Murayama states Japan must repent for its past

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Murayama states Japan must repent for its past

Former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama said yesterday that any cabinet member who denies a 1995 statement apologizing for Japan’s wartime aggressions should step down.

In a speech addressing the National Assembly, the 89-year-old retired politician said he believes current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will uphold the Murayama Statement, amid concerns that Abe may deny remarks made in the Murayama Statement of 1995 and the Kono Statement of 1993.

He also said that “taking away the dignity of the women was an indescribable crime” that Japan “must resolve.”

The speech, which touched upon rectifying Korea-Japan relations and the recognition of history, was attended by the country’s key political leaders, including Saenuri Party Chairman Hwang Woo-yea, Democratic Party Chairman Kim Han-gill and independent lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo.

Murayama also held a press conference afterward.

Japan needs to “first, repent for the past” in order to advance future Korea-Japan relations, he said.

Murayama, the former head of Japan’s Social Democratic Party, is on a three-day visit to the country that concludes today. He is known for a landmark statement he presented in 1995, in which he acknowledged Japan’s past wartime transgressions and apologized on behalf of his country to the victims affected by those actions. Murayama made those remarks on Aug. 15, 1995, on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.

The Murayama Statement followed a 1993 apology issued by Yohei Kono, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary at the time, for Japan’s systematic sexual enslavement of women forcibly recruited from Korea and other neighboring countries during the war.

However, Abe has raised the ire of his neighbors by making remarks that appear to contradict the sentiments in both of those statements.

“The second Abe cabinet is creating instability by denying its aggressions while saying it will succeed the Murayama Statement,” Murayama said. “[But, Abe] as a prime minister cannot deny the statement.”

Murayama said the statement he made in August 1995 “took great courage” and that he kept the postwar German posture in mind. “The German president at the time got on his knees and apologized to Poland, showing that the German people as a whole repented the war.”

He said he had been prepared to resign if there was backlash and added: “After the announcement, I heard some people call me a ‘traitor,’ but I want to ask, ‘Who is the traitor?’ The statement is important for the advancement of Japan.”

“I met with comfort women yesterday,” he continued, referring to his meetings with the women, most now in their 80s and 90s, who were forcibly recruited as sex slaves by the Japanese military during World War II.

“Words would not come out,” he said of the encounters. “I could only bow my head.”

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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