“I hope that Japanese people visit this place, and humbly face the historic truth,” Yukio Hatoyama, former Japanese prime minister and progressive politician, said as he visited the National Memorial Museum of Forced Mobilization in Busan on Saturday. He is the first Japanese politician to have visited the museum, which was inaugurated in December 2015 to record the misery faced by forced labor.
“I deeply apologize for the fact that 8 million of about 20 million Joseon (Korean) people at the time were forcefully mobilized as military personnel, civilians attached to the military, and forced laborers, and many lost lives,” Hatoyama said. “Japanese people should learn many things from history like this, and should open up the future with a sense of responsibility as perpetrators.” He wrote a memo in the visitors’ book, reading “I apologize from the bottom of my heart for the unlimited responsibility on behalf of the country that gave so much pain during the colonial era. Wishing for permanent peace,” before taking a tour of exhibition halls on fourth and fifth floors.
The former prime minister revealed keen interest, asking museum officials how many people of the slave laborers are still surviving, the names of relics on display and their use. When he stood in front of reinstated miniatures of comfort women, or sex slaves for the Japanese military, and slave laborers at a mine, he lowered his head, with his hands put together, and mourned with a solemn look. Then, he offered flowers at the memorial tower in the Memorial Park on the seventh floor before concluding his visit there.
Hatoyama visited the Seodaemun Prison in Seoul in 2015, and also paid a visit last year to a Korean victim of nuclear bombings during the Second World War, who was living in Hapcheon, South Gyeongsang Province, and kneeled down to apologize him.