Ex-sex slaves won’t meet Hashimoto

Korean pair refuse to be part of mayor's 'political game'


Two former South Korean “comfort women” canceled their planned Friday meeting with Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) coleader Toru Hashimoto, saying through a representative that they did not want to become his political pawns.

Kim Bok Dong, 87, and Kil Won Ok, 85, are currently traveling around Japan and speaking about their experiences as sex slaves for the Imperial Japanese Army. They are due to address a public symposium Saturday in Osaka and had been expected to meet with Hashimoto, the city’s mayor, to call him out over his May 13 remarks that the wartime comfort women system, which was believed started in the early 1930s during Japan’s conquest of China, had been necessary.

But as the domestic and international backlash against Hashimoto escalated, he refused to apologize for his position, even as pressure on him to cancel the meeting from members of his own party grew. On Thursday, he insisted the meeting with Kim and Kil was still on.

“It’s a real shame that I couldn’t meet the former comfort women today. But their feelings are what is most important. The women probably had a lot of things they wanted to say to me, and want to say to Japan,” Hashimoto said.

The mayor was notably more subdued Friday and softer in his choice of words than he has been in recent days, especially in front of numerous South Korean and other overseas media present at his press briefing. But he insisted the problem was one that both Japan and South Korea still had to resolve based on past treaties both had agreed upon.

He added that his remarks on the comfort women do not reflect the official policy of Nippon Ishin, and are his own thoughts.

Around 100 supporters of the comfort women gathered at a rally Friday morning in Osaka’s Nakanoshima Park. A dozen or so rightwingers, including several young women, were seen near City Hall, waving signs saying the comfort women were not forced into prostitution. Police kept the two sides apart.

Members of Nihon Gun Ianfu Mondai Kansai Network (Japanese Military Comfort Women Problem Kansai Network), the nongovernmental organization that brought Kim and Kil to the region, read out two statements, the first from the two women and a second saying the group was not going to engage in a media performance and that it was seeking Hashimoto’s resignation as mayor.

“As two comfort women survivors, and in advance of this summer’s Upper House election in Japan, in order to call for a solution to the comfort women problem, which has once again arisen among Japanese people and in the political world, we’re traveling to Fukuyama (Hiroshima Prefecture), Okinawa, Hiroshima, Okayama, Osaka and Nara to convey the truths of history to Japanese society,” network spokeswoman Pang Chung Ja said on behalf of Kim and Kil.

“We understood that Mayor Hashimoto himself would withdraw and apologize for his comment, and agreed to meethim on the morning of May 24.

“On May 19, we heard clear reports that Nippon Ishin no Kai had agreed not to censure Hashimoto over his comments that the comfort women were necessary. After this, he continued his position of denying (the comfort women) were forced (into prostitution by the government).

“According to the information received from Japanese reporters during our tour, Hashimoto was preparing to use the media for an ‘apology performance.’ We cannot exchange the continued pain of the victims or the facts of history for an ‘apology performance’ by Mayor Hashimoto. It’s not necessary to get trampled again.”

To Hashimoto, the group also had a message: “We are seeking an apology and a retraction of your comments, and we will not approve of the victims being used politically,” said Sumiko Nishimura, also of the network. “The victims are criticizing Hashimoto by asking him how he can say there is no proof when they experienced the comfort women system and firmly assert the past cannot be changed through (his statements).

“There is no other path left for but for you (Hashimoto) to resign,” Nishimura said. During their tour of Japan, Kim and Kil spoke to audiences about the horrors they experienced as young sex slaves in China, serving the Japanese military in Canton, in Kim’s case, and in Harbin, in Kil’s. Though Kim was only 14 and Kil 11, they have testified that they were beaten and made to serve as sex slaves.

“Could Hashimoto force his own daughter to become a sex slave out of necessity? The past cannot be changed by false claims,” Kim said in a rally in Okinawa earlier this week.

Hashimoto meanwhile claimed Friday that he had never said he favored the comfort women system, and that his comments were misreported abroad.

“This is what I wanted to tell the former comfort women today. I, personally, never said we needed the comfort women system and I never said I approved of it. I was talking about it in the context of the time, the Second World War, and the fact that various countries’ armies used women,” he said, repeating what he previously iterated.

Both Japan and South Korea had a responsibility to make clear what happened, Hashimoto said, suggesting a bilateral group of Japanese and South Korean scholars be set up to take testimony and to research the historical archives to clarify what happened.

Yet while Hashimoto will not retract his remarks regarding the comfort women, he said that he did owe the American people an apology for his remark that U.S. military personnel in Okinawa should use more sex establishments as a way of controlling their sexual energy.

“That remark was inappropriate,” he said.

  • Jack

    Sorry to hear they cancelled their meeting with Hashimoto. It would have been interesting for the media to video them making him feel like the low life he has turned into.

