SEOUL – South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se on Monday rapped Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s latest remarks on the Imperial Japanese military’s wartime brothels as “embarrassing and shameful.”
“By making such remarks, Japan will be further isolated in the international community,” Yun said at a news conference.
Yun made the comment after he was asked to respond to Hashimoto’s suggestion earlier Monday at a press conference in Tokyo that the so-called “comfort women” issue be settled in the International Court of Justice.
“Many see such remarks as being far below common sense, embarrassing and shameful. If he made such remarks at the U.N. General Assembly or the U.S. Congress, that would cause serious damage to Japan’s many conscientious people,” Yun said.
Hashimoto recently sparked public outrage in South Korea and elsewhere by saying the comfort women system, which forced tens of thousands of Korean and other women into sexual servitude during the war, was necessary to maintain the discipline of the Japanese military.
However, Yun also stressed the importance of deepening cooperation with Japan economically culturally to stabilize bilateral ties that have been strained by historical issues related to Japan’s 1910-1945 brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
“Despite these difficulties in issues of the past history, South Korea shares with Japan the values of democracy and market economy and also strategic interests over issues like North Korea,” he said.
Yun said Seoul will remain in close contact with Tokyo on North Korea-related issues while dealing “resolutely” with issues related to history.
In a related development, four South Korean female lawmakers departed for Japan on Monday to protest rightwing politicians’ suggestions that the Japanese military was justified in using the comfort women system during the war, Yonhap News Agency reported.
“These reckless remarks on sex slaves recur because the Japanese government has not fundamentally repented for its colonial rule over Korea,” You Seung-hee, a lawmaker from the main opposition Democratic Party who is among the four, told Yonhap by phone.
“We will strongly urge the Japanese government to apologize and provide legal compensation,” she said.
You, a member of a Diet committee on women and family affairs, will visit Japan together with Kim Hee-jung, Ryu Ji-young and Kim Hyun, all lawmakers from the ruling Saenuri Party and members of the same committee.
The Korean lawmakers plan to present the Japanese lawmakers with a resolution that You submitted to the National Assembly last week. The resolution condemns Japanese politicians’ remarks on comfort women and calls for an official apology.
They also plan to visit the Philippines later this week to meet with Filipino victims of Japan’s sex slavery and meet with local lawmakers on ways to jointly handle the issue.
Japan euphemistically refers to the wartime sex slaves as “ianfu,” which means “comfort women.”