Japan distances itself on sex slavery comment

2014-01-27 14:56
Katsuto Momii, President of Japan's public broadcaster NHK. (Kyodo News, AP)

Katsuto Momii, President of Japan's public broadcaster NHK. (Kyodo News, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Tokyo - Tokyo on Monday distanced itself from comments by the new head of national broadcaster NHK, who said the Imperial Army's system of wartime sex slavery was not unique to Japan.

Katsuto Momii said on Saturday that the practice of forcibly drafting women into military brothels during World War II was "common in any country at war".

"Can we say there were none in Germany or France? It was everywhere in Europe", he told an inaugural press conference, according to local media reports.

His comments came the day before the death in Seoul of Hwang Kum-Ja, aged 90, leaving just 55 South Korean former "comfort women" alive.

Hwang Woo-Yea, chairperson of the ruling Saenuri Party said: "Japan must bear in mind that it will forever go down in history as an unapologetic perpetrator when all the victims pass away."

Personal opinions

The Japanese government on Monday moved to insulate itself from Momii's comments, which it said were a personal opinion.

"Our understanding is that chairperson Momii made the comment as an individual", not as the head of Japan's public broadcaster, chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

It declined to comment further on the issue.

Momii, aged 70, has since apologised for the comments, which he described as a personal opinion.

He conceded they were "extremely inappropriate", and admitted he should not have expressed his personal views publicly, Kyodo News reported on Monday.

Momii previously served as a vice chairperson of trading house Mitsui, and is rumoured to have been Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's preferred choice as NHK chairperson, the news agency said.

During Saturday's press conference Momii had also said the comfort women issue was "complicated because South Korea says Japan was the only country that forcibly recruited [women]".

Taking responsibility

During Abe's first stint as prime minister in 2007, he provoked region-wide uproar when he said there was no evidence that Japan directly forced women to work as sex slaves.

His administration has struggled to escape the whiff or revisionism, with a recent visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which counts 14 senior war criminals among the souls it honours, compounding the problem.

"Regarding the comfort women issue, Prime Minister Abe is saddened when he thinks about the people who went thorough sufferings beyond description", Suga said, noting Abe's stance was the same as his predecessors.

"Comfort women" is Japan's preferred euphemism for women drafted into military brothels.

The issue continues to provoke regional tensions, with South Korea and China insisting that Japan must face up to its World War II-era wrongs.

Historians say up to 200 000 women from Korea, China, the Philippines and elsewhere were forced into brothels catering to the Japanese military in territories occupied by Japan during WWII.

Last year, popular Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto prompted global outrage last year by suggesting that "comfort women" served a "necessary" role by keeping battle-stressed soldiers in check.

In a landmark 1993 statement, then chief Japanese government spokesperson Yohei Kono apologised to former comfort women and acknowledged Japan's role in causing their suffering.

Read more on:    shinzo abe  |  china  |  japan  |  human rights  |  war crimes

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.