Japan may review probe on WWII sex slavery


FILE - In this Wednesday, May 15, 2013 file photo, former South Korean comfort woman Kil Un-ock, center, who was forced to serve for the Japanese troops as a sexual slave during World War II, shouts slogans during a rally against the recent comment of Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto in front of Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. Japan's top government spokesman said Thursday that Tokyo would consider re-examining a 20-year-old study that led to a landmark apology over its forced prostitution in World War II. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File) | Zoom

TOKYO (AP) - Japan's government said Thursday it may re-examine a 20-year-old study that led to a landmark apology over forced prostitution during World War II, in a sign it is leaning toward a denial that officials were involved in organizing sex slavery.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the official government spokesman, said it may decide to verify the accuracy of interviews with 16 South Korean women who said they were forced to serve as prostitutes for Japan's wartime military.

Although numbers vary, some historians say as many as 200,000 women from across Asia, most of them Koreans, were forced to serve as sex slaves, called "comfort women" in Japan, for frontline soldiers.

Japanese nationalists have long insisted that women in wartime brothels were voluntary prostitutes, not sex slaves, and that Japan has been unfairly criticized for a practice they say is common in any country at war.

The interviews, conducted by Japanese officials in 1993 at the request of South Korea's government as part of a broader investigation by Japan, were key to a statement in which Japan apologized later that year.

A reversal of that apology would greatly worsen already-strained relations between Japan and South Korea.

The statement, issued by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, acknowledged that many women were forced into prostitution for Japan's wartime military, despite a lack of records clearly indicating direct government involvement.

"We would like to re-examine" the interviews, Suga said, adding that he would seek ways of doing so while taking into consideration that the contents of the interviews are classified information. Suga also suggested that a government-led team would review the overall study.

Abe has been criticized by South Korea and China for backpedaling from past Japanese apologies and acknowledgements of wartime atrocities.

Members of his nationalist government and many others who share their view have been frustrated by recent efforts by South Korea to enlist U.S. support in pressuring Japan to stick to its 1993 apology. They are stepping up efforts to discredit accounts by South Korean women who say they were sex slaves.

They have been particularly unhappy about "comfort women" statues that have been erected in several cities in the U.S., including Glendale, California, and about growing international support for the South Korean victims.

A nationalist Japan Restoration Party lawmaker, Hiroshi Yamada, said Japanese children cannot be proud of their country because of the statues and other "false" accusations.

Suga's comments Thursday followed a statement by the deputy chief Cabinet secretary at the time of the apology, Nobuo Ishihara, that Japan had never verified the 16 women's accounts.

Ishihara told a parliamentary committee earlier Thursday that South Korea had demanded that Japan interview the women after an earlier Japanese investigation found no hard evidence that the wartime government had coerced people into sexual slavery.

Ishihara said Japan and South Korea had agreed that the 1993 apology would allow them to put their difficult past behind them and open the way for forward-looking relations.


(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Top Stories

  • Failing
    So far, King County voters are rejecting higher car tab fees to save buses

  • Time for Change
    Shannon Drayer is expecting some changes after the Mariners' eighth straight loss

  • 21 and Over
    If 21 is the legal age for alcohol and marijuana, why not cigarettes?
ATTENTION COMMENTERS: We've changed our comments, but want to keep you in the conversation.
Please login below with your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Disqus account. Existing MyNorthwest account holders will need to create a new Disqus account or use one of the social logins provided below. Thank you.
comments powered by Disqus
Sign up for breaking news e-mail alerts from MyNorthwest.com
In the community
Do you know a student who stands out in the classroom, school and community?
Help make their dreams come true by nominating them for a $1,000 scholarship and a chance to earn a $10,000 Grand Prize. Brought to you by KIRO Radio and Comprehensive Wealth Management.

Do you know an exceptional citizen who has impacted and inspired others?
KIRO Radio and WSECU would like to recognize six oustanding citizens this year. Nominate them to be recognized and to receive a $2,000 charitable grant.