South Korea blasts Japan's 'distorted view of history'

Seoul protests Abe for defending shrine visits


South Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday summoned the Japanese ambassador to lodge an official protest against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s remarks defending his Cabinet members’ visits to Yasukuni Shrine.

The protest was filed with Ambassador Koro Bessho a day after Abe said “my ministers will not yield to any kind of intimidation” and that they are free to “pay respects and worship the precious souls of the war dead.”

He also raised eyebrows in South Korea and other countries invaded by Imperial Japanese forces in the past by suggesting that what constitutes an “aggression” really depends on the point of view of individual countries, as there is no internationally fixed definition.

First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kyou Hyun told Bessho that South Korea “strongly expresses regrets over Japanese government and political leaders’ distorted view of the history and anachronistic words and deeds,” Yonhap News Agency reported.

“It can never be understood how Japanese society puts such a high value on honesty and trust while closing eye and ear to the history of aggression and colonial rule,” Kim was quoted as saying.

Bessho told Kim he would convey South Korea’s position to the Japanese government.

Later Thursday, the spokesman for South Korea’s Foreign Ministry criticized Abe’s remarks in a similar tone.

“Japan should behave after clearly acknowledging its misdeeds as an aggressor, and that’s very important to developing relations among countries,” spokesman Cho Tai Young told a news briefing.

Cho added that South Korea has told Japan “of the importance of having a correct recognition of past history.”

The latest visits to the Tokyo shrine, which is viewed in South Korea as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism, were made Friday through Sunday by three Cabinet members, including Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, while a group of 168 lawmakers paid homage there Tuesday.

Yasukuni honors convicted Class-A war criminals from World War II along with Japan’s war dead. Repeated visits to the shrine by Japanese leaders have angered China and South Korea, both of which were invaded by Japan during the war.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga repeated that he saw no problem with people paying respect to those who sacrificed their lives for the country.

“Japan, as a nation responsible for peace and prosperity of the region, will aim to strengthen ties with South Korea and China from a broad perspective,” he said. “South Korea and China are Japan’s important neighbors and Japan does not wish that its ties with them will be affected.”

South Korean President Park Geun Hye said Wednesday that a shift toward the right is “not desirable for Japan” because its relations with other countries in the region will become difficult.

“Relations between South Korea and Japan are very important in terms of security and economy, but having a different recognition of the past history will make the wounds of the past history worse and make it difficult for the two countries to move in a future-oriented way,” she said in a meeting with managing editors of media organizations, Yonhap News Agency reported.

“Japan should move along with international society in a harmonious way,” Park was quoted as saying.

On Thursday, the head of South Korea’s ruling party called for a resolution in the United Nations to rein in Japanese attempts to whitewash wartime atrocities, Yonhap reported.

“Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s remarks that he was doubtful of the exact definition of ‘aggression’ not only pervert the fundamental basis of the U.N. international peace regime, but also revive the specter of militarism. It just astonishes us,” Hwang Woo Yea, chairman of the Saenuri Party, was quoted as saying.

“It is necessary to draw discussions about and a resolution against Japan’s history perceptions at the U.N., which run counter to its charter on peace and security,” said Hwang, who leads a South Korea-Japan parliamentary league.

  • Michael Eldridge

    All nations rewrite their history to fit the needs of its people another reason America needs to get out of foreign entanglements

  • http://twitter.com/asagiri170 あさぎり170

    At least Korea was not invaded by Japan. Korean then-government asked Japan to annex the country because they were so impoverished.

  • alain

    my ministers will not yield to any kind of intimidation” and that they are free to “pay respects and worship the precious souls of the war dead.” Maybe to stop going to pay respect to war criminal will be a better idea than to be an arrogant japanese politician. Does the word humility exists in Japanese ? I suppose so. So let practice it.

  • Casper Steuperaert

    Abe needs to be more careful with his words. South-Korea should stop annoying Japan over the Yasukuni shrine

  • KenjiAd

    By saying “my ministers will not yield to any kind of intimidation” and that they
    are free to “pay respects and worship the precious souls of the war
    dead,” Abe is clearly distorting the issue for his political gain.

