Shintaro Ishihara, co-head of the Japan Restoration Party, made a gaffe Friday regarding the status of one of the Japanese nationals abducted to North Korea decades ago, referring to her as a "mistress."
Referring to Megumi Yokota, who was abducted to North Korea in 1977 at age 13, as a "Japanese beauty," Ishihara said at a stump speech in the city of Yokohama that she must have "been forced into marrying and giving birth to a child" and "become a mistress of someone in a high position."
Ishihara's comments during the official campaigning for the July 21 upper house election are expected to draw protests from Japanese abductees' kin and supporters and stir criticism for being insensitive to the feelings of the parents of Yokota, a symbolic victim of Pyongyang's abductions of Japanese nationals.
Ishihara's party was already under fire in Asia and the United States for other controversial remarks made by the party's other co-leader, Toru Hashimoto, in connection to Japan's wartime brothel system.
Speaking to reporters in Osaka Prefecture, Ichiro Matsui, the party's secretary general, tried to give some context in Ishihara's comments, saying he believes that Ishihara was "talking about the need to help people who have been deprived of freedom and living a hard life."
Ishihara also said, "Based on circumstantial evidence, North Korea abducted more than 300 people."
North Korea admitted in 2002 to having abducted or lured Japanese nationals including Yokota, who it claimed had committed suicide in 1994.
In 2004, it handed over to Japan cremated remains it claimed were Megumi's. However, DNA tests conducted in Japan proved the claim to be untrue. The Japanese government has since demanded that North Korea reinvestigate the abduction cases.