A ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker retracted his comment Thursday that so-called comfort women were prostitutes after the remarks drew a swift rebuke from South Korea.

Yoshitaka Sakurada, in a meeting with 10 other LDP lawmakers, had said that the women "were prostitutes by occupation" and that people have been "heavily misled by propaganda work treating them as if they were victims."

Noting it was only after World War II that prostitution became an illegal occupation, he said, "Because (comfort women) are hesitant (to say) they were prostitutes, I suspect wrong perceptions may have been spread in Japan and South Korea."