Gov. Sonomanma: What sex slaves?

by Hiroko Nakata

Miyazaki Gov. Hideo Higashikokubaru, a comedian-turned-rookie-politician, waded into a political minefield Wednesday, claiming it was hard to confirm as historical fact that the wartime Japanese military coerced women across Asia into frontline brothels.

The comment at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo by Higashikokubaru, better known by his stage name Sonomanma Higashi, echoes Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent remarks on what Japan euphemistically called the “comfort women,” sparking an international outcry.

Abe has repeatedly said there is no proof that the Imperial army forced young females from Japanese-occupied Asia into sexual slavery at the brothels.

Asked by reporters for his opinion on Abe’s comments, Higashikokubaru said, “It is very difficult to confirm as a historical fact that the ‘comfort women’ actually existed.

“My position is that it is hard to make a comment (on the issue) unless the history is verified,” he said. “Both cases of existence and nonexistence (of coercion) should be verified objectively.”

Aside from the question of whether there was coercion to get the sex slaves into the brothels, Higashikokubaru said he believes there was nothing wrong with Japanese engaging in the sex trade in pre-1945 Korea, because under a “bilateral accord” in 1910, the Korean Peninsula became part of Japan, where the sex business had been allowed under certain regulations.

But the Koreas say Japan’s colonial rule was in fact an invasion and illegal, as was any sex trade on the peninsula involving Japanese, the governor said.

“Arguments differ significantly between the winner and loser,” Higashikokubaru said, as a general view.