Hashimoto brings South Korea into fray

Looking to deflect blame from Japan, mayor says Seoul's troops abused women in Vietnam War


South Korean soldiers were guilty of abusing women in wartime, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) coleader and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said in comments reported Tuesday, days after provoking a storm by labeling sex slaves a military necessity.

In a remark likely to fuel outrage and further stoke tensions in an already uneasy relationship, Hashimoto said the South Korean military used women for sex to keep servicemen’s frustration in check in Vietnam.

Sex slavery is a particularly sensitive issue on the Korean Peninsula, whose females made up a large number of the “comfort women” forcibly drafted into brothels catering to the Japanese military during the war.

Hashimoto said last week these women served a “necessary” role keeping battle-stressed soldiers in line, setting off a volley of criticism from places that came under Japan’s yoke in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as from the U.S.

In the days since his original comments, Hashimoto has continued to fan the flames with each new pronouncement.

“Japan was bad,” he told a party meeting Monday, the Asahi Shimbun reported. “It is true that we used women to solve the problem of sex on the battlefield.

“Having said that, America, Britain, Germany and France, and even the South Korean military in Vietnam after WWII, they all used women to address the issue.

“Japan was bad, but you all should face up to the history. This is what Japanese politicians must say,” the Asahi quoted him as saying.

Under military strongman Park Chung Hee, the father of current President Park Geun Hye, South Korea deployed more than 300,000 soldiers to Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s to support U.S. forces.

There is no mainstream evidence that any modern military, other than Japan’s up to and during World War II, employed any system of sexual slavery.

While the embattled Hashimoto has gone on to blame others in an apparent attempt to lessen the impact of his own remarks, his allies are increasingly distancing themselves from him.

Your Party formally decided Tuesday to scrap its cooperation with Nippon Ishin for this summer’s Upper House election as well as the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election next month.

“Now we have realized that the two parties have different values,” Your Party chief Yoshimi Watanabe told a party meeting. “So we need to fundamentally review our relationship.”

Their botched cooperation for the Upper House election focused on unifying the two parties’ candidates in dozens of districts nationwide.

In Osaka, Nippon Ishin Secretary General and Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui acknowledged a tough road ahead. “We are in a harsh situation but will fight tooth and nail,” he said.

Nippon Ishin coleader Shintaro Ishihara has suggested that Hashimoto quit Twitter and put his views down on paper instead, according to Matsui.

Ishihara, no stranger to controversial statements, was quoted as telling avid Twitter user Hashimoto: “You should quit Twitter. If you have something to say, wouldn’t it be better to compile it into a thesis?”

Matsui told reporters Monday that Ishihara made his suggestion during a meeting of party executives in Nagoya the previous day.

“Since Mr. Ishihara is a major writer himself, he probably wanted to say that thoughts cannot be conveyed in short sentences,” Matsui said in a reference to Twitter’s 140-character limit.

Hashimoto has more than 1 million followers on Twitter.

  • O T

    >There is no mainstream evidence that any modern military, other than Japan’s up to and during World War II, employed any system of sexual slavery.

    Some article on sex slavery in South Korea for US soldiers:
    Ex-Prostitutes Say South Korea and U.S. Enabled Sex Trade Near Bases

    • Glen Douglas Brügge

      But remember, sex slavery implies being forced to work as a sex worker, against your will and for no pay. As this article states, no coercion to date has been claimed. Yes, the US and the South did enable it – as the Japanese Government and the US Government did in the post war years in Japan (it’s no secret) – but this is not the same as taking women from their homes and forcing them to perform sex acts upon pain of death as was the case with Imperial Japan.

    • Ron NJ

      “While the women have made no claims that they were coerced into
      prostitution by South Korean or American officials during those years,”

    • dontwannaregister

      You should re-read that NYT article…

      “While the women have made no claims that they were coerced into
      prostitution by South Korean or American officials during those years,
      they accuse successive Korean governments of hypocrisy in calling for
      reparations from Japan while refusing to take a hard look at South
      Korea’s own history.”

      “…the women have made no claims that they were coerced into

    • dontwannaregister

      You should double-check that New York Times article

      “While the women have made no claims that they were coerced into
      prostitution by South Korean or American officials during those years,
      they accuse successive Korean governments of hypocrisy in calling for
      reparations from Japan while refusing to take a hard look at South
      Korea’s own history.”

      emphasis on “…the women have made no claims that they were coerced into
      prostitution by South Korean or American officials…”

  • Masa Chekov

    Keep digging, Toru – the dirt is just piling right up on your head.

