National / Politics

South Korean ambassador says three terms crucial to Abe's WWII statement

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

South Korea’s ambassador to Japan said Wednesday his country is closely watching whether the upcoming statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to mark 70 years since the end of World War II contains key terms such as “remorse” and “colonial rule.”

In a speech in Tokyo, Yoo Heung-soo, 77, said historical perceptions about Japan’s wartime aggression is one of the issues that needs to be addressed for bilateral relations to benefit, and the content of Abe’s planned August statement is critical to that end.

“Whether three key words are in the statement or not would determine how people perceive the statement,” the former lawmaker said, referring to “aggression,” “colonial rule” and “remorse.”

Yoo said some people in South Korea and China suspect the Abe administration’s view of history suggests it does not face up to the country’s wartime past. He also said including those key words would help ease their doubts.

“The public in neighboring countries would appreciate the statement,” Yoo said. He said including those words would also win high praise from the international community.

In a recent TV appearance, Abe suggested he might omit an apology in the upcoming statement. In 1995, Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama issued a statement of apology for Japan’s wartime aggression and colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the war.

Abe has repeatedly said he will uphold the Murayama statement “as a whole,” but also has hinted that he might not use some of Murayama’s words.

Yoo said he hopes to see a resolution to the so-called “comfort women” issue, in the shape of a “sincere policy” by Japan which the victims could accept.

Yoo also said he would strive to prepare an environment for a summit between South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Abe, who have not held a formal one-on-one meeting since taking office, Abe at the end of 2012 and Park in 2013.

“It’s bad that many people regard South Korea-Japan ties as bitter due to the lack of a formal summit meeting, even though we are inseparable and important neighbors,” Yoo said.

He said the two countries have helped each other to develop since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1965.

Yoo has himself followed the neighbors’ ties closely, not least because he lived in Kyoto as a child