S Korean Former Comfort Women Cancel Meeting with Osaka Mayor

Created: 2013-05-24 10:56 EST

Category: World > Asia Pacific

Two elderly South Korean women forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels abruptly cancelled a meeting on Friday (May 24) with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.

Hashimoto had refused to withdraw comments that forcing women to work in Japanese wartime military brothels was "necessary".

Hundreds of Japanese gathered front of the Osaka City Hall to lend their support to the South Korean former comfort women Kim Bok-dong and Kil Won-ok, and presented a municipal government official with a petition against the mayor.

[Bang Chung-Ja, Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery]:
"The thought of meeting with Mayor Hashimoto with worn hearts, and coming face-to-face with the culprit behind these falsehoods just became a frightfully enormous psychological shock."

Hashimoto sparked a firestorm of criticism at home and abroad when he said last week that the military brothels had been needed, and that Japan has been unfairly singled out for wartime practices common among other countries' militaries.

The women said they did not want any apology from Hashimoto to be used as political fodder.

[Bang Chung-Ja, Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery]:
"Indescribably heart-wrenching and the unending reality and history of the victims cannot be traded with his performance of an apology and sweet talk. We have no desire to be trampled upon once again."

The issue has often frayed relations between Tokyo and Seoul. Japan says the matter of compensation for the women was settled under a 1965 treaty establishing diplomatic ties. In 1995, Japan set up a fund to make payments to the women from private contributions, but South Korea says that was not official and therefore insufficient.

Hashimoto's statements have upset many, even Japanese.

In Tokyo at a museum dedicated to crimes against women, especially Japan's war-time comfort women, people were very critical of the Osaka mayors' comments.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also caused controversy during his first term in 2006-2007 by saying there was no proof that Japan's military had kidnapped women to work in the brothels. Such sentiments are common among Japanese ultra-conservatives.

But Abe has sought to distance himself from Hashimoto's remarks, and his government has drawn back from early signals that it might revise a landmark 1993 government statement acknowledging military involvement in coercing the women.