Abe Denies Japan Forced Women Into Brothels in War (Update1) Bloomberg
By Takashi Hirokawa - March 2, 2007 03:38 EST
March 2 (Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said there is ``no evidence'' Japan's military forced women into prostitution during its occupation of Asia in World War II.
``It is a fact that there was no evidence to support that there was coercion as it was defined at the time,'' Abe told reporters late yesterday in Tokyo. ``We must take into account there have been great changes in definitions.''
The statement indicates Abe's administration may repeal a 1993 government study that the military, both directly and indirectly, forced women in occupied areas to serve in brothels as ``comfort women.'' The majority came from Korea, which Japan occupied from 1910 to 1945, and China.
``The Japanese government is saying there was no coercion but as a living victim I would like to say that this was a coerced experience,'' Lee Yong Soo, a former comfort woman who gave testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee last month, told reporters today in Tokyo.
Lee, a Korean woman aged 78, says she was forced into sexual slavery at the age of 14.
The 1993 study showed women ``were recruited against their own will,'' then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono said in a statement, adding the government offered ``its sincere apologies and remorse.''
The apology was never adopted by parliament. A group of about 120 members of the Liberal Democratic Party want the government to overturn the 1993 apology.
Japanese historian Yoshimi Yoshiaki, in his 1995 book `Comfort Women,' estimates as many as 200,000 women from Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia and Burma served as sex slaves in 2,000 centers.
References to the practice were removed from eight Japanese school textbooks in 2005, prompting protests from South Korea.
Mike Honda, a Democratic congressman from California, has introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives calling on Japan to formally acknowledge and apologize for forcing women into sexual slavery.
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