SEOUL – The South Korean government has voiced concern about Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s suggestion that he will make an official visit to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, a memorial to Japan’s war dead, on the anniversary of the country’s surrender in World War II, a South Korean official said Wednesday.
The South Korean position was conveyed Tuesday to Yoshinori Katori, a minister at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, at the South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry, the official said on condition of anonymity.
South Korea and Japan are currently embroiled in diplomatic trouble over Japan’s authorization of eight junior high school history textbooks that Seoul says attempt to justify Japan’s 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula and wartime atrocities committed by Japanese troops.
South Korea formally demanded last Tuesday that Japan make corrections in 35 passages in the history textbooks approved by an Education Ministry panel in early April.
Koizumi, who was swept into power after victory in the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential election last month, said last week he would visit the shrine as prime minister on Aug. 15.
The Shinto shrine honors some 2.5 million Japanese who died in wars since the mid-19th century, including seven hanged war criminals.
Visits there by public figures have been repeatedly criticized by Asian countries that were invaded by Japanese troops before and during World War II.
While several Cabinet ministers visit the shrine each year, only two prime ministers have so far paid homage while in office — Yasuhiro Nakasone in 1985 and Ryutaro Hashimoto in 1996.
Nakasone made an official visit Aug. 15, while Hashimoto visited the shrine on his birthday, emphasizing that the visit was made as a private citizen.
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