    • Jeff Huffman

      Is it though? The Japanese remain a largely apolitical and apathetic people. It’s not like Hashimoto is singular in his behavior. There have been about a half-dozen ministry-level appointed politicians who have resigned over the last 20 years or so and Ishihara probably could have run from his deathbed for governor of Tokyo-to and still won and how many stupid or racist things did he say over the years?

      I don’t hold my breath for the Japanese public, even in Osaka, becoming so fed up with him that they either recall him (can you do this in Japan?) or electing someone else for the next term.

      • Masa Chekov

        “The Japanese remain a largely apolitical and apathetic people.”

        Seriously, Jeff? You had to go there? I have to question how much you actually talk to Japanese people about current events if you think this.

      • guy-jin

        Hi Masa! I think Jeff is basically correct!
        I live in Japan and talk to them everyday. I really like it here and Japanese people are really friendly… but, discussing politics is generally not ‘polite conversation’ and actively participating in politics like we do in western countries is nearly nonexistent… aside from the crazy racists who ride around in the black vans, yelling nasty things about Koreans while blaring old WWII music!
        … oh yeah, and the internet racist ranters such as the people you find on this page (now that is Japanese style political activism)

  • Sam

    Hashimoto just doesn’t know when to shut up!

    What a disgrace!

  • KenjiAd

    Every time he opens up his filthy mouth, he changes the subject. He is not a historian, has never studied the history of Vietnam War, and has no idea what he is talking about. He even insults reporters of Mainichi Shimbun by saying they are “頭が悪い” (stupid, unintelligent). His arrogance is beyond belief.

    Besides I don’t understand why he kept saying “But everyone was doing it.” Suppose everyone was indeed doing it. So what? Would he re-resurrect Genghis Khan to prove that China, too, was committing war atrocities?

    Please. I don’t know about him, but when I was growing up in Japan, I believed boys (and girls for that matter) shouldn’t make lame excuses when we were wrong. What he is doing is truly not a “manly” thing to do. It’s quite pathetic.

    • O T

      >Suppose everyone was indeed doing it. So what?

      He’s saying something like this: Yes, I’m wrong, and I know that everyone else doing the same won’t justify what I’m doing. But if everyone does the same, then everyone should look at their own behavior before blaming me.

      • KenjiAd

        I know that’s what he is saying, and that’s pathetic. That’s all there is to it – pathetic.

        Hashimoto is like a mischievous crybaby who got caught stealing candies, turned around shouting that there were a bunch of other boys who hadn’t been caught. Thank you very much, we will look into it, but for the time being, you got caught.

        Re: “But if everyone does the same, then everyone should look at their own behavior before blaming me.” So using this logic, Hashimoto should look at his own behavior, before blaming others, correct?

    • eagleeyezeke

      Hashimoto is right to say what he has. I am an American civilian who went to Vietnam to document the war and stayed for 7 years. I was a USAID refugee advisor in the Mekong Delta and saw plenty of genocide. War crimes that must be prosecuted. Gang rape was frequent and brutal. American GI’s passed photos about of atrocities they’d committed as though they were baseball cards.

      • Masa Chekov

        No, he’s not right. The fact that other countries have done the same is irrelevant. Your mother won’t let you get away with the excuse “But my sister did it too!” when you are 5, let alone should a prominent political figure try such a stupid justification.

        He clearly knows that at the very least the vast majority of opinions both in Japan and abroad find the defense of such war crimes to be abhorrent yet he soldiers on in his own little bubble of ignorance.

      • Eoghan Hughes

        Wait, does he clearly know that public opinion is against him? Or is he ignorant?

      • Masa Chekov

        Well, when I say he is ignorant I hope he isn’t THAT ignorant.

        But maybe I shouldn’t be underestimating how ignorant he is. He is a politician after all.

      • zak

        The point is that Japan should not be held to a higher moral standard than other countries. It takes a considerable amount of hypocrisy to single out an individual country when the same crimes (i.e. rape committed by military personnel, be they Japanese, S.Korean, Chinese, American, Russian, whatever) were and remain a widespread phenomenon.

      • Red Kloud

        To say these countries are just as guilty as Japan is a fallacious argument. Individual soldiers raping and pillaging during war has always and always will happen. Arguing that this is comparable to Japan’s massive comfort women system is nothing more than a pathetic red herring. A government that directly promotes and organizes the systematic rape of hundreds of thousands of women and girls, who were threatened with death if they didn’t comply or tried to escape, is a whole another level of evil that Japan and Japan alone is guilty of. Why people like you can’t make the glaringly obvious distinction between the two is beyond me.