  • 武 東郷

    This article reports only part of what happened. Up until the evening of 23rd, those women were ready to meet Hashimoto. Suddenly, they had a change of heart saying something like what is reported in ths article.Those women claim in their statement that Japanese media told them what Hashimoto was up to. But their supporters deny this and say that after hectic schedule in Japan those women looked so tired. Asked if if was Japanese media which told the women as above, they said it was probably Korean media. Then, asked if the cancellation was due to uncertain information, they said that the decisive factor was not the info from media but becase those women looked tired. This is very typical response from those women. When facing the possibility of getting questioned about circumstances of their becoming comfort women, they always back down and refuse to answer any questions. That is why many Japanese say they cannot believe what those women have been saying. We really want to ask them many questions about what happened to verify their statements. Verification is the very factor which has been missing in this matter.

    • Dogbert Thunderpussy

      Let me get this right – you want these 70+ year old women to verify to you that they were continuously raped and beaten for years. Oh yeah, and you want to question them like criminal suspects because they’ve called out Japan on its rapacious WWII behavior? Once again Japanese arrogance and pseudo-intellectualism has left the stench and smear of rotten egg on their face. Get a life Japan . . . get a life real soon. Your opportunity to sincerely apologize to these women is fast fading. By the way, yes, American and other nations troops participated in the wartime prostitution. That doesn’t make it OK for them either.

    • KenjiAd

      What is the point of asking questions when you aren’t going to believe anything they say anyway?

    • http://kamigatarakugo.wordpress.com/ Matt Shores

      “Verification” …? Did somebody pay you to write that??

      These women — as CHILDREN — were victimized. Hashimoto re-victimized them with his comments, and your comments are equally deplorable.

      You — and nobody for that — have no right to question these women about anything. They are not objects. They are not specimens. They are people who were robbed of their dignity and youth.

      Saying “NO” to being Hashimoto’s political pawn is was a very brave move by Ms. Kim and Ms. Kil. They are asserting their rights, reclaiming their dignity.

      It is sad that these women are still fighting to be recognized as victims. Perhaps more important to them at this point, though, is that people, and particularly Japan, know the truth about what happened to them and countless others, most of whom are no longer around to give their accounts.

      Were you aware that the UN is urging Japan to educate its citizens about how the Imperial Army forced Korean and other Asian women to serve as sex slaves for troops during World War II?

      This sends a strong signal to the right-leaning Japanese government that attempts to whitewash the country’s wartime atrocities are unacceptable.

      The international community agreed in the 1985 UN Victims’ Declaration on the following rights for victims:

      The right to be treated with respect and recognition
      The right to be referred to adequate support services
      The right to receive information about the progress of the case
      The right to be present and give input to the decision-making
      The right to counsel
      The right to protection of physical safety and privacy;
      The right of compensation, from both the offender and the State.

      Victim “verification” … Seriously?


    • 1derer

      Haha, this is completely false. They are literally touring all over Japan giving talks about their experiences. All of your questions have been answered in those talks time-and-time again.

    • http://www.facebook.com/david.wilds David Wilds

      Typical Japanese: refusing to acknowledge his country’s sins, making excuses instead.

  • Amanda Feijoo

    I’m sure 11 and 14 year olds were giddy with excitement about being used by countless men to promote the war. Patriotism! /sarcasm

  • Jules

    I agree with the women for not wanting to engage with Hashimoto as he is clearly trying to win political points by looking like he is standing up for Japan. He is right in the sense that rape has been a method of terrorism used by armies since day one. But does that justify systematic rape which has been officially sanctioned and organized by the army’s administration itself? Don’t forget that Japanese women were also victims being ‘coerced’ into ‘helping serve for the army’ but they cost more from the soldiers stipend than the cheaper Koreans and Chinese.

    Avatar is looking for further proof. It seems like it is just a fact of life that this happened, like the camps in Poland, the gulags in Russia. What really is the problem with Japan-Asia relations is not that these things happened. It is the constant denial and muddying of the truth. I understand that Japan feels that as a non European colonial power they get hard done by, but two wrongs never make a right!

  • 秋中 赳

    Here’s a fact: the “comfort women” system was established after the Rape of Nanking, in order to prevent such things from happening again. Similar to how the RAA, with authority of the occupation forces (primarily the US), did the same to Japanese women after the war was over. Yes, the US approved of women being forced into prostitution, on a large scale, while at the same time covering up thousands of rape cases and the savage behavior of far too many US soldiers during the occupation. That’s the same US that now screams at Japan over comfort women.

    Of course those two former comfort women don’t show the same dedication and conviction over the nonsense the South Korean president has spewed. Or the fact that the South Korean government is still hampering the full disclosure of “incidents” like the Bodo League Massacre. Some estimates go as high as more than one million South Koreans murdered by the South Korean government simply because they were suspected to be Communists. Men, women, children. Where are the massive protests about this in South Korea? Where is the outrage? Oh, the government there directs the outrage at Japan. Smart move.

