Manhattan, NY – Ten days ago, the Mayor of Osaka, Japan, Toru Hashimoto, made comments describing the sexual slavery during World War II as “necessary” to help Japanese soldiers “to rest”.
Following the inflammatory remarks made by Mr. Toru Hashimoto, Assemblymembers Ron Kim and Edward C. Braunstein convened a press conference and rallied with various Asian American community and civic leaders in front of the Permanent Mission of Japan at the United Nations to raise the concerns of surviving victims, their families, and their descendants.
Assemblyman Braunstein states, “We will never forget the 200,000 women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II and we will not stand silent while attempts are made to diminish the pain that was inflicted upon the ‘comfort women’. I call on Toru Hashimoto, Mayor of Osaka, to apologize for his despicable comments which caused great anguish to the survivors and their families.”
An estimated 200,000+ women in territories held by Japan during the war were held as sex slaves for Japanese troops with the majority of the women coming from Korea, China, Japan, and the Philippines. These women were often abducted and held against there will on military compounds placed in what were called “comfort stations.”
“When I was first elected, some advocacy groups wanted to have me take on the “comfort women” issue, but as a newly elected state official, I wanted to stay focused on state issues. Ten days ago, I realized I could not stay quiet after hearing the mayor speak. My community is appalled, horrified, and hurt. I have to respond.” stated Assemblyman Ron Kim, “There is a difference in perspective of history within Mayor Hashimoto’s comments and we could delve into them and their accuracy, but what is more important is that when a powerful country like Japan puts out an anti-women’s rights message, it can take us back decades. We need to fight back and say we are better than this. Rape is ALWAYS wrong. Sexual slavery is ALWAYS wrong. There should never be any justification for a war crime. To say that it was “necessary” is to say that women are “less than”. The words of the mayor of the third largest city in Japan are bound to make a global impact. We are gathered here today to let him know that his cowardly actions won’t be tolerated and he needs to be held accountable for his degrading words. He needs to issue a formal apology and stop being defensive of his own sexist statements.”
In 1993, Japan issued a formal apology for the treatment of these women and set up the Asian Women’s Fund to distribute compensation to the women now known as “comfort women” but this fund was later dissolved in 2007.