Tokyo mayor Shintaro Ishihara’s latest foray into promoting international goodwill is to assert that Japan’s wartime “comfort women” were all willing Korean prostitutes only interested in the money.

Ishihara’s remarks came at one of his infamous press conferences:

“Where is the proof that Japanese forced them to do this?

It was an era of poverty, these women grudgingly turned to the only trade they could make money in, prostitution.”

He also called a 1993 apology for their fate, made by the then chief cabinet secretary, “idiotic for accepting their claims like that.”


At the other end of the country, Osaka’s maverick mayor and committed tattoo-hater Tooru Hashimoto has also been expressing scepticism about Korea’s claims:

“There is no evidence they were subject to any coercion from the army.

Testimony from comfort women isn’t enough. The reliability of their claims can’t be taken for granted.”

He went on to accuse Korea’s king-hating president of illegally entering Japanese territory.

Aside from the sovereignty of Takeshima/Dokdo, the “comfort women” issue has become the other major bone of contention in relations between the two nations.

Whatever the historical truth of the matter, the assertions of the right of both sides have become increasingly extreme – many Japanese dismiss them as willing prostitutes and a scam by Korean nationalists to further inflame passions against Japan or to continue eternally accumulating war reparations.

Meanwhile the claims of the Korean side have also become increasingly exaggerated, with some academics insisting hundreds of thousands of Korean women alone were victimised, and guesses at their total number based on the presumed ratio of sex slaves to soldiers taken as fact in place of actual evidence.

Despite these estimates, the Korean government has only identified 234 women as former sex slaves (or military prostitutes, as some would have it).

It should come as no surprise that the Japanese Internet is greatly excited by such remarks:

“His excellency is as cool as ever!”

“Watch all those dirty Koreans get upset about this!”

“Both now and back then Korea exported vast numbers of prostitutes.”

“So it is definitely true that the army was hiring prostitutes, and it is OK that they were doing this as long they weren’t coerced?”

“I think he is basically right, but there must have been an awful lot of poor households selling off their daughters this way.”

“Probably a lot of these girls were sold into it by their families so it wasn’t always exactly voluntary.”

“There’s plenty of evidence for forced Korean labour in mines and so on, but the stuff about comfort women only started coming out decades after the war ended, so it’s pretty suspect.”

“These guys are full of it – if there is no evidence of it, there is also no evidence of the Shiga bullying, now is there?”

“Get out of here you dirty Korean!”

“Unlike the Shiga case, there are no third party witnesses to the comfort women issue.”

“I have trouble believing there weren’t quite a few girls who were forced into this. But that was the fault of the people who sold them to the army, not the army.”

“200,000 sex slaves… for something that big there should be mountains of evidence? Why isn’t there?”

“They have always had a huge prostitution industry and exported their women in vast numbers…”

From Wikipedia: Prostitution in South Korea is illegal, but according to The Korea Women’s Development Institute,
the sex trade in Korea was estimated to amount to 14 trillion South Korean won ($13 billion) in 2007,
roughly 1.6 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.”

“Please become prime minister, Ishihara!”


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