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Japanese historians call for halt in distorting wartime sex slaves

A group of 16 Japanese associations on history and education on Monday called for a halt in distorting the issue of Tokyo's wartime sex slavery.

They said that historical records and research proved the existence of comfort women, referring to Korean and other women who were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers during World War II.

"If some politicians and media continue to take an irresponsible attitude by taking their eyes away from facts on the issue of the Japanese military's comfort women, it's like sending (a message) to the international community that Japan does not respect human rights," they said in a statement at the parliament.

The statement came weeks after a group of 187 internationally renowned history scholars urged Japan to acknowledge and apologize for its wartime sex slavery, saying "denying or trivializing" it is "unacceptable."

Historians estimate more than 200,000 women, mainly from Korea, were forced to work in front-line brothels for Japanese soldiers during World War II. But Japan has long attempted to water down the atrocity.

The sexual slavery issue has been the biggest thorn in frayed relations between Japan and South Korea, with Seoul demanding Tokyo take steps to address the grievances of the now elderly Korean victims and Japan refusing to do so.

Japan ruled the Korean Peninsula as a colony from 1910-45. (Yonhap)