging on to misdirected nationalistic pride to gain votes for political office hinting that the new wave of Japan is consumed with the "Anime" culture. Time for drastic changes.
on May 24,2013 | 04:16AM
Nalukai wrote:
This is a prime example of Japan's arrogance and failure to take responsibility for their imperial attitude that drove the Japanese military forces and civilian population before, during and after World War II. God forbid Osaka Mayor Hashimoto and his cronies move up to higher political office with this attitude. A simple acknowledgment and sincere apology would do wonders for Japan's relations with South Koreans and all worldly views towards Japan.
on May 24,2013 | 04:54AM
palani wrote:
Old wounds heal slowly, but it's still disconcerting to me when Korean or Chinese women marry Japanese men. Kind of like a Jewish woman marrying a German.
on May 24,2013 | 05:21AM
BH1 wrote:
Is it "disconcerting" to you when Hawaiians marry "haoles" who stole their land? (Which by the way is the majority - how many full blooded hawaiians you know?) What about black women who marry white men who's ancestors made her ancestors slaves? Your comment is ignorant and racist in every sense of the word. Wake up... You can't fault today's people for things that are beyond their control. Next you gonna blame the ancestors of two gay people getting married, for them "being gay." Are crimes committed by Austrailians because they are descendants of criminals shipped there as a penal colony? Lol. Pure ignorance.
on May 24,2013 | 06:18AM
busterb wrote:
Great post
on May 24,2013 | 07:38AM
8082062424 wrote:
Hawaiians marrying "haoles is not the majority. ask local folks and the majority would be Hawaiian and Asian blood
on May 24,2013 | 08:35AM
primo1 wrote:
I know a lot of both.
on May 24,2013 | 08:59AM
PTF wrote:
I agree with BH1.
on May 24,2013 | 10:18AM
mitt_grund wrote:
I once had an interesting conversation with a college professor who had been a kamikaze pilot. Despite 25 years passed since the war's end, he maintained that Japan's war was just. The Western powers had maintained a stranglehold on Japan's industrial growth, by denying Japan access to needed resources, i.e., iron ore and oil. Japan had little recourse but to conquer neighboring nations to obtain access to those resources. Therefore, it was all justified. Never said whether he considered the rape of 300,000 Nanking residents and the comfort women a necessary adjunct to conquest, but I suspect he would have felt that in his heart that it was justified. I suspect that the new nationalists in Japan who reflect this same belief are a true reflection of the new generation in Japan who have grown up only reading textbooks glorifying their imperialist history and blaming the economic suppression by the West as the cause for the war. Notably, their history books do not cite any massacres or suppression or military rape of the women of other Asian nations. Provides fertile soil for saying that these things did not occur, or that the massacres were the doing of the Chinese, Koreans, and Filipinos, and that their women willingly embraced the superior Japanese military male. My discussions with this former kamikaze also revealed a particularly militant interpretation of Confucianism which along with Japanese Shintoism were equivalent to the Aryan concept of divine destiny. A new Japan is rising, based on a historic perspective that denies anything bad ever happened. that Japanese imperialism was benign and that deaths of civilian populations and comfort women pure fabrication. The real evils are China, North Korea and the oppressive West that has kept Japan from rearming.
on May 24,2013 | 06:34AM
mitt_grund wrote:
Sorry. "rape of 300,000 Nanking residents" should be "rape of Nanking, resulting in the deaths of 300,000 Nanking residents"
on May 24,2013 | 06:39AM
sailfish1 wrote:
You talk like the U.S. and other Western countries never did anything wrong - ever hear of slavery and the deaths of millions of black people? Ever hear of the brothels set up by the U.S. military in Japan to service U.S. troops? Ever see U.S. bases in foreign countries and all the brothels nearby? Ever hear of the near extermination of the American Indians? Ever hear of Genghis Khan? Ever hear of the Crusades? Etc. Etc. Did you ever go to school? Every country in the world did some very evil things - You want to resurrect all past history, you better start to resurrect ALL of it. By the way, South Korea is under investigation for recruiting Thai girls to work in their brothels and have you ever heard of the Korean massage parlors in the U.S.
on May 24,2013 | 07:29AM
primo1 wrote:
Yes, every great "civilization" has blood on their hands.
on May 24,2013 | 09:03AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Mitt-Grund, how could you have had an interesting conversation with a college professor who had been a kamikaze pilot? You apparently do not know that kamikaze pilots were suicide pilots who flew missions one way and never returned.
on May 24,2013 | 03:34PM
nitpikker wrote:
what happened to the days of hari-kiri for bringing shame to yourself and/or family?? i guess the days of the " bushido" code is gone!!
on May 24,2013 | 07:38AM
likewise wrote:
I saw a documentary recently that was taken at the end of WWII. It showed American soldiers making German's march through the concentration camps that the Americans had just liberated. The theory was that these German villagers had ignored what was happening in these camps, practically in their own backyards. Making them march through the camps and face the truth of what had really taken place inside those barbed wire fences was to force them into admitting their complicity, either directly or through willful blindness. German people could not be allowed to try to white wash history. This is what's happening now with Japan. Those women are now standing up to the revisionist history Japan is putting forth. More power to them. Nie wieder.
on May 24,2013 | 07:43AM
topgun wrote:
on May 24,2013 | 07:51AM
Fred01 wrote:
The Japanese are a creepy race.
on May 24,2013 | 08:57AM
primo1 wrote:
Your comment is either made to incite others or out of ignorance. Which is it?
on May 24,2013 | 10:07AM
PTF wrote:
Probably both.
on May 24,2013 | 10:22AM
medigogo wrote:
Hey, why don't they just admit it and move on. Invite those sex slaves who are still alive to Tokyo to meet with the prime minister, give an official apology- a deep bow. It's over. Does it matter whether it was an official act? If your army did it, even though it wasn't sanctioned by the government then, an apology is due. Not recorded then? Who would be so retarded to record their own wrongful acts? Giving out unofficial compensation is just another insult. What would any money do for someone 80 years old?
on May 24,2013 | 10:46AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Mitt-Grund, how could you have had an interesting conversation with a college professor who had been a kamikaze pilot? You apparently do not know that kamikaze pilots were suicide pilots who flew missions one way and never returned.
on May 24,2013 | 03:35PM
Ronin006 wrote:
IRT Mitt-Grund's comment about having an interesting conversation with a college professor who had been a kamikaze pilot, who could that have happened? Kamikaze pilots were suicide pilots who flew missions one way and never returned.
on May 24,2013 | 03:37PM
Ronin006 wrote:
There is no doubt that women from Korea, China and other countries occupied by Japan during World War II provided “comfort services” for Japanese troops, but I am skeptical about them being forced to do so at the point of a gun, especially since the claims of sex slavery were not made until almost fifty years after the war ended. It seems to me that if women were forced to be prostitutes by the Japanese forces, such information would have been found immediately following the war and not fifty years later. I believe the women who served as so-called sex slaves for Japanese troops did so voluntarily for one reason only, that being to survive. Incidentally, many Japanese women provided “comfort services” to members of the US armed forces during the US occupation of Japan following the war. Does that make them sex slaves? Are they entitled to an apology and compensation from the US government?
on May 24,2013 | 03:55PM
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