New NHK Chairman Katsuto Momii's remarks on Jan. 25 on such issues as wartime use of sex slaves, the state secrets law and the role of NHK's international broadcasts shows that he is not aware of the proper role of the public broadcast organization and his responsibility as the one with the final power to direct NHK's news coverage and programs. Although he retracted his remarks, he should realize that they have greatly harmed the credibility of NHK as a news organization.

At his first news conference as chairman, Momii said that wartime sex slave system existed in all "war areas": "Can we say that it did not exist in Germany or France? It existed everywhere in Europe." He also said that while such a system is wrong in view of today's morality, it was a reality of those days. This callous stance, which makes light of women's human rights, is abhorrent and must be criticized. Momii also asked, "Why are there still show windows [for brothels] in the Netherlands?" This statement could be taken as an insult toward the Dutch women who were forced to serve as sex slaves for the Imperial Japanese armed forces.

Momii added that South Korea is complicating the situation by insisting that only Japan did "something like" recruiting sex slaves against their will. He also said that although South Korea demands that Japan give it money and compensation, the issue was resolved by the Japan-South Korea basic relations treaty of 1965 and wondered why South Korea "rakes over old ashes." His reckless attitude toward such a politically sensitive international issue will create further difficulties in Japan's already strained relationship with South Korea, not to mention other countries.