    First, Abe is trying to frame the issue of Yasukuni visit as a struggle between those who bravely stand up against the foreign pressure and those who cowardly cave in to it. Total nonsense. There are many reasons for why the majority of non-LDP politicians choose not to visit Yasukini publicly (some do privately). But fear of China and Korea? No way. Their own reputation in foreign countries is the last thing politicians would worry about.

    Second, the issue is not about whether Japanese people should pay respect to the war dead. Of course we should, at least to the vast majority of the war dead who didn’t participate in any war crimes. There is no disagreement here. Revisionist like Abe loves to imply that opponents of official Yasukuni visit are disrespectful to the war dead. That’s a straw man argument, namely, he first set up a fraudulent point of view (i.e., disrespecting the war dead), labeled it as his opponent’s stance, and is then attacking the stance that he and his revisionist friends manufactured in the first place.

    The core issues of Yasukuni visit are two-fold: a) what does Yasukuni shrine symbolizes.and b) do you endorse that symbolism.

    I’m a 53-yr old Japanese who spent the most of adult life in America. I now live in China. As far as I’m concerned, Yasukuni is a symbol of the Japanese Imperialism which was directly responsible for the misery of early 20th century in Japan and Asia. The shrine was built for the sole purpose of glorifying the war dead who died for the Emperor. I said ‘for the Emperor’, not ‘for the country.’ No dead servicemen or women of Self Defense Force or Maritime Agency after WWII has ever been enshrined in Yasukuni. Even Saigo Takamori was not enshrined either, because he fought against the Emperor’s Army.

    During the WWII, Japanese soldiers were taught to die for the Emperor. At least that was the official slogan. When you die, they were told, you would become an “Eirei” (loosely translated “Heroic Soul” or something) and be enshrined in the Yasukuni. That’s how they glorified the sacrifice of Japanese conscripts who didn’t have any other choice but to die, including those guys who were told to crash their planes to enemy ships. And we should never forget the unspeakable horror that the Imperial Japanese Army committed throughout Asia.

    Yasukuni, at least to me, symbolizes all. Clearly, those politicians harbor a different perspective about the war – and _that_, I insist, should be exposed. If Abe believes, as he appears, that Japan was some kind of “victim” of the war and its reputation has been unfairly tarnished, then I challenge him to just say it. I challenge him to defend such an indefensible position in an open forum.

  • Stephen Verry

    The solution to this perennial dilemma is to remove the class A war criminal’s names from the shrine. Look, one can equivocate on what constitutes aggression, but one cannot change that fact that Japanese militarists were allied with Nazi Germany, where aggression was propelled by a pseudo-scientific race theory that denoted where, if at all, in a proposed new order various peoples could exist. There are no shades of grey in such a proposed order. It would have been based on an almost invincible ignorance and subhuman brutality. That the German government and people have disavowed and atoned for that regime’s evil is a credit to their true moral stature.

    Having said that, the Japanese people have every right to worship as they wish and pay homage to real soldiers who have fallen in defense of the nation.

  • KoreanPlastic

    They really need to remove the names of the criminals in that shrine. The millions enshrined there are mostly civilians, and soldiers just like any other patriotic country grave or whatever. The problem is the criminal names.
    Also korea shouldnt make a fuss over this because they’ve also done pretty ass hattery things such as politicians STEPPING on japan flags in this day and age. By doing that, their involving a whole new generation of people who had nothing to do with the war, discriminated.

  • TokyoTengu

    I though much like you did, Stephen, until I spent a couple of days at Yasukuni Shrine and came to the reluctant conclusion that it does indeed promote militarism and the museum exhibits, especially, tend to whitewash Japan’s aggressive role.

    In the past, there has been several movements toward creating a new memorial where lawmaker and others can pay there respects without offending the rest of Asia, but no particular location has ever been deemed acceptable.

    I personally believe the best location would be the Budokan itself, which is next to but separate from, Yasukuni Shrine. A new Budokan can be constructed somewhere on the periphery of the Imperial Palace, and a very suitable memorial can be constructed on the current site, possibly by remodeling and extending the present structure.

    By making it a separate entity, it would eliminate this tiresome issue, while maintaining a sufficiently close proximity to Yasukuni Shrine that would allow those inclined to visit during a single trip, if that is their desire.

  • blahblahblah

    Let’s face it, Korea will complain about Japan for anything they do regardless. Honestly, both countries should just break ties with each other, and be done with it.