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New NHK chief retracts comments on "comfort women" amid criticism

New president of Japan's public broadcaster NHK, Katsuto Momii, on Monday retracted his wrong comments on "comfort women" made on Saturday, saying the remarks are "extremely inappropriate," according to local media.

Momii said that he had been stating his own personal opinion, but "even as an individual opinion it's not something I should have said," the outspoken new NHK chief was quoted by Japan's Kyodo as saying.

Momii said he will continue to deal with the fallout from his comments and devote himself to the role of president, said Kyodo.

In a press conference on Saturday intended to mark his appointment to the NHK's top post, Momii said that the "comfort women" system can be found in any country and was a reality at wartime, adding South Korea made the issue more complicated as the country said only Japan forcibly transported such women.

However, his remarks have drawn criticism from Japan's political parties.

Akihiro Ohata, secretary general of Japan's main opposition the Democratic Party of Japan, said that the new chief's remarks were improper and with bias, adding he is worried about the broadcaster 's future, according to newspaper Tokyo Shimbun.

Japan's Social Democratic Party's Secretary General Seiji Mataichi blasted that the remarks were based on no history awareness, reported the newspaper.

"This is a major development that could lead to his dismissal," a high-ranking executive of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party was quoted by Asahi Shimbun as saying, adding "this could affect Diet deliberations because NHK's budget will have to be discussed. "

According to historians, an estimated 200,000 women were forced by the Japanese government and forces to serve as sex slaves for Japanese forces during World War II, and most of them came from countries, especially from South Korea, invaded by Japan at that time.

"It's really heartbreaking to think of Katsuto Momii's remarks, " Lee Hye-hoon, one of the members of the Supreme Council of South Korean ruling Saenuri Pary, said in a senior party officials' meeting.

"If there is a group of people with conscience in Japan, how could a person like Momii having such an unethical perception and made an absurd remark become the head of the public broadcaster," Lee said, according to a statement issued by the party.

She also demanded Momii resign immediately from his post and apologize to the victims and all South Korean people.

Chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party, Kim Han-gill, also denounced Momii's remarks as "absurd," saying "If such absurd remarks are made continually in Japan, the historical fact that Japan is a state that has committed a war will become clearer."

However, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday that Momii's comments have no problem as he was speaking in an individual capacity, despite the occasion that he made the remarks.

Meanwhile, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto also defended Momii's statement, saying there are no problems with Momii's comments.

Momii's appointment was announced in December. Along with other new NHK governors, Momii is believed to be one of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's political allies.

In 2005, Abe admitted that he had urged NHK officials to delete a segment of a documentary about the "comfort women" in 2001, when Abe was then chief cabinet secretary.

Analysts said that NHK should be politically neutral as it is a public broadcaster. However, Momii's comments might have released the signal that things would be changed, which is seemingly against Japan's Broadcast Law.

"When government is saying, 'Right,' we can't say, 'Left,'" Momii was quoted by Japan's Kyodo News.

What also triggered concerns are that as the president of the NHK, Momii does has right to censor NHK programs' contents and the new chief would follow the controversial Secrecy Law, which is against by a large number of presses here.

[Source: Xinhua, Tokyo, 27Jan14]

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