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South Korea president: 'Bravely heal past wounds'

Park calls on Japan to face up to history

Kyodo, AP, AFP-JIJI

South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Thursday urged Japanese politicians to show “brave leadership” in resolving issues still lingering from Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

“I urge Japanese politicians to show brave leadership in healing wounds of the past, and that’s how Japan could become a partner for a genuine cooperation,” Park said in a speech during a ceremony to mark the end of Japan’s occupation.

Park also called on the Japanese government to take “responsible and sincere measures for those who are living with sufferings and wounds arisen from the past history,” apparently referring to “comfort women,” who were forced into sexual servitude by the Japanese military during the war.

She said Japan is an important neighbor with which South Korea could work together to establish peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia, but “recent situations surrounding issues of the past history make the future of the two countries dark.”

“It would be difficult to build trust needed to move into the future without being courageous in looking squarely into the past and having the attitude of being considerate of others’ sufferings,” she said.

Relations between South Korea and Japan have been strained in recent years by the territorial dispute over a couple of rocky islets in the Sea of Japan, as well as differing views of history.

Earlier Thursday, three of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet ministers visited the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine on the 68th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.

South Korea views Yasukuni, which is dedicated to 2.5 million mostly Japanese soldiers killed in past wars, as well as convicted Class-A war criminals, as a symbol of Japanese past militarism. Previous visits to the Shinto shrine by Japanese political leaders have strained relations.

Women who had been forced to work in wartime brothels of the Japanese army, and their supporters, rallied outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, demanding apologies and compensation.

Meanwhile in Beijing on Thursday, China summoned Japanese Ambassador Masato Kitera to condemn visits by Cabinet members to Yasukuni, China’s Foreign Ministry said.

Chinese officials told Kitera that China “strongly opposed and strictly condemned” the visits, ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement on its website.

Hong’s statement said the visits “seriously hurt” the feelings of people in China and other parts of Asia that suffered during the war.

The visits “fundamentally attempt to deny and gloss over Japan’s history of invasion,” the statement said. “Only by seeing history correctly and learning from it can Japan embrace the future. We urge Japan to follow its promise to seriously examine its history and win the trust of international society through actions. Otherwise relations between Japan and its neighboring countries will have no future.”

The embassy was guarded by more police officers and vehicles than usual.

Although Abe did not go to the shrine in person to avoid escalating tensions with China and South Korea, Xinhua said the visits by internal affairs minister Yoshitaka Shindo and state minister Keiji Furuya “will further harm mutual trust between Japan and its neighbors.”

Prime ministers’ Yasukuni visits

The following is a chronology of events related to prime ministers’ visits to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

Aug. 15, 1975 — Takeo Miki becomes the first prime minister to visit Yasukuni on the anniversary of Japan’s surrender.

Aug. 15, 1978 — Takeo Fukuda visits the shrine.

Oct. 17, 1978 — Yasukuni begins honoring wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo and 13 other Class-A war criminals.

Aug. 15, 1980 — Zenko Suzuki visits. He goes again on the anniversary in 1981 and 1982.

Aug. 15, 1985 — Yasuhiro Nakasone becomes the first postwar prime minister to make an official visit.

July 29, 1996 — Ryutaro Hashimoto is the first prime minister in 11 years to visit.

Aug. 13, 2001 — Junichiro Koizumi becomes the first prime minister in five years to visit.

Dec. 24, 2002 — Private advisory panel to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda submits report advocating the establishment of a permanent state-run, secular facility for the offering of prayers for the war dead and peace.

April 21, 2002 — Koizumi pays second visit to Yasukuni.

Jan. 14, 2003 — Koizumi pays third visit to Yasukuni.

Jan. 1, 2004 — Koizumi pays fourth visit to Yasukuni.

Oct. 17, 2005 — Koizumi pays fifth visit to Yasukuni.

Aug. 15, 2006 — Koizumi pays sixth visit to Yasukuni.

Dec. 17, 2012 — Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe describes his failure to visit Yasukuni during his prime ministership from 2006 to 2007 as “extremely regrettable.”

April 20, 2013 — Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo visits Yasukuni.

April 21 — Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso and Keiji Furuya, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission and state minister in charge of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals, visit Yasukuni.

April 28 — Administrative reform minister Tomomi Inada visits Yasukuni.

July 25 — Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says at a press conference, “The basic position of the Abe Cabinet is that we will not comment on whether we will make a visit.”

  • Murasaki

    Following their independence from Imperial Japan, both North and South Korea demanded apologies for what they regarded as brutal, unjust occupation. The Japanese government apologized many times. Many Japanese cabinet members have also made apologies.

    As for compensation 20year after WWII, South Korea and Japan re-established diplomatic relations with the 1965 signing of the Treaty on Basic Relations. In 2005, South Korea disclosed diplomatic documents that detailed the proceedings of the treaty. Kept secret for 40 years, the documents revealed that Japan provided $500 million in soft loans and $300 million in grants to South Korea as compensation for its 1910–45 occupation, and that South Korea agreed to demand no more compensation after the treaty, either at a government-to-government level or an individual-to-government level.

    The South Korean government used most of the loans for economic development and failed to provide adequate compensation to victims, paying only 300,000 won per death, with only a total of 2,570 million won to the relatives of 8,552 victims who died in forced labor. As the result, the Korean victims were preparing to file a compensation suit against the South Korean government as of 2005.

    The Koreans should be looking at their own behaviour and Park Geun-hye should keep her mouth shut!

    Enough if enough. Japan does not have to say ‘Sorry’ again and does not have to hand any money over, it was a done deal in 1965, South Koreans want a Sorry and Money then they call demand it from their government!