Yet another Japanese apology to Korea
CNN has an article up about a new Japanese apology to Korea:
Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada on Thursday apologized to South Korea for the more than three decades when Japan ruled over Korea, calling the time a “tragic incident.”
Okada made the rare apology during a joint news conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, Korean state-run media reported.
“I believe it was a tragic incident for Koreans when they were deprived of their nation and their identity,” Okada said, according to the Yonhap news agency.
“I can fully understand the feelings of (Koreans) who were deprived of their identity and nation. I believe we must never forget the victims,” he added.
At least one other Japanese leader has apologized for the era.
In 2001, then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi acknowledged the “enormous damage” inflicted by Japan’s military “by colonization and invasion.”
A “rare” apology? “At least one other Japanese leader” has made a similar statement of apology? CNN sure is emphasizing the notion that this apology is something new and significant, as if Japanese leaders had been deliberately avoiding making such statements until now. A glance at a Digg dot com comment thread responding to the CNN story seems to show that many people have read the article and been given the impression that Japan has never apologized for its pre-1945 actions.
Just for the record, allow me to quote some Korea-specific entries from Wikipedia’s really long list of Japanese government apologies:
22 June 1965. Minister of Foreign Affairs Shiina Etsusaburo. “In our two countries’ long history there have been unfortunate times, it is truly regrettable and we are deeply remorseful” (Signing of the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea).
26 August 1982. Chief Cabinet Secretary Kiichi Miyazawa. “1. The Japanese Government and the Japanese people are deeply aware of the fact that acts by our country in the past caused tremendous suffering and damage to the peoples of Asian countries, including the Republic of Korea (ROK) and China, and have followed the path of a pacifist state with remorse and determination that such acts must never be repeated. Japan has recognized, in the Japan-ROK Joint Communique, of 1965, that the ‘past relations are regrettable, and Japan feels deep remorse,’ and in the Japan-China Joint Communique, that Japan is ‘keenly conscious of the responsibility for the serious damage that Japan caused in the past to the Chinese people through war and deeply reproaches itself.’ These statements confirm Japan’s remorse and determination which I stated above and this recognition has not changed at all to this day. 2. This spirit in the Japan-ROK Joint Communique, and the Japan-China Joint Communique, naturally should also be respected in Japan’s school education and textbook authorization. Recently, however, the Republic of Korea, China, and others have been criticizing some descriptions in Japanese textbooks. From the perspective of building friendship and goodwill with neighboring countries, Japan will pay due attention to these criticisms and make corrections at the Government’s responsibility. 3. To this end, in relation to future authorization of textbooks, the Government will revise the Guideline for Textbook Authorization after discussions in the Textbook Authorization and Research Council and give due consideration to the effect mentioned above. Regarding textbooks that have already been authorized, Government will take steps quickly to the same effect. As measures until then, the Minister of Education, Sports, Science and Culture will express his views and make sure that the idea mentioned in 2. Above is duly reflected in the places of education. 4. Japan intends to continue to make efforts to promote mutual understanding and develop friendly and cooperative relations with neighboring countries and to contribute to the peace and stability of Asia and, in turn, of the world”(Statement on History Textbooks).
6 September 1984. Emperor Hirohito. “It is indeed regrettable that there was an unfortunate past between us for a period in this century and I believe that it should not be repeated again.” (Meeting with President Chun Doo Hwan.)
1989. Prime Minister Takeshita Noboru. “As we have made clear previously at repeated opportunities, the Japanese government and the Japanese people are deeply conscious of the fact that the actions of our country in the past caused suffering and loss to many people in neighboring countries. Starting from our regret and resolve not to repeat such things a second time, we have followed a course as a “Peace Nation” since then. This awareness and regret should be emphasized especially in the relationship between our countries and the Korean peninsula, our nearest neighbors both geographically and historically. At this opportunity as we face a new situation in the Korean peninsula, again, to all peoples of the globe, concerning the relationship of the past, we want to express our deep regret and sorrow (Speech in the Japanese Diet).
