• Mon
  • Dec 29, 2014
  • Updated: 3:38am

Japan government distances itself from 'comfort women' comment

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 May, 2013, 1:16pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 May, 2013, 1:35am

The Japanese government on Tuesday distanced itself from comments by a prominent politician that the so-called “comfort women” of second world war served a “necessary” role by keeping troops in check.

Outspoken Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said soldiers living with the daily threat of death needed some way to let off steam which was provided by the comfort women system.

Up to 200,000 women from Korea, China, the Philippines and elsewhere were forcibly drafted into brothels catering to the Japanese military in territories occupied by Japan during the second world war, according to many mainstream historians.

“When soldiers risk their lives under a hail of bullets, and you want to give them a rest somewhere, it is clear that you need a comfort women system,” Hashimoto said.

South Korea voiced “deep disappointment” over the comments, which risk inflaming Japan’s relationship with neighbours that were victims of brutal expansionism and who claim Tokyo has never faced up to its warmongering past.


“There is worldwide recognition... that the issue of comfort women amounts to a wartime rape committed by Japan during its past imperial period in a serious breach of human rights,” a Seoul foreign ministry spokesman said.

There is worldwide recognition... that the issue of comfort women amounts to a wartime rape committed by Japan during its past imperial period in a serious breach of human rights

“Our government again urges Japan’s prominent officials to show regret for atrocities committed during Japan’s imperial period and to correct their anachronistic way of thinking and comments.”

Hashimoto, who is co-leader of the national Japan Restoration Party, acknowledged that some women providing sexual services to Japan’s soldiers did so “against their will”, something he attributed to “the tragedy of war”.

But he said there was no evidence this had been officially sanctioned by the state and that the use of prostitutes by servicemen was not unique to Japan.

“There are many examples” of unacceptable and brutal behaviour by soldiers in wartime and “to contain such things, it is a cold fact that a certain system like comfort women was necessary”, he said.

Japan’s top government spokesman and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday refused to comment directly on Hashimoto’s remarks.

However, he said: “The government’s position on the comfort women issue is that, as I repeatedly said here, we feel pains towards people who experienced hardships that are beyond description and [this] administration shares the view held by past governments.”

In a landmark 1993 statement, the Japanese government offered “sincere apologies” for the “immeasurable pain and suffering” inflicted on comfort women.

Two years later, Japan issued a broader apology expressing “deep remorse” for war suffering.

The 1993 statement remains passionately opposed by some Japanese conservatives who contend that the country did not directly coerce women.

Despite a hawkish stance on history, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe indicated last week he does not intend to backtrack on these apologies.

Japan’s shared history with its Asian neighbours looms over present-day relations, which are also strained by separate territorial disputes with Seoul and Beijing.

Both capitals say Tokyo has not shown sufficient contrition for its WWII behaviour. But many in Japan feel nationalists abroad use the issue as a stick to beat it for their own domestic ends.

Hashimoto, who was once mentioned as a possible future prime minister, said Monday that Japan bears responsibility for the war and urged compassion for victims.

“[Comfort women were] a result of the tragedy of war so we have to take care with thoughtfulness of those people who became comfort women against their will,” he said.

Shintaro Ishihara, a former Tokyo governor and the other co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, came to Hashimoto’s defence on Tuesday, arguing prostitutes and militaries have co-existed throughout history.

“Although Mr Hashimoto’s comments are unpleasant to hear, he is not saying anything wrong,” he said.


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

It seems after so much achievements... thoe Japanese nationalist just couldn't tell the difference between rape and prostitution. By comparing both the same is literally adding another layer of insult to the victims.
The fruit of glossing over your past and teaching rewritten history to your children. This is only the beginning, imagine an entire society that's been taught that they can do no wrong, that comfort women are necessary, and that war criminals need to be respected.
It is unbelievable that the mayor of a major Japanese City, Osaka, should consider that sexual slavery was "necessary" for the Japanese military during World War II. Any mayor of any city in the United States would be put out of office, making such a blatantly ignorant, sexist, and racist, statement. It is also, ironic, that he claims that the Japanese military, could only be "kept in check" by the systemic slavery of women, which the Japanese government referred to as "comfort women". I think there is almost unlimited evidence that the Japanese military was left virtually entirely unchecked in committing the most vile, and cruel, atrocities against the men and women of the nations that they invaded. Something is happening in Japan today that is shameful, a revisionist view of the history of Japan during World War II, that may play well among some sectors in Japan, but will only serve to isolate this nation from the rest of World opinion. Hopefully, the majority of the Japanese people do not hold to the same beliefs that the mayor of Osaka's statements represent.
And that is why Japanese people to this day, are still ignorant self-centred garbage..........to make a comment like this shows that they were and still are inhumane towards such disgusting past war crimes..........Only thing the Japanese deserve is to let karma take it's course and ravage them continuously with tsunamis and earthquake and hopefully another nuke so that they will finally learn their lesson...........
The 2nd world war ended in 1944. Yes Japanese during the 2nd world war were very very wrong. However you can't hold those responsible today for what their grandparents did. Hopefully this shameful history will never be repeated.
Who is this ignorant man? What sort of education system tells such blatant lies to its people and even its children? Is it a facet of Oriental culture that the Japanese cannot bear to face the unpalatable truth about their nation's past atrocities?
The comfort women were not prostitutes; they were slaves forced into a foul life of the worst kind of abuse, degradation and humiliation. The racist aspect of the policy should also not be forgotten; no Japanese women were forced into this "necessary role". Almost universally, the Japanese military behaved like beasts to all those they came across.
Drop another nuke on the Japanese...........that should teach them a lesson.........again........
i suppose using WMD against ethic Chinese and POWS and the Rape of Nanking are good examples that the Imperial Japanese Army kept their troops "in check"
Don't cut down the whole tree just because of a few rotten apples. Calm down folks.. some crazy people come with some crazy talks.. Nothing new in this planet..
not really that different that most americans from the mid west IMO and some of these confucius minded officials from the north also trying to rewrite history. At least this guy is straight forward even though he is not politically correct at this instance.
Why did the us of a drop the atom bomb in japan and not in europe?



SCMP.com Account