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.