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

    • Masa Chekov

      I think this is an article on a Japanese website from a Japanese news agency about Japan and S Korea, right? Not much to do with America.

    • Montana dave

      Yes,they all whitewash history. The U.S. has to be one of the worst of all when you think of this countries short history with so few years without being involved in wars.

      But some are worse than others. Germany has admitted and taught their crimes in schools for WW2. Japan has totally ignored,never admitted their atrocious,massive crimes throughout S.E. Asia & China from 1930’s to 45. There is allot of resentment to this day because of that. Many Japanese even support such resolution.

      • KenjiAd

        Re: your comment “Japan has totally ignored,never admitted their atrocious,massive crimes throughout S.E. Asia & China from 1930’s to 45.”

        This is not true. Most Japanese textbooks now mention Japan’s invasion to Asian neighbors, and also include at least some description about Nanjing Massacre. Is it enough? Reasonable people many disagree on that. But a statement like “Japan has totally ignored” is simply not true.

        Also, the Japanese government has issued apologies. For one example, Murayama, then the PM of Japan, issued the following statement, which was unanimously approved by the Cabinet at that time.

        “During a certain period in the not too distant past, Japan, following a mistaken national policy, advanced along the road to war, only to ensnare the Japanese people in a fateful crisis, and, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. In the hope that no such mistake be made in the future, I regard, in a spirit of humility, these irrefutable facts of history, and express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology. Allow me also to express my feelings of profound mourning for all victims, both at home and abroad, of that history.”

        This is commonly known as “Murayama Danwa”, which now Abe says his government isn’t obligated to follow.

    • qwerty

      No they don’t – Merkel doesn’t publicly pay her respects to Hitler.

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

    • KenjiAd

      Asagiri-san, you are badly misinformed.

      Actually “Korean then-government” didn’t ask such a thing. Japan’s eventual annexation of Korea in 1910 was simply the culmination of colonization effort by Imperial Japan to control Korea, which started in 1876 (the first Japan-Korea treaty).

      In the mid-late 19th century, western powers (most notably UK, France, US) started to use non-military power to slice up and colonize weak Asian countries, including India, South East Asia, Philippines, and China. Korea was a de facto protectorate of the Qing dynasty (China) which was in turn being colonized by the western powers. Japan simply wanted to join the club of colonizing powers, and Korea was Japan’s target.

      Between 1876 and 1910, Japan successfully removed the influence of Qing dynasty (Sino-Japan war 1895) and Russia (Russo-Japan war 1905) from Korea. Oh I almost forgot, we (Japan) assassinated the Empress of Korea in 1895 because she was resisting Japan’s colonization effort.

      • Ken

        I think it’s Kenjiad that is misinformed.

        As Asagiri wrote, the then Korean prime minister Yi Wan Yong decided that Korea get annexed to Japan, thinking it is the way for the country to reinvent itself and be better off, though Yi Wan Yong and other leaders involved in annexation are now called traitors in Korea.
        So anyway, Japan did not invade the peninsula at that time, as opposed the article saying otherwise.

      • KenjiAd

        Simply put, the treaty was coerced by Japan at gun point, Ken. The Korean party involved are considered traitors, because they caved into the foreign pressure. I’m glad that you mentioned it.

        Do you know why the Prime Minister signed the 1910 treaty? Because the Korean Emperor at that time (Sunjong) refused to sign it even though the first article of the treaty begins with a statement “His Majesty the Emperor of Korea…”

        History can have many different interpretations. And one could argue, although I strongly disagree, that Korea “benefited” from the 35-yr Japanese occupation.

        But the assertion like “Korean asked Japan to annex herself” is ridiculous and has no factual basis. This much should be clear to anyone who knows the history of Japan-Korea
        relationship between 1876 to 1910, not just the final treaty of 1910. I
        know of no historian who disputes this point, even among Japanese

  • 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

      The problem is, do you need to stop paying your respects to about
      2 500 000 dead because of 14 war criminals?

  • 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.

    • KenjiAd

      For your information, class-A war criminals were enshrined at Yasukuni in 1978, that’s ~30 years after their execution. Before 1978, Hirohito (Showa Emperor) had been visiting Yasukuni almost every year, but he stopped in 1978. No one knows for sure why he stopped going there, but there is a note of an Imperial Steward implying that Hirohito was not happy with the inclusion of the war criminals.

      See this article from Japan Times:


      • Stephen Verry

        KenjiAd: thanks for the info. It’s good to know that Emperor Hirohito took this principled stand. It amazes me that those who say they are defending traditional values by visiting the shrine show such disrespect to the opinion of the emperor. The class-A’s should be removed.

  • 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.

    • KenjiAd

      I wholeheartedly agree. Japanese people deserve a place to not only pay respect to the sacrifice made by soldiers, but also to reflect the history and affirm our collective commitment that this will never happen again.

      It is just that Yasukuni isn’t that place. It makes me so sad that the soul of all those people who sacrificed their lives were “enshrined” in Yasukuni. If there were no mistaken policy that Yasukuni represents, these people would have fulfilled their lives, not needing to be killed in a war. There really is nothing to glorify it.

  • 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.