The Japanese government has asked for the partial retraction of a nearly two-decade-old United Nations report on Korean and other women forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II, but the report’s author has refused the request, a Japanese government spokesman said on Thursday.
The decision to challenge parts of the report appears to be part of a campaign set in motion by influential conservatives to try to call into question the internationally accepted view that the women, known euphemistically in Japan as “comfort women,” were forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers. While the government’s announcement might play well with the conservatives who form the political base for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, an outspoken nationalist, South Korea denounced Japan’s move.
“However hard the Japanese government tries to distort the true nature of the comfort women issue and play down or hide the past wrongdoings, it will never be able to whitewash history,” Noh Kwang-il, spokesman for the South Korean Foreign Ministry, said Thursday.
The Japanese spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet secretary, said his government had sent a top diplomat to make the request personally to Radhika Coomaraswamy, a former United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women. Ms. Coomaraswamy, a Sri Lankan lawyer, wrote the 1996 report that called on Japan to apologize and pay compensation to the women.
Mr. Suga did not specify exactly which part of the report his government had asked to be retracted.
Calls by right-wing politicians and activists to challenge the women’s stories have increased sharply since August, when a major liberal newspaper, the Asahi Shimbun, printed a front-page retraction of several articles it published on the issue in the 1980s and 1990s. Those were based on the testimony of a former Japanese soldier, Seiji Yoshida, who said he had helped kidnap Korean women to work in the brothels.