Japan's NHK boss apologises for 'comfort women' comments

In this photo taken on Saturday, 25 January 2014, Katsuto Momii, new president of public broadcaster NHK, holds a news conference at the start of his three-year term in Tokyo Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Momii made the comments during a press conference on Saturday

The new head of Japan's national broadcaster NHK has apologised for comments he made on the military's use of sex slaves during World War Two.

Katsuto Momii said his remarks, that the practice was common in any country at war, were "very inappropriate".

Japan's chief cabinet spokesman said Mr Momii "made the comment as an individual" and not as NHK chief.

But lawmakers in South Korea - home to many of those forced into prostitution - have called for Mr Momii to resign.

Up to 200,000 comfort women are estimated to have been forced to work in Japan's military brothels in World War Two. Women from China, Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia were also forced into service.

Mr Momii, the newly appointed head of publicly funded broadcaster NHK, made the comments during a news conference on Saturday.

"Such women could be found in any nation that was at war, including France and Germany," he said, describing international anger as "puzzling".

But he later apologised, saying: "It is my lack of discretion in that I didn't understand the various rules.

"I think it was very inappropriate that I made the comments at such places."

Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga, when asked about Mr Momii's comments, said: "Our understanding is that Chairman Momii made the comment as an individual."

Meanwhile, political parties in South Korea criticised Mr Momii's comments.

"The chairman should immediately apologise to the South Korean people and step down from his post, while Japan - if it still has a conscience - should be ashamed by the fact that such a person is the chief of a public broadcaster and get him to resign," said senior ruling party official Lee Hye-hoon.

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