Column in Tokyo paper likens Park to ill-fated royal

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Column in Tokyo paper likens Park to ill-fated royal

The Korean government requested Tuesday that a Japanese newspaper delete a column on its website that likened President Park Geun-hye to a Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) empress assassinated by Japanese agents and criticized her plans to attend China’s military parade for Victory Day.

The conservative daily Sankei Shimbun, however, has refused to retract the article, published online on Monday, that compared the Korean president to Empress Myeongseong (1851-1895), standing by its right to freedom of the press.

Empress Myeongseong, the wife of King Gojong, pushed for stronger ties with Russia to block Japanese advances overseas, but was murdered on Oct. 8, 1895, by agents under retired Japanese Army Lt. Miura Goro, the Japanese minister to Korea.

The column follows Park’s decision to attend a military parade on Thursday in Beijing commemorating the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, which it described as “toadyism,” comparing Korean diplomacy to the country’s “sycophancy between the Qing Dynasty, Japan and Russia toward the end of the Joseon era, in the midst of changing domestic and international situations.”

The column, written by a senior political desk reporter, went on to say that modern-day Korean diplomatic policies “inherited the DNA of employing a sycophantic diplomacy reminiscent of the Joseon era.” It also described Seoul as “two-timing” Beijing and Washington, blaming it on negative ethnic inheritance.

There was “a female with authoritative power like President Park” during this era, it said, mentioning Empress Myeongseong, also known as Queen Min, who “reclaimed power through Russian support and was assassinated three months later.”

The comparison is even more insensitive considering both President Park’s parents, the late President Park Chung Hee and first lady, Yuk Young-soo, were assassinated.

The article brought fierce backlash in Seoul and was strongly criticized by both the ruling and opposition parties and civilian protesters, though the Blue House did not officially comment.

Instead, the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday lodged a complaint against the newspaper via the Korean Embassy in Japan, requesting the article be deleted.

“There is no need for the government to even comment on such a groundless article by the newspaper as well as certain individuals who habitually make shameless claims, with a DNA toward historical distortion and revision,” said Noh Gwang-il, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, playing on the column’s words.

An official with the Korean Embassy in Japan visited Sankei’s Tokyo headquarters on Tuesday, the paper confirmed. It described the issue as “regrettable” but refused to retract the column, citing freedom of expression.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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