  • Reinhard Zoellner

    It’s definitely true (and there is plenty of evidence) that Nazi Germany’s military entertained a “comfort women” system quite similar to the Japanese during World War II, even including brothels at concentration camps. It is also true that this has received far less attention than the Japanese system. But it is absolutely silly to use this as an excuse or a pretext for not doing justice to the victims of Japanese wrongdoings. When you point a finger at someone else, you always have three pointing back to you. But this is something that people like Hashimoto will never get.

    • KenjiAd

      Exactly. What is so frustrating is that Japan was actually the first country that officially set up a fund (Asian Women’s Fund) for the purpose of distributing money to those women who had worked in military brothels in 1994 (http://www.awf.or.jp/e-preface.htm). Neonationalists were outraged. Extreme liberals also accused the fund of not going far enough.

      Still, it was a good, sincere effort; at that time, the overwhelming majority of Japanese people supported it (the Fund was dissolved several years ago after dispensing the last dime). This is the kind of effort that Japan should be proud of.

      Instead, neonationalists completely ruined it. Their relentless revisionist attack on the history of “Comfor Women” shifted, in the eyes of world opinions, the focus from what Japan is doing right to what “Japan” (actually those minority neonationalsits) is doing wrong.

      It really is they, neonationalists, who has been making Japan look bad. And they are complaining that every country thinks Japan is bad when it comes to the war history. It’s their fault.

  • I don’t believe he is suggesting Japanese soldiers did not do this, or that it was ok. I believe he is trying to justify the actions of Japanese by saying, other military forces did the same thing. Yes, other military personnel, like ‘some’ general citizens rape and abuse, but he wants to suggest that the practice in the West was as ‘institutionalised’ as it was for the Japanese. Basically nationalism/collectivism rearing its ugly head. You get the same type of argument against the Israelis from Palestinians. Well, in fact this guy is more honest, because many Palestinians act with righteous indignation, whilst living in a slave state with no free media or democratic apparatus.

  • the_casual_guy

    Paying prostitutes is not the same as sexual slavery. Hashimoto really seems stupid with these remarks!

  • Yogi

    Every warring country has used women for comfort. Why corner just Japan. The soldiers from US military bases in Japan continuously create news of rapes. Hashimoto Toru, just dont worry about idiots like Watanabe who keep changing their views and parties every other day!!

    • KenjiAd

      “Why corner just Japan”?

      I was born in Japan, grew up there, but spent almost entire my adult life in America. I think I know both cultures very well.

      I just began to think that there could be something very ‘Japanese’ in complaint like “why just me?” This kind of complaint would be considered a juvenile, pathetic excuse in America and probably in most of the western countries. So most adults in those countries, if they have any self-esteem, would rather deny the wrongdoing, instead of saying “I did wrong, but everyone was doing it” like Hashimoto said.

      I hear “why just me?” so often in Japan. I might be stirring the pot but I wonder if this has something to do with the Japanese culture. I know that people in Japan are very fond of the idea that everyone should be treated the same, which is the kind of idea that has no place in America.

  • RMMStaInes

    Somebody or someone in Osaka should stand up and tell Hashimoto to stop and quit before taking Osaka and Japan in more trouble. His political life is over and these issues will be remembered in the book of history forever. Throw in the towel, its time, its done!!

  • nobuo takamura

    Hashimoto has more than 1 million followers on Twitter. I guess most of the followers are having fun with him for pleasure itself and for treacherous trips in the political sphere.

  • martaz

    He is 100% correct. American and S. Korean soldiers definitely committed many horrific atrocities in Vietnam. However, he is deflecting the discussion and justifying what Japanese soldiers did. As an old American expression says: “That’s like the pot calling the kettle black.” Which means that if you have the Rape of Nanjing in your history, don’t try to justify WWII atrocities by comparing them to what soldiers from other counties did. it makes him sound ignorant.

    • KenjiAd

      Irony is that this is the same guy who actually recommended the US Marine commander that the Marines should use more of the sex industry in Okinawa.

      I seriously doubt he knows what he is talking about.

      • martaz

        Well those are two different issue. Prostitution is not a positive thing in a society but it cannot be compared to rape and other war crimes

  • Vance Carothers

    Mr Hashimoto is like a long list of political leaders who have taken their country down the wrong path. It is becoming more and more evident every time he trys to pass the blame onto someone else instead of admitting his mistake. Silvio Berlusconi and George W Bush were two of his predecessors. He is trying to justify sex slavery and Japan’s aggressive behavior in World War ll, but you can’t make the truth out of something that is not. After all we are talking about the cosplay mayor.

