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Japan's harsh outcry against Hashimoto's snub of women's rights is heard, ambassador says

Seoul envoy: Mayor is odd man out

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

The South Korean ambassador to Japan slammed Toru Hashimoto on Wednesday for his remarks justifying Japan’s wartime sex slave system, saying the Osaka mayor lacked historical knowledge and regard for the rights of women.

“I’m disappointed to know that a Japanese politician has such a poor understanding of history and women’s human rights,” Shin Kak Soo said at a press conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo.

However, the ambassador expressed relief that Japanese citizens were critical of Hashimoto for his comments.

“I think we need to take more notice of the reactions of Japanese society,” Shin said. “If you look at today’s Japanese newspapers, letters from readers, and reactions on social-networking services, it is clear how people of sound judgment feel (about Hashimoto’s remarks).”

Hashimoto, who is also coleader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), caused a huge stir earlier this week when he declared that during the war “comfort women” were necessary “in order to provide relaxation for those brave soldiers who had been in the line of fire.”

Characterizing Hashimoto’s remarks as at odds with the viewpoint of most Japanese, Shin said he hopes the uproar will lead more people to think about women’s human rights and the pain suffered by those who were forced into sexual slavery.

Shin, whose two-year tenure as ambassador ends on May 31, said the South Korean government opposes any moves to amend the 1995 statement issued by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, considered a key apology for Japan’s wars of aggression and colonial rule in Asia.

“The Murayama statement shows the fundamental principle of the Japanese government. And it has been upheld by every Cabinet since it was issued,” Shin said. “Surrounding countries, including South Korea, have built relations with Japan based on the statement. It’s really unfortunate to see remarks or moves (to amend it).”

During an Upper House session in April, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that he is “not upholding all of (the statement) as it is,” causing concern not only in South Korea but also in the United States.

But on Wednesday Abe backtracked, saying he has never denied Japan’s aggression against neighboring parts of Asia.

  • Max Erimo

    Of course the Osaka Mayor has little or no historical knowledge as it is not taught in Japanese schools.
    Now before everyone says ‘yes,it is.’ The content and depth is left to individual schools and believe me 99% of them hooseto teach that Japan was the victim in World War II, as it was attacked using te nucear bomb. I have taught at a junior high chool for 14 years that focuses on that only. Nothing about the Nanjing Massacre, Burma Railway etc.
    Japanese need to be presented with their past, and learn to accept it. Not ignore it.

    • Masa Chekov

      You know, in the times that I have actually had a conversation with a Japanese person regarding WWII, I have not one time heard them say “Japan was the victim”. I have heard them say the exact opposite, though.

  • Will

    I wonder how he will feel if one of those “comfort women” was his sister. Time to learn your history little boy. I hope the Japanese people will abide by their civic duty and vote this young brat out of office.

    • androapple

      The problem is that Hashimoto is a very honest and rude guy. In a political spectrum with tons of old dudes who blabber, don’t do anything and sleep, a young energetic and very blunt candidate automatically becomes very popular. That is the only reason Hashimoto is so popular.

  • shin ra

    Most schools in the US barely touch on the negative aspects of our history, let alone any history. Some kids don’t even know why there are thirteen stripes on the American flag…

    • androapple

      Not to mention that America doesn’t mention ever having done anything to Mexican territories.

  • Guranzman

    Well, if we consider wartime period objectively, Osaka Mayor is right. Now ppl accuse him for his lack of wartime knowledge. It is pretty obvious there was no human right especially women right issues in Korea which is conquered by Japan.

  • KenjiAd

    Actually it’s not that Hashimoto is “ignorant” of the history. The problem is far more serious and complex than mere ignorance. After all, if he had been just ignorant of the sex-slave history, he would not have been able to say the way he did.

    He knows what the “comfort women” issue is, and has a different interpretation for the history, i.e., a revisionist version of it in which Japan didn’t do anything -particularly- wrong. It goes like this – Japan didn’t coerce the women to sexual slavery; many other countries were doing the same; and the issue was already solved by the 1965 treaty between Japan and Korea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_on_Basic_Relations_between_Japan_and_the_Republic_of_Korea) and the set up of Asian-women fund in 1994 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asian_Women%27s_Fund). You will hear the same argument from right-wingers.

    I must stress that the narrative of revisionist history as described above is potentially far more dangerous than mere ignorance. There is no “shock value” of teaching Japan’s war atrocities to people who believe in the revisionist version of Japan’s war-time history, because any example of Japan’s crimes would be interpreted as a mere propaganda by China/Korea/and the west to tarnish the reputation of Japan. Both Ishihara and Abe are a very good example of this.