Kim Bok Dong, 87, and Kil Won Ok, 85, who are speaking in Japan about their experiences as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II, said through a representative they decided to cancel their meeting with Toru Hashimoto because they didn't want to get caught up in politics surrounding the issue, The Japan Times reported. The mayor of Osaka also is a co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party.
The women had intended to confront Hashimoto about his position on the wartime use of comfort women. The mayor has refused to apologize for his position and told reporters Friday afternoon he was sorry he would not be meeting with the women. The mayor said he recognizes the strain the comfort women issue has injected in Japanese-South Korean relations.
"A joint team of Japanese and South Korean scholars should work together, gather evidence and testimony on the comfort women issue to clarify what happened, because this issue is a bottleneck in good bilateral relations," Hashimoto said.
About 100 supporters of the former comfort women rallied in Osaka's Nakanoshima Park Friday morning. About a dozen other people gathered near City Hall with signs saying the comfort women were not forced into prostitution. The Times said the two groups were kept separated by police.