  • Lt.Dan

    If he wants to talk about Americans’ attitude towards Viet Nam – he’s partially right: we don’t study our war crimes in that country enough. But you know what? Viet Nam is almost universally presented in US culture as a moment in our history to be ashamed of. The cinema and art surrounding it is brutally honest. Americans have spent a LOT of time talking about, reflecting on, and just plain regretting that part of our history. Yes, many Americans would rather forget it – and many of us have gleefully repeated the mistakes of Viet Nam.

    We at least talk about it; we make movies about it; we tell those stories. I know of nothing comparable in Japan – we have plenty of movies about the Viet Nam war – how many Japanese directors have made films about Japan’s shameful moments in history? How many Japanese films and TV shows present WWII as a tragic, shameful moment in Japanese history? I know of none (though I would appreciate any recommendations, though, if there are any such films).

    I mean, he can try to act like “everyone else does it,” but we don’t. We just don’t do it like Japan does. We just don’t.

  • El Don

    It’s time for Hashimoto to step down. He has become unbearable for Japan. Unfortunately, I cannot think of anyone having the power to force him to step down. Hopefully the electorate will vote him out of office as soon as possible.

  • Agniel

    WTF, this guy is equating individual American and Korean soldiers partying with bargirls on their own with the institutionalized gang-rape and horrific abuse of young women and girls perpetrated by the Japanese government, and there are people here actually sympathizing with him. Japan really has a long way to go.

  • Dennis Wong

    You guys should get some facts straight. Mr Hashimoto brought that out because South Korea has been asking for compensations again and again for a single incident. Not only that, every single time when they had dispute over something, South Korea just brought up the same thing and use it for negotiation. It’s nothing but a dirty trick, IMO. But still, it worked so far. Why Japan had to apologize multiple times for the same wrong doing is beyond me.


    That said, how many times did South Korea compensate the women and the children who are the result the rapes?

    • ddrddrddrddr

      In 2007 the surviving sex slaves wanted an apology from the Japanese government. Shinzō Abe,
      the prime minister at the time, stated on March 1, 2007, that there was
      no evidence that the Japanese government had kept sex slaves, even
      though the Japanese government had already admitted the use of brothels
      in 1993.

      Did you read? It doesn’t matter if you apologize if you go back and deny your wrong doings. Apologies shows repentance, it doesn’t erase history. And according to The same wiki page I see a $2,300 compensation ruling. Real hookers can cost more than that.

      These are rape victims.

      • Dennis Wong

        Kid, first of all, you have to realize what’s the difference between prostitute and sex slave. If you have problem, go check it up in your dictionary. By the way, there are proves (the actual recruitment classifies) that those comfort women received exceptionally high reward for their job.

        Second, the Korean government has signed an international treaty with the Japanese government saying that the Korean government agreed to settle all those problems and they will demand no more compensation regarding to what the Japanese government has done to them during the war, with an $800 million price tag (grants and soft loans). Despite this agreement, the Korean government keeps bringing up the issue again and again, trying to squeeze more and more from their neighbor country.

        Anyway, the point here is the Japanese did not deny their wrong doings (using prostitutes in hope of controlling sex crimes), as oppose to what many have mistaken. They have apologized over and over in fact. However, the Japanese government don’t need to, and should not, apologize for wrongful accusations (i.e. the claim that those comfort women were dragged to and enslaved in the warzone) which has ZERO valid evidence.

        You said those prostitutes are rape victims? Do you have proof?

        As naive as you sound, let me tell you how things work… Apologies don’t make sense if you are wrongly accused for something you haven’t done. It might even make things worse because it hides the truths away. People can erase history (via brainwashing education), but they cannot falsify the truths. The $2,300 compensation is indeed a *bonus* because the Korean government, who used up the compensation received from the Japanese government, deceived its own people and didn’t give them a dime.

        Oh… if you have the intelligence to understand why the Korean government pointed its finger to the Japanese, let me give you some hints…


        Don’t just read, think!

  • Gerald Lafon

    As a U.S. Marine, I served in Vietnam (70-71) with the 2nd ROK Marine Brigade in Hoi An. I saw no Korean sex slaves. There were plenty of opportunities for men to go to Vietnamese brothels in Danang or elsewhere.