Seoul expresses concern after Yasukuni visit

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Seoul expresses concern after Yasukuni visit

The Korean government expressed “deep concern” after Japanese Cabinet members and lawmakers made offerings and visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which enshrines World War II criminals.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul through a spokesperson’s statement released Tuesday said the government “expresses deep concern and disappointment over the fact that some Cabinet members and lawmakers of Japan have once again sent offerings to and paid tribute at the Yasukuni Shrine, which glorifies Japan’s past war of aggression.”

It then called on Japanese government officials and lawmakers to “demonstrate through action their humble self-reflection and sincere remorse for Japan’s past wrongdoings,” based on a correct understanding of history, in order to “earn trust from neighboring countries and the rest of the international community, and move forward into the future.”

Yasukuni Shrine commemorates Japan’s war dead from the Meiji period, beginning in 1868, into the Showa period, which lasted until 1989. There are about 2.5 million people and animals enshrined in all, including 1,068 war criminals, 14 of whom were convicted of Class-A crimes. The shrine is therefore seen by Korea and China, victims of Japan’s wartime aggression, as a symbol of its past imperialism and history of invasion.

Japanese media reported 85 lawmakers visited the shrine on Tuesday to mark its four-day annual autumnal festival, which runs through Thursday.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not make a visit to the shrine and instead sent a masakaki ceremonial tree to the shrine on Monday. Abe has not gone to Yasukuni since December 2013, when his visit drew strong criticism from Seoul, Beijing and Washington. He has since sent ritual offerings in his capacity as prime minister during the shrine’s spring and autumn festivals, as well as on Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II.

In a briefing Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying condemned Abe’s offering and urged Japan “to look squarely at and reflect upon its history of aggression, draw a clear line with militarism and take real actions to win back the trust of its Asian neighbors and international community.”

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