Korean sex slaves brand Osaka mayor a hypocrite

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Korean sex slaves brand Osaka mayor a hypocrite

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Protesters holding placards attend a rally in front of Osaka City Hall in Japan yesterday to denounce Mayor Toru Hashimoto after he refused to withdraw remarks asserting the brothel system was “necessary” during World War II.By Kim Hyun-ki

OSAKA, Japan - Two Korean former sex slaves for imperial Japanese soldiers during World War II canceled a meeting with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto yesterday, saying they didn’t trust his sincerity and didn’t want to be used by him politically.

Kim Bok-dong, 88, and Kil Won-ok, 86, who were so-called “comfort women” forced into sexual slavery by Japanese soldiers during World War II, issued a statement hours before the meeting scheduled for 11 a.m. yesterday at Osaka City Hall. They said that they canceled the meeting because they realized the mayor would not be sincere in his apology to them.

“We don’t want to be part of the mayor’s scenario for a well-choreographed performance of an apology,” they said in the statement. “Based on information from local Japanese reporters, we found Mayor Hashimoto was going to attempt a show of an apology, including kneeling before us, for the media’s sake.

“And we want him to retire from the politics.”

The 43-year-old Hashimoto, who is often described as a potential prime minister for the future, made headlines that enraged China and Korea last week by saying the former Asian sex slaves were needed to provide relief for battle-crazed soldiers.

“Everyone knows that in a situation when soldiers became neurotic, they need comfort women,” he said at Osaka City Hall on May 13.

Upset by his well-publicized remark, the two former comfort women and activists from the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan requested a meeting with the mayor on May 15. Hashimoto accepted.

However, after making the appointment with Kim and Kil, Hashimoto not only refused to withdraw his early remarks but made additional ones, including, “We can’t say the comfort women were sex slaves,” and, “Korean soldiers also used [local] women during the Vietnam War.”

Yesterday, Kim and Kil said Hashimoto’s apology was clearly not going to be sincere.

“This ‘apology show’ came after growing international criticism from the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Congress over his anti-human rights comments,” they said. “We judged that there was no reason for us to meet with the mayor, who didn’t show sincerity on the issue and just attempted to play tricks.

“If the mayor indeed feels sorry for us and regrets history, he has to withdraw all of his ludicrous remarks and issue an official apology,” they said.

Yun Mi-hyang, head of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, said at a press conference in front of Osaka City Hall yesterday, “The ladies had some hopes about Hashimoto, [that he would apologize and withdraw his words] but as the day of the meeting came closer, they found Hashimoto was a person who must be judged.”

Meanwhile in the U.S., the Illinois State Lower House passed a resolution that students should be taught the history of wartime sex crimes by Japanese soldiers against Asian women.

Civic groups led by Korean residents in Chicago and New Jersey have been pushing the Illinois lower house members to adopt the resolution since 2012. Illinois is the fourth state to adopt such a resolution on comfort women issues following California, New York and New Jersey.

By Kim Hyun-ki, Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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