Hashimoto backs embattled NHK head on ‘comfort women’

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto has expressed support for NHK Chairman Katsuto Momii, who’s under fire for asserting at a recent press conference that the wartime enslavement of women to provide sex for Japanese soldiers was wrong only by today’s standards.

The “comfort women” system, as it is commonly referred to, existed in every country, the co-leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) said.

“It’s not a problem that the head (of NHK) made such a comment. All countries did similar things and have unfortunate histories regarding war and sex. (Momii’s argument) is sound, and something I’ve been saying for a long time,” Hashimoto told reporters Monday afternoon.

Last May, Hashimoto made headlines around the world when he said Japan’s Asia-wide system of wartime brothels, staffed by thousands of young, mostly Asian females, had been necessary at the time. He also suggested that sexual violence in Okinawa by U.S. Marines could be curbed if they had access to “fuzoku” establishments, a euphemism for paid sex services.

His statements were criticized by the U.S. State Department, South Korea and human rights groups around the world, while the city of San Francisco, which Hashimoto had been scheduled to visit the next month, passed a resolution condemning him.

The mayor ended up canceling his trip. Though he later said his remarks concerning the U.S. Marines were inappropriate, he continues to defend his stance on the comfort women.

Many overseas were worried by the parallels between Hashimoto’s remarks and earlier statements by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was then courting the mayor before the July Upper House election. Hashimoto, critics charged, was merely expressing what Abe and his ruling bloc allies thought, but dared not say out loud.

Facing growing criticism, Momii said Monday his remarks were extremely inappropriate. But as Abe’s reported choice for the NHK post, Momii’s comment only adds to speculation that the prime minister quietly agrees with his — and Hashimoto’s — view.

  • Max Erimo

    I believe that in every theatre or war throughout history there have been women who hav offered sexual services to the soldiers in the area.
    What Mr. Hashimoto and Japan at large don’t seem to realise is that the Japanese term ‘comfort women’ does not cover the actual facts, that the Japanese government(army) of the day captured, kidnapped and enslaved these women into sexual slavery.
    That is where the difference is. Until Japan faces up to this area honestly once and for all the problem with Korea on this issue will never go away.
    As Elton John’s song puts it,
    “Sorry is the hardest word…..

  • JTCommentor

    Why???

    Why do these men need to continue with this rubbish? What does it change, what purpose does it serve making these remarks?

    True, not true, fair or not – some things are better left in the past! Those things did happen, for whatever reasons Japan’s system is more famous than other countries, and the victims of that system are hurt. They are hurt and its a sensitive topic for their countries.

    Past establishments have acknowledged and apologized.

    Whether Hashimoto, or the NHK guy, or Abe think its fair or not – you are all public figures, the eyes of the world and your neighbors are looking at you, and you have a responsibility to not cause problems.

    What possible thing could you solve, what possible end can you achieve by saying this rubbish over and over? You just damage your country ecomically, and make the outside world even more aware of the issues, and make yourself look like a schoolgirl.

    The “private capacity” argument is so weak. Just saying its in your “private capacity” doesnt change the reality of your public role! Could Bill Clinton say his actions with Monica Lewensky were in his privates capacity?

    Grow up children, for the sake of your country, grow up and stop embarassing yourselves.

  • budgie

    @JTCommentor:

    The reason they keep going on denying is that change is exactly what they are seeking. The right wing nationalists believe Japan has been overly apologetic even in the mild expressions of ‘regret’ it has issued so far and want to rewrite history until everyone forgets. They won’t be satisfied till the facts are extinguished and future generations grow up believing that the ‘country of the gods’ was right to try and ‘liberate’ Asia.