Overseas media reported over the weekend about an unusual apology made Friday by Japan’s largest newspaper for its longtime use of the term “sex slaves” and for using “other inappropriate expressions” to refer to the “comfort women,” mostly Asian women who were forced to work in Imperial Japanese brothels during the war.
The Yomiuri Shimbun said that the Daily Yomiuri, its English-language newspaper now called The Japan News, had used the term “sex slaves” to refer to the women who were forced to work in brothels serving the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy during the war.
“The Yomiuri Shimbun apologizes for having used these misleading expressions and will add a note stating that they were inappropriate to all the articles in question in our database,” The Japan News said in its Friday edition. The Yomiuri also published a similarly worded apology in Japanese the same day.
The English edition now uses the euphemism “so-called comfort women,” although the paper admits that the phrase is difficult to understand without any prior knowledge of the issue.
The Washington Post said Friday the move was described by one analyst as “astonishing,” adding that it is certain to inflame already rocky relations with South Korea and China, where most of the women came from.
BBC News reported that it is “definitely another victory for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his rightwing nationalist supporters” who have long sought to change the way Japan views its World War II history.
Meanwhile, the International New York Times said critics “sensed a political statement disguised as an admission of guilt.”
The term is widely used by overseas news agencies, such as AFP, AP, Reuters and Bloomberg.