NHK chief’s sex slave remark triggers uproar

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jan 26, 2014 - 19:56
  • Updated : Jan 26, 2014 - 19:56
Katsuto Momii. (Yonhap)

The new chairman of Japan’s public TV station NHK has stirred controversy over the weekend as he claimed that the system of forcing women to serve at military brothels during World War II was “common in any country at war.”

Katsuto Momii, the top NHK official, said in his first news conference on Saturday that such institution existed “everywhere” and it is being treated as “wrong” when viewed from “today’s morality.”

“Can we say there were none in Germany or France? It was everywhere in Europe,” he said according to reports.

The 70-year-old chairman went on to say that the issue of “comfort women” has been “complicated because South Korea says Japan was the only country that forcibly recruited (women),” he said, noting that it is only his personal view.

Momii is the latest Japanese figure to stir controversy in and out of the country over provocative remarks that go against historical justice.

Last year, Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto caused a global stir by saying that the comfort women were “necessary” for keeping Japanese soldiers on the battlefield in check.

The remarks also came amid mounting calls for Japan to apologize for sexually enslaved Asian women, euphemistically called “comfort women.”

President Barack Obama signed a bill that includes a provision pressuring Japan to offer an official apology for the women.

The comfort women issue has been at the center of regional tensions for a long time.

Historians say, based on historical records, that up to 200,000 women were forcibly mobilized to give sexual services to the Japanese military from Korea, China, the Philippines and other Asian countries.

Japanese right-wing politicians have long argued that their government did not directly force the women into military prostitution.

When asked about demands of compensation to the women by South Korea, Momii said it was “strange” to bring up the issue again, saying it was “already settled” when the two countries signed a treaty that called for normalizing bilateral ties in 1965.

On Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honors millions of war dead including 14 “Class-A” criminals of World War II, Momii said the broadcast has no position to define whether it was right or wrong.

“He visited there following his own conviction. … (We) are not in a position to say it is good or bad,” he added.

Momii is rumored to have been picked by Abe, according to the reports. The new NHK chairman has no journalistic background. He previously served as a vice chairman of trading firm Mitsui, the reports added.

By Cho Chung-un (