SAPPORO – The president of a university in Hokkaido said Friday he is considering not renewing the contract of a part-time lecturer for the school year starting April following threats to the university linked to the lecturer’s involvement in controversial reporting on the wartime sex slavery issue.
At a press conference, Shinichi Tamura, president of Hokusei Gakuen University in Sapporo, referred to the possibility of not rehiring the ex-reporter. The school said in a statement it has “not made a final decision” but stressed that it regards “protecting the safety of the students as a top priority.”
As a reporter for the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, the lecturer, who has taught international students at the university since 2012, wrote articles about the mostly Asian women who were forced into the Japanese military’s wartime brothels. Japan euphemistically calls them the “ianfu,” or comfort women.
The fate of the former reporter is expected to be discussed by the schools’s board next month before the president makes a final decision, sources close to the school said.
Members of a group formed Thursday by faculty and university staff to support the lecturer said there are concerns about the impact the threat might have on next year’s admissions and the financial burden of dealing with it.
A member of a civic group set up to encourage the university not to yield to the threats criticized the plan, explaining that “This would be caving in to the demands of the culprit.”
In connection with the case, police arrested Tsutomu Kamimura, a 64-year-old janitor from Niigata Prefecture, on Oct. 23 on suspicion of calling the university last month to threaten to plant a bomb unless the lecturer was pressured to quit.
Kamimura admitted to the charge and said he made the call because he could not stand the reports that were published in the Asahi.
At the center of the issue is the Asahi Shimbun’s retraction in August of several articles on the sex slave issue from the 1980s and 1990s that quoted a man whose accounts were recently discredited.
The man, Seiji Yoshida, claimed that women on the South Korea’s Jeju Island were violently taken to serve in the brothels.
Threatening letters were also sent to Tamura in May and July, saying students will be hurt in “divine retribution” unless the school pressures the former reporter to quit his post, according to investigative sources.
Kamimura’s link to the letters is also being probed.