NHK chief questions criticism of his “comfort women” comments

The president of Japan’s public broadcaster NHK questioned at a meeting this month of senior management whether criticism of his controversial comments on wartime sex slavery made last month was justified, NHK sources said Saturday.

Katsuto Momii, who drew fire for his remarks on the so-called “comfort women” — the euphemistic term in Japan for women forcibly recruited to provide sex for Japanese soldiers during World War II — was quoted as asking NHK governors on Feb. 12, “Did I make terrible gaffes?”

During his first press conference on Jan. 25 as the new president of NHK, Momii said comfort women were used in “every country” and the practice should not be judged by “today’s morality.” He later apologized for the comments and retracted them, saying they represent his personal opinion.

At a meeting of the NHK’s decision-making board of governors, Momii said, “Please read through the whole text of my press conference,” according to the sources.

In response to a question by an NHK governor about how to deal with criticism over his comments, Momii said what the media reported was far from his true intention, while offering an apology over the matter, they added.

The broadcaster has received more than 10,000 written or verbal opinions from viewers criticizing Momii’s remarks. Asked about possible nonpayment of NHK subscription fees by angry viewers, Momii said he does not know about specific measures to cope with the situation, the sources said.

Momii also told the governors that a newly inaugurated president should avoid holding a press conference on the first day of his or her work in the future. The new NHK chief has said in the Diet he did not know the president should not state his own personal opinion at a press conference.

An NHK governor said although Momii said he reflected on his remarks, he “did not do so at all.” Another governor said Momii “did not appear to think what he said at the press conference was wrong.”

The minutes of the Feb. 12 governors’ meeting are scheduled to be released next Friday.

The board of NHK governors, appointed by the prime minister, oversees the executive board chaired by the president, which deliberates on the execution of key operations.

By Global Post

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