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Wed, Feb 28, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Comfort women uproar abates

APOLOGY Shi Wen-lung has issued a written apology for his remarks on the sex slaves issue, and said he never said the words attributed to him

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

A former comfort woman wipes her eyes during a press conference held yesterday to demand an apology from Shi Wen-lung, head of the Chi Mei Group, for his comments on sexual slavery during World War II. Ten former comfort women attended the press conference, which was held at the Air Force Officers Club.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The furor triggered by the comments on comfort women made by local businessman Shi Wen-lung (許文龍) and recorded in the Japanese comic On Taiwan (台灣論) calmed down somewhat yesterday, following a written apology by Shi late on Monday night.

Accompanied by social workers from the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation (婦女救援基金會) yesterday, a group of furious former comfort women asked Shi to apologize to them face to face "to show his sincerity," since he had been willing to issue an apology on paper.

"The remarks made by Shi not only twisted the facts, they have also stirred up a big tumult in the emotions and lives of these old ladies. They think an apology on paper is insufficient to calm their anger and distress," said a statement issued by the foundation on behalf of the victims.

In his apology, Shi, chairman of the Chi Mei Corporation and a senior adviser to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), said he felt "terribly sorry" for the hurt done to the victims by his remarks, which he admitted were "biased" because of his "limited experience." He said he never meant to insult the victims.

As to the controversial quotes appearing in the comic, Shi said that he had never said that becoming comfort women enabled women to raise their social status, nor had he called the women "voluntary" sex workers.

What he meant by saying that comfort women were "not compelled" was that they were "not captured by force" by the Japanese during World War II, Shi explained, adding that he had never denied the fact that some victims were cheated into becoming comfort women.

Shi said the comfort women episode was a historical tragedy as inhumane as the war itself. He further promised to support research on the issue as well as on that of the prostitute system which used to exist in Taiwan's military.

This was the first time Shi apologized over the controversy. The matter first raised public concern last week after women's rights groups and former comfort women strongly protested against Shi's quotes in the comic.

In his public explanation on Sunday, Shi insisted that the women were not compelled but were sold by their parents into brothels.

Opposition lawmakers have also castigated Shi and the author of the comic, Yoshinori Kobayashi (小林善紀), demanding that the president dismiss Shi immediately and that Kobayashi be banned from visiting Taiwan again.

Some DPP politicians have also suggested that Shi take the initiative to resign from his post as senior adviser, so as not to drag Chen into the dispute.

Following Shi's apology on Monday, most opposition legislators softened their positions yesterday, though some still insisted that Shi should resign.

"We are willing to believe that Shi's apology is genuine, and we are deeply impressed by Shi's courage in admitting his error," said a joint statement by a group of female opposition legislators led by the New Party's Hsieh Chi-ta (謝啟大), the People First Party's Cheng Chin-ling (鄭金玲) and independent Josephine Chu (朱惠良).

The legislators recommended that Shi take legal action against Kobayashi for "fabricating the ungrounded account."

They also unveiled a plan to invite Shi and national policy adviser Chin Mei-ling (金美齡), who arranged Kobayashi's Taiwan trip last fall, to present a report to the legislature.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's representative to Japan, Lo Fu-chen (羅福全), who is featured in the comic as singing songs praising the Japanese militarism in a banquet receiving Kobayashi, is set to report to the legislature on March 7.

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