Four S. Korean lawmakers visit Japan over imperialist remarks

TOKYO/SEOUL, May 27 (Yonhap) -- Four South Korean female lawmakers arrived in Japan Monday to protest against nationalistic politicians for raising allegations that the country was justified in using foreign sex slaves during World War II.

Ruling Saenuri Party Reps. Kim Hee-jung, Ryu Ji-young and Kim Hyun-sook, and Rep. You Seung-hee of the main opposition Democratic Party met with Japanese academics and representatives of Korean residents in Tokyo to deliver their protest.

All four lawmakers serve on the parliamentary committee for women and family affairs.

"These reckless remarks on sex slaves recur because the Japanese government has not fundamentally repented for its colonial rule over Korea," You told Yonhap News Agency earlier by phone. "We will strongly urge the Japanese government to apologize and provide legal compensation."

Tensions between South Korea and Japan have flared anew in recent weeks after Toru Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka and co-leader of the nationalist Japan Restoration Party, tried to justify his country's use of foreign sex slaves during the war, saying the Japanese military's sexual enslavement of Asian women was "necessary."

Shingo Nishimura, a six-term lawmaker of the same Japanese party, has defended the mayor's remarks, claiming that Japan is full of Korean prostitutes.

During their three-day visit, the lawmakers are scheduled to meet with Japanese lawmakers who have been critical of the mayor to seek their cooperation.

They plan to present the lawmakers with a resolution You submitted to the National Assembly last week that condemns the Japanese politicians' remarks and calls for an official apology.

The lawmakers also plan to visit the Philippines later this week to comfort Filipino victims of Japan's sex slavery and meet with Filipino lawmakers over ways to jointly handle the issue.

Speaking to a news conference in Seoul, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se criticized Hasimoto's remarks attempting to justify his country's sexual enslavement as "shameful."

"By making such remarks, Japan will be further isolated in the international community," Yun said, adding that the frozen relations between South Korea and Japan will not thaw until Japanese leaders repent for their country's wartime atrocities and stop making "retrograde comments and behaviors."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also argued recently that the definition of "aggression" has yet to be fixed, apparently trying to deny Japan's militaristic past, including its colonization of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945.

Amid growing concerns by South Korea and other Asian neighbors over Japan's revival of its past militarism, Abe has also likened the Yasukuni Shrine to the Arlington National Cemetery in the U.S. and suggested that he might visit the shrine honoring Japanese war criminals.

Hashimoto went further earlier in the day questioning the authenticity of the testimonies made by former sex slaves, euphemistically called "comfort women."

He said he "doubted the historical authenticity" of the testimonies made by the victims, insisting he found no proof that either the Japanese government or the Japanese military was involved in the systemic kidnapping and human trafficking of women for front-line brothels.

Historians say more than 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were coerced into sexual servitude at front-line Japanese brothels during World War II.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono admitted in 1993 that the Japanese Imperialist Army was involved in the establishment and management of "comfort stations."

Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in 1995 formally apologized for the sufferings Koreans endured during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula for 36 years until 1946.

The Japanese government has established a private fund to compensate the victims of wartime sex slaves.

Most victims, however, have refused to accept compensation from the private fund, demanding the Japanese government officially apologize and pay compensation.

Japan insists that all compensation issues were covered under the 1965 Treaty of Basic Relations between South Korea and Japan.

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