Japan says UN envoy retracts remarks on schoolgirl sex
S Korea, Japan hold talks on ‘comfort women’
TOKYO: A UN human rights envoy has retracted her claim that 13 percent of schoolgirls in Japan are involved in forms of paid dating that can involve sex, the Japanese government said yesterday.
The step came shortly after Tokyo bitterly complained to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and demanded it show evidence to support the figure that was announced in Tokyo last month. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, the UN’s special envoy on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, wrote to the Permanent Mission of Japan to the International Organizations in Geneva to say she could not offer hard evidence to support her claim, according to a Japanese official.
“The letter said after further reviews that there was no official and recent data to support the 13-percent figure,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.
In her letter, de Boer-Buquicchio vowed not to use the figure in the future and said the number will not be part of a report to be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, Suga said. “We regard this explanation as effectively a retraction of the comment over the 13-percent figure,” he added.
“The Japanese government will continue to ask them to draft reports based on objective data.”
Nekane Lavin, from the UN Office of the High Commissionner in Geneva, later issued a statement by email saying the special envoy will make no further comment until March when she submits her report. “Please note ... the Special Rapporteur will not make further comments on this issue until the presentation of her full and comprehensive report on her visit to Japan to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2016.”
In a press conference last month, de Boer-Buquicchio spoke of the Japanese social phenomenon of “enjo kosai”, often translated as “compensated dating”, in which older men pay teenage girls for dates that may involve sex.
“Some 13 percent of the school girls in Japan are involved in that kind of activity, which perhaps starts with a relatively innocent activity,” she said at the briefing. The “innocent” behavior may include men going for a walk with high school girls, she added. When Japan subsequently demanded that she present evidence for the claim, de Boer-Buquicchio said this month she had “no official statistics” on compensated dating. She said she had seen the figure “in open sources”. Concerns over the sexualisation of young girls have been frequently expressed by Japanese media, women’s groups and some politicians, but the precise extent of abuses or illicit activities has proven difficult to measure. —AFP SEOUL: South Korea and Japan yesterday discussed their long-running dispute over Korean women forced into wartime sexual slavery-the first such talks since their leaders vowed to push for a mutually acceptable settlement. The meeting between senior foreign ministry officials from both sides followed last week’s summit in Seoul between South Korean President Park Geun-Hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“It’s difficult to go into details, but it can be said that we’re moving one step at a time towards our goal,” the South’s Yonhap news agency quoted a government official as saying after the talks.
“We have agreed to continue talks on areas where differences exist,” the unnamed official said.
South Korea is demanding a formal apology and compensation for the Korean women forced to serve as sex slaves in Japanese military army brothels during World War II. Japan maintains that the dispute was settled in a 1965 normalization agreement, which saw Tokyo make a total payment of $800 million in grants or loans to its former colony.
The two sides have now held 10 rounds of talks on the issue since April last year-with no tangible progress. Yesterday’s meeting was in the same framework, but was closely monitored for any signs that the Park-Abe summit had shifted the discussion lines.
In what was their first one-on-one meeting, the two leaders had vowed to speed up consultations to resolve the dispute, which Park called the “biggest stumbling block” to normalized ties. Park had previously rebuffed multiple proposals for a summit with Abe, arguing that Tokyo had yet to properly atone for its wartime past and 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.
Presiding over a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Park had again stressed that the comfort women issue should be settled “as early as possible”. Mainstream historians say up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea but also from China, Indonesia and other Asian nations, were forced into sexual slavery during the war.
South Korea has only 47 surviving comfort women-all of them in advanced old age. “Our government’s position is constant and firm. The comfort women issue should be resolved urgently,” foreign ministry spokesman Cho June-Hyuck told a regular press briefing ahead of Wednesday’s talks. The Japanese government should present a solution “that victims can accept”, Cho said.
Japan’s top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Tokyo had “yet to decide” on what measures might be put forward as a solution. —AFP
SEOUL: Protestors sit next to a statue (C) of a South Korean teenage girl in traditional costume called the “peace monument” for former “comfort women” who served as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II, during a weekly anti-Japanese demonstration near the Japanese embassy in Seoul yesterday. —AFP