24 May 1990. Emperor Akihito. “Reflecting upon the suffering that your people underwent during this unfortunate period, which was brought about by our nation, I cannot but feel the deepest remorse” (Meeting with President Roh Tae Woo).
25 May 1990. Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu. “I would like to take the opportunity here to humbly reflect upon how the people of the Korean Peninsula went through unbearable pain and sorrow as a result of our country’s actions during a certain period in the past and to express that we are sorry” (Summit meeting with President Roh Tae Woo in Japan).
1 January 1992. Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa. “[Concerning the comfort women,] I apologize from the bottom of my heart and feel remorse for those people who suffered indescribable hardships” (Press conference).
16 January 1992. Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa. “We the Japanese people, first and foremost, have to bear in our mind the fact that your people experienced unbearable suffering and sorrow during a certain period in the past because of our nation’s act, and never forget the feeling of remorse. I, as a prime minister, would like to once again express a heartfelt remorse and apology to the people of your nation” (Speech at dinner with President Roh Tae Woo).
17 January 1992. Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa. “What we should not forget about relationship between our nation and your nation is a fact that there was a certain period in the thousands of years of our company when we were the victimizer and you were the victim. I would like to once again express a heartfelt remorse and apology for the unbearable suffering and sorrow that you experienced during this period because of our nation’s act.” Recently the issue of the so-called ‘wartime comfort women’ is being brought up. I think that incidents like this are seriously heartbreaking, and I am truly sorry” (Policy speech at the occasion of the visit to the Republic of Korea).
23 June 1996. Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. Hashimoto mentioned the aspects of Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula such as the forced Japanization of Korean people’s name and commented “It is beyond imagination how this injured the hearts of Korean people” Hashimoto also touched on the issue of Korean comfort women and said “Nothing injured the honor and dignity of women more than this and I would like to extend words of deep remorse and the heartfelt apology” (Joint press conference at summit meeting with President Kim Young Sam in South Korea).
8 October 1996. Emperor Akihito. “There was a period when our nation brought to bear great sufferings upon the people of the Korean Peninsula.” “The deep sorrow that I feel over this will never be forgotten” (Speech at dinner with President Kim Dae Jung of the Republic of Korea).
8 October 1998. Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. “Looking back on the relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea during this century, Prime Minister Obuchi regarded in a spirit of humility the fact of history that Japan caused, during a certain period in the past, tremendous damage and suffering to the people of the Republic of Korea through its colonial rule, and expressed his deep remorse and heartfelt apology for this fact. President Kim accepted with sincerity this statement of Prime Minister Obuchi’s recognition of history and expressed his appreciation for it. He also expressed his view that the present calls upon both countries to overcome their unfortunate history and to build a future-oriented relationship based on reconciliation as well as good-neighborly and friendly cooperation” (Japan-Republic of Korea Joint Declaration A New Japan-Republic of Korea Partnership towards the Twenty-first Century).
October 15, 2001. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. “During the talks, President Kim highly appreciated the words of the Prime Minister Koizumi at Sodaemun Independence Park, in which he expressed remorse and apology for Japan’s colonial domination” (Prime Minister Visits the Republic of Korea).
The above list doesn’t include the numerous other apologies that were directed at wider areas of Asia. If one wanted to go further, one could include every Japanese prime minister since 1995, since reaffirming a commitment to the Murayama statement has become standard protocol for new Prime Ministers.
The AFP has mentioned the South Korean government’s reaction to the apology:
South Korean officials have also said Okada’s trip would mark the beginning of efforts by both countries to put the past behind them.
There is talk of Emperor Akihito making a visit to South Korea this year, but that might not happen because the South Korean president has already made it clear that his idea of “mature Tokyo-Seoul relationship” consists of questioning the value of the Emperor’s previous apologies to Korea. President Lee Myung-bak would like to see Akihito get on his knees and grovel in apology to the Korean nation, and I just don’t see the Japanese agreeing to such an act, especially when one considers South Korea’s record of belittling and refusing to accept previous Japanese apologies.
[hat tip to Durf]