Katsuto Momii of NHK defended the politician’s comments.
Masashi Nakano, a member of the House of Councilors, has drawn criticism for making a connection between the use of “comfort women” or sex slaves used by Japanese soldiers during World War II and the sex industry as it exists today in countries like South Korea and China.
On January 30, The Asahi Shimbun quoted Nakano as saying, “Fifty thousand South Korean women are working in the sex industry now. That’s what (the South Korean government) has said unambiguously. In China, you are asked for a ‘takeout’ for $100 or $200. I don’t understand why people continue to bring up what Japan has done (during the war).”
While the Democratic Party of Japan planned to bring up Momii’s remarks during Diet deliberation, Nakano counter-argued that he sees no problem with them and noted that they were his “personal opinions.”
Nakano fueled controversy because his comments reflect his belief that Imperial Japan’s use of sex slaves is equivalent to the modern day adult entertainment industry. Also, it is hard to take his remarks as an individual opinion given that Nakano serves as one of leaders at Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and that those remarks were made during a closed-door meeting with other opposition leaders.
Several senior leaders of other opposition parties said, “The ‘comfort women system’ in history have nothing to do with today’s sex industries. Nakano’s remarks were inappropriate.”
Momii set off a storm of protest during his first press conference as chairman on January 25. “The comfort women system existed as a reality at that time. Can we say there were none in Germany or France? It was everywhere in Europe. The issue became complicated because South Korea criticizes as if Japan was the only one that forcibly drafted women into the system,” Momii said.
On 29th, a federation of labor unions in the media and publishing industry criticized Momii for tarnishing NHK’s reputation and urged him to resign. Amnesty International issued a statement of protest, suggesting Momii’s remarks imply that military sexual slavery is acceptable and that he denies grave violations of international human rights law.
The executive committee of NHK demanded Momii be cautious with comments he makes and regain the public’s trust. Momii is reported to have sent a written apology to all the employees.