The South Korean ambassador to Japan slammed Toru Hashimoto on Wednesday for his remarks justifying Japan’s wartime sex slave system, saying the Osaka mayor lacked historical knowledge and regard for the rights of women.

“I’m disappointed to know that a Japanese politician has such a poor understanding of history and women’s human rights,” Shin Kak Soo said at a press conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo.

However, the ambassador expressed relief that Japanese citizens were critical of Hashimoto for his comments.

“I think we need to take more notice of the reactions of Japanese society,” Shin said. “If you look at today’s Japanese newspapers, letters from readers, and reactions on social-networking services, it is clear how people of sound judgment feel (about Hashimoto’s remarks).”

Hashimoto, who is also coleader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), caused a huge stir earlier this week when he declared that during the war “comfort women” were necessary “in order to provide relaxation for those brave soldiers who had been in the line of fire.”

Characterizing Hashimoto’s remarks as at odds with the viewpoint of most Japanese, Shin said he hopes the uproar will lead more people to think about women’s human rights and the pain suffered by those who were forced into sexual slavery.

Shin, whose two-year tenure as ambassador ends on May 31, said the South Korean government opposes any moves to amend the 1995 statement issued by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, considered a key apology for Japan’s wars of aggression and colonial rule in Asia.

“The Murayama statement shows the fundamental principle of the Japanese government. And it has been upheld by every Cabinet since it was issued,” Shin said. “Surrounding countries, including South Korea, have built relations with Japan based on the statement. It’s really unfortunate to see remarks or moves (to amend it).”

During an Upper House session in April, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that he is “not upholding all of (the statement) as it is,” causing concern not only in South Korea but also in the United States.

But on Wednesday Abe backtracked, saying he has never denied Japan’s aggression against neighboring parts of Asia.

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