• Kyodo

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NHK President Katsuto Momii asked a meeting of the broadcaster’s board of directors earlier this month whether criticism of his apparent defense of Japan’s wartime sex slavery was justified, NHK sources said Saturday.

Momii, who was assailed for his remarks last month on “comfort women,” Japan’s euphemistic term for women forcibly recruited to provide sex for its soldiers before and during the war, was quoted as asking NHK governors at the Feb. 12 meeting: “Did I make terrible gaffes?”

But one of the governors said that although Momii claimed to have reflected on his controversial remarks, in fact he “did not do so at all.” Another governor said Momii “did not appear to think what he said at the news conference was wrong.” Both spoke on condition of anonymity.

At his first news conference as the new head of NHK, Momii on Jan. 25 argued that sex slave systems were used by “every country” and that the practice should not be judged by “today’s morality.” The subsequent firestorm forced him to later apologize and retract the comments, saying they represented his personal opinion rather than that of the public broadcaster, which is supposed to remain politically neutral.

In response to a question by one of the governors about how to deal with the fallout from his comments, Momii told the meeting that the media had misrepresented his true intention, the sources added.

“Please read through the whole text of my news conference,” Momii advised the governors, according to the sources.

NHK has received more than 10,000 written or verbal opinions from viewers criticizing Momii’s remarks. When asked about the possible nonpayment of NHK subscription fees by angry viewers, Momii told the governors he didn’t have specific measures to deal with the situation, the sources said.

Momii also advised them that a newly inaugurated president should avoid holding a news conference on the first day of his or her tenure from now on. He earlier claimed in the Diet that he did not know the NHK president should avoid stating his personal opinion at news conferences.

The minutes of the Feb. 12 governors’ meeting are scheduled to be released Friday.

The board of NHK governors, appointed by the prime minister, oversees the executive board chaired by the president, which deliberates on the execution of key operations at the broadcaster.

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