Ex-S. Korean sex slaves cancel meeting with Japan mayor

SEOUL/TOKYO, May 24 (Yonhap) -- Two elderly South Korean women forced by Japan into sex slavery during World War II said Friday they canceled a meeting with a Japanese mayor, fearing they only could be used for the mayor's political show to whitewash his inappropriate remarks toward former sex slaves.

The two victims -- 87-year-old Kim Bok-dong and 84-year-old Kil Won-ok -- had planned to meet Toru Hashimoto, Osaka's mayor and co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, at his office Friday morning as part of their tour of Japan to testify about history.

Hashimoto sparked a firestorm of criticism at home and abroad when he said last week that the wartime sex slavery was "necessary" at the time and Japan has been unfairly singled out for practices common among other militaries during wartime.

"We cannot play a supporting role in the well-knit scenario for an 'apology performance' by Mayor Hashimoto," the women said in a press release.

They cited information from various Japanese reporters that Hashimoto offered to hold the meeting with the political intention to look like he is repenting for his inappropriate remarks in media reports.

He further outraged the women as he repeated the same remarks even after the meeting schedule was fixed.

The women said he should make a sincere official apology for the remarks and step down as a politician if he really feels sorry for them.

Public relations officials at the Osaka city government also confirmed that they were informed of the women's decision to refuse the meeting.

The women said they, instead, will hold a rally and a news conference in front of the Osaka City Hall in protest of the mayor's remarks.

In a related move, the South Korean Foreign Ministry denounced Tomomi Inada, Japan's state minister for administrative reforms, who defended Japan's employment of so-called "comfort women" as "lawful at the time of war."

"Such remarks are unpardonable and should be revoked," the ministry said in a statement. "The remarks not only severely insulted women's prestige and human rights, but defend a crime against humanity."

Up to 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were mobilized as sex slaves, euphemistically called "comfort women," during Japan's brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, according to mainstream historians.

With memories still vivid about the painful history, Japan has ignored Seoul's call for a formal apology and compensation, and even tried to deny the facts.

<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>