Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiroku Kajiyama apologized Jan. 27 to the South Korean people for his remarks concerning the “comfort women” that overshadowed the weekend Japan-Korea summit. Comfort women is the term Japan euphemistically used to refer to its wartime sex slaves.But he then repeated his earlier comment that prostitution was legal in Japan before and during World War II, when the Imperial Japanese Army apparently operated brothels for its soldiers. Many of these women came from the Korean Peninsula and worked against their will in the military brothels.Speaking at a news conference, Kajiyama said he wanted to offer a “sincere apology if my remarks incurred even a small amount of displeasure before the summit between Japan and South Korea, or caused any misunderstanding among the South Korean people.” Kajiyama’s comment Jan. 24 came on the eve of the Japan-Korea summit in Beppu, Oita Prefecture. On Jan. 24, Kajiyama indirectly told reporters that it would be wrong for people to only stress the cruel nature of the issue without taking the social background at that time into consideration. Kajiyama went on to say the younger generation is not taught about the “once-authorized system” of licensed prostitution.Some news reports held that Kajiyama’s remarks were meant as criticism of the decision to include a reference to the sex slaves in junior high school textbooks. South Korean President Kim Young Sam expressed his displeasure over the remarks during his meeting Jan. 26 with Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.Kajiyama said at the news conference Jan. 27, however, that he thinks the issue of comfort women should be included in the school curriculum. “But (I) want (the younger generation) to give a great deal of thought to the fact” that there was an authorized system of licensed prostitution at the time, Kajiyama said.

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