SEOUL JIJI – Scores of Diet members visited the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Wednesday to honor the nation’s war dead, whose souls are enshrined there alongside convicted war criminals.
The move risked drawing the ire of Asian nations that suffered under Japanese occupation and wartime actions.
Lawmakers in black suits streamed into the shrine under a bright blue morning sky to mark the shrine’s annual spring festival.
Alongside the war dead, the shrine also honors the souls of leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as Class-A war criminals. Beijing regards the shrine as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.
“I feel very grateful anew that we have maintained peace for 70 years,” said Hidehisa Otsuji, a conservative lawmaker with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the leader of a Diet group that visited Yasukuni. “The souls (of the dead) must also be pleased with this.”
A total of 106 lawmakers visited, the group said, however no Cabinet ministers were seen among them.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry condemned the visits, saying in a statement: “It is deeply disappointing and deplorable that Japanese politicians who are in responsible positions again visited today.”
“Yesterday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent an offering to Yasukuni Shrine, which glorifies Japan’s colonial occupation and war of aggression,” it said.
“By visiting or sending an offering to Yasukuni Shrine, which is a symbol of Japan’s history of imperialist aggression, after 70 years have passed since the end of the war, Japan explicitly shows it has not looked squarely at history.”
China and South Korea see the shrine as a symbol of what they say is Japan’s unwillingness to repent for its aggressive warring. The United States has tried to discourage visits, which it views as unnecessarily provocative.
Abe drew rebukes from Beijing and Seoul on Tuesday after sending an offering to the shrine, which he has not visited since December 2013.
He has also said he may not repeat a formal apology for his country’s World War II rampage through Asia, in a statement planned for August to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the global conflict.
S. Koreans sue 70 firms
A group of South Koreans who were forced to work for Japanese companies during World War II, and relatives of laborers who have since died, filed a class action lawsuit in Seoul against some 70 firms.
The damages suit, filed Tuesday, involves 668 plaintiffs. They filed it with Seoul Central District Court with support from a South Korean society for relatives of Pacific War victims.
The society helped 252 other plaintiffs file a similar suit in December 2013.
According to the latest petition, the plaintiffs are demanding that companies including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. pay at least 100 million won ($92,678) per person in damages.
Tuesday’s action is the latest in a series of lawsuits by former South Korean wartime forced laborers in the wake of a 2012 ruling by the country’s Supreme Court that recognized their right to claim compensation from their former employers in Japan.