For the second consecutive year, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has failed to pay tribute at an annual ceremony for the Koreans murdered in the chaos that followed the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, despite criticism from civic groups that organize the event.
The event Saturday to commemorate the massacre of the Koreans is held every Sept. 1 in front of a cenotaph in Yokoamicho Park in Sumida Ward.
Instead, Koike sent a condolence message to an indoors ceremony that was held nearby for all victims of the magnitude 7.9 temblor, which devastated the capital and surrounding areas. It was read aloud by a deputy governor the same day.
The cenotaph in the park states that the “precious lives of slightly more than 6,000 Koreans were stolen.”
The broader ceremony to mourn the estimated 105,000 people claimed by the quake was attended by descendants of the victims plus metropolitan officials and Prince Fumihito, the younger son of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, and his wife, Princess Kiko.
Tokyo governors have historically sent tributes to the ceremony for the Korean victims. Koike herself sent one in 2016, shortly after becoming governor following an election that July.
However, she broke the tradition last year after a Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly member, arguing there were differing views on how many Korean residents were murdered, urged her to think twice about sending a message again.
A report compiled by the national government’s disaster council in 2008 said those killed in the massacre account for “1 to several percent” of those who died in the quake.
In August, Koike told a news conference she had decided last year against sending a message of condolence for the Korean victims because she meant to express her condolences for “all victims” of the earthquake in the broader ceremony.
The Japan-Korea Society and other groups organizing the event for the Korean victims criticized her stance, saying murder victims and those who lost their lives in a natural disaster should be treated differently.
In the chaos after the quake, Koreans and Chinese were killed by military and paramilitary forces, apparently acting on a rumor that they would stage an uprising. Many groundless rumors swirled at the time, including one alleging that Koreans were poisoning wells. Japan annexed the Korean Peninsula in 1910.
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