    Those two have experienced horrible things, no doubt, but they’re tools for only one side of the story. And to be perfectly honest, the tale of how all those Koreans were forced into service is nothing else but a fairy tale. There were plenty of volunteers just like there were plenty of volunteers in Europe who joined the Nazis after their countries were occupied. In fact, the Nazis wouldn’t have been able to commit all their atrocities if not for willing local helpers. The same applies in Asia. After the war, of course, they all claimed to have been pressed into service. Similar to how suddenly nobody was a Nazi in Europe.

    There is no way that tens of thousands of people could have been forced into service by an occupation force that had no wide spread system like the Nazis. The fairy tale of how they were all forced into service gets even more dents when you consider that many Allied POWs saw the Korean guards as much worse than the Japanese.

    It’s also funny how those suffering from the collective guilt syndrome attack Hashimoto over how he dares to use the victims politically, while they are doing the exact same thing all the time.

    But the South Koreans hate historic facts, as proven by how long their government covered up the Bodo League Massacre, just like it’s normal in other, former “victims” to do similar. China is notorious to spew strange territorial claim, occupy sovereign nations (or at least try) and generally whitewash the deaths of millions of people under their great chairman Mao. North Korea is on the same level as Nazi Germany, it even has a blood and country ideology. And Taiwan? Taiwan is hardly a bastion of freedom and democracy either, as incidents as the infamous Februrary 28th show. They’re all whitewashing their own brutality to their own people while screaming at Japan over something that happened 70 years ago. It shows their real agenda and priorities: distract from your own evils while screaming murder at your neighbor. Classic.

    Funnily enough, in regards to freedom and democracy Japan still leads all of them by light years.

    Btw, if you think this will hamper NInK, don’t be so sure. Many Japanese people are sick and tired of the constant attempts of forcing a culture of collective guilt down their throats, and they have other problems on their minds than what happened 70 years ago.

    And to be perfectly honest, the last thing Japan needs is a culture of collective guilt like in Germany, where, in 2005, the German president said that even the Germans born after the war carry responsibility for the Holocaust, which is an outrageous idea and nothing short of Nazi-like “Sippenhaftung”, aka kin liability.

    I’m only responsible for what I do myself. I’m not responsible for what happened 70+ years ago. I acknowledge that it happened, but I bear no guilt. How could I when I wasn’t even born then? Same with apologies. I can’t apologize for something I wasn’t involved in. If you try to tell me that I carry some kind of responsibility simply because I was born in random country A, then I will call you unfit for reasonable arguments, will dismiss you as a rabid nationalist.

  • Mave Rick

    You should read this report if you want to know the truth.

    Serch ” Report No. 49:Japanese Prisoners of War Interrogation on Prostitution ”

    This report was made by U.S. forces in 1944, meticulous about “comfort women”.

  • http://twitter.com/kchasp KchasP

    It is absurd how many people are defending this guy’s comment. Japan has so many things to be proud of, yet they hold onto their darkest deeds as their greatest success. You are dreaming if you think Japan was such a gracious occupier in Asian countries during WWII. Anyone who studies Japanese history a bit knows how cruel their elites could be to their own people. Do you honestly think they were any nicer to others? Please.

    Hashimoto is saying “others were doing the same, so why are you picking on us?” Well, first of all, others are being picked on, too, for their own deeds. But Asian countries are getting mad at JAPAN for what JAPAN did. Wouldn’t make sense if they were demanding apologies from Japan for what the European countries did now, would it? They are also mad at their European occupiers, too. You just don’t hear about it because JAPAN is NOT them thus it is none of its business.

    Second, Japan is a country that has different words for “intention” and “the TRUE intention.” Still, it is presumed to be one of the most polite nation in the world, yet its conservatives even refused to apologize just to be polite to your victims. They don’t even bother to express remorse just as “intention.” In other words, you are basically implying “we stopped what we were doing not because we were wrong, but because we were weak. As soon as we get stronger, we will continue to pillage your land, kill your children, and rape your women.” It baffles me that you are amazed at how upset other Asian countries are despite all that.

    Third, these political pundits don’t even TRY to see the truth. Just the other day, a former soldier who had participated in forcing comfort women came forward and apologized in public. Yet guys like Hashimoto refused to believe people like him saying they were bribed and made to lie. What good is the fact if you don’t believe it? Many prostitutes, not just in Japan but all over the world, don’t do what they do because they enjoy it. They were forced into their situation, some by finances and some by violence. Now, those comfort women were stationed in foreign lands far away from their home, many near battleground. If someone thinks that so many women VOLUNTARILY sold their bodies near where guns and cannons were firing, they need their head examined. Prostitution near battlefields were long-time tragedy throughout human history, but never in such a massive scale, and never for so cheap.