Embassy hosts reception for its Japanese Emperor

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Embassy hosts reception for its Japanese Emperor

The Japanese Embassy in Korea hosted a reception on Thursday at a Seoul hotel to celebrate the birthday of Emperor Akihito, prompting protesters to condemn the controversial holiday.

The embassy scheduled the National Day reception at 5:30 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

The Emperor’s Birthday is observed as a national holiday in Japan and is currently celebrated on Dec. 23, Emperor Akihito’s birthday, though the Japanese Embassy has typically hosted an annual celebration in early December.

According to an official from the embassy, about 300 to 400 guests usually attend the event. Since 2010, the celebration has been hosted at the ambassador’s residence, but the embassy reserved an outside venue this year.

In 2010, the reception took place at the Lotte Hotel in downtown Seoul. Lee Sang-deuk, the older brother of then-President Lee Myung-bak and a Grand National Party lawmaker, attended the event, drawing significant criticism.

At the time, he participated in the event as the chairman of the Korea-Japan Parliamentarians League.

This year’s event was held at the Grand Ballroom of the Grand Hyatt, but no major signposts were placed to advertise the celebration. In front of the hotel’s main gate, several conservative activists held a protest to condemn the embassy’s decision to celebrate the emperor’s birthday in a country that was once occupied by Japan.

The embassy appeared to be aware of the sensitive nature of the event. According to Kyodo News Agency, the embassy lodged a complaint to a Korean newspaper on Thursday for calling the celebration “controversial” and publishing the location and time of the reception.

The Dong-A Ilbo reported Thursday that celebrating the Japanese emperor’s birthday in the heart of Seoul is expected to stir up controversy.

According to Kyodo, the embassy was concerned that the celebratory event would be marred by undesirable consequences and even protests.

This is not the first time that a Japanese Embassy event planned at an outside location has come under fire in Korea.

In July, Lotte Hotel canceled the embassy’s event celebrating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.

The cancelation was confirmed just a day before the scheduled reception to honor the founding of its post-World War II unified military forces as public backlash simmered.

BY CHO HYE-KYUNG, SER MYO-JA myoja@joongang.co.kr

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