TOKYO: The maverick mayor of Osaka is to meet former wartime sex slaves, reports said on Thursday after he pledged to apologize to them, while insisting Japan’s soldiers were not unique in brutalizing women.
Up to 200,000 “comfort women” from Korea, China, the Philippines and elsewhere were forcibly drafted into brothels catering to the Japanese military during World War II, according to many mainstream historians.
“I think I have to apologize firmly for what Japan did as I talk to former comfort women,” Toru Hashimoto, who is co-leader of the national Japan Restoration Party, said in a television interview early on Thursday.
He is set to meet two South Korean former “comfort women” later this month at Osaka city hall, major local media, including NHK and the Nikkei newspaper said later in the day.
“I will tell the comfort women that I’m sorry for having had such a system no matter whether it was forcible or not,” Hashimoto said. “It was a disgraceful act and should never be repeated.”
But Hashimoto, who has been mentioned as a possible future prime minister, insisted sexual exploitation of women was not unique to Japan.
“During World War II, neither the US nor the British militaries had comfort stations or comfort women, but it is an obvious fact that they made use of local women.
“Japan was not the only one doing so,” he said. “Everybody was doing bad things. I think Japanese people . . . should offer objections if there is a misunderstanding of facts in the world.”
There is no mainstream evidence that other modern militaries have employed a formal sex slavery system.