The Chinese city of Nanjing plans to transform buildings used by Japan's Imperial Army as a military brothel during World War II into a historical monument, state media said Wednesday, in the latest move by the country calling attention to Japan's wartime sexual enslavement of women.
The announcement came a day after China said it was considering designating two national remembrance days to mark China's victory over Japan in the war and the 1937 Nanjing Massacre.
Nanjing city "drafted preliminary plans with architectural experts and historians to preserve the buildings where the military brothel, the largest in Asia, was located," the state-run China Daily reported.
Historians say up to 200,000 women from Korea, China and other Asian nations were forced into sexual servitude at front-line Japanese brothels during World War II. Those sex slaves were euphemistically called "comfort women."
Jing Shenghong, a history professor at Nanjing Normal University, told the newspaper that the wartime military brothel, called a "comfort station," will be restored to its former appearance this year and that the reconstruction plans include a museum.
If approved, the preservation plan will be funded by an insurance company in Nanjing, Jing said.
The location of the Japanese military brothel in Qinhuai district, Nanjing, was confirmed in 2003 when an elderly Korean victim named "Pak Yong-sim identified a room where she was held captive by the Japanese army," the report said.
"There were more than 200 sex slaves in those three 'comfort stations,'" Jing was quoted as saying.
The plan has drawn a mixed response in Nanjing with some saying it is a reminder of a humiliating time in Chinese history and others arguing the site must be preserved so the lessons of history are not forgotten, the report said.
"More than 40 'comfort stations' were found in Nanjing. Most have already been demolished, but they should have been placed under legal protection for their historical and cultural value," Jing said.
Recently, Japan has been drawing criticism from South Korea and China for trying to re-examine a 20-year-old investigation that led to its 1993 apology over wartime sexual enslavement of women.
Japan's chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga has said his government is likely to review the accuracy of the investigation, a move widely viewed in South Korea as a first step to denying Japan's wartime sexual slavery.
In the 1993 statement, then Japanese cabinet secretary Yohei Kono publicly acknowledged that the Japanese military was involved in the "coercion" of those sex slaves and apologized.
However, Japanese leaders have since often made remarks to the contrary, causing diplomatic friction between the two neighboring countries.
South Korea has pressed Japan to provide compensation and extend a formal apology to the victims, but Tokyo has refused to do so, saying the matter was settled by a 1965 treaty that normalized relations between the two countries.
Time is running out for those aging victims in South Korea, with only 55 victims left. Their average age is 88. (Yonhap News)