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Japanese Emperor’s Four-Minute Visit

Posted June. 29, 2005 06:01,   


Japanese Emperor Akihiko made a surprise visit to the Korean Peace Memorial on June 28, which had been excluded from his visit list of Saipan to mourn for the war dead of the Second World War.

The Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun reported that Japanese emperor and empress visited the “Korean Peace Memorial” dedicated to the Pacific War victims and the “Okinawa Peace Memorial” dedicated to victims from Okinawa on their way back to the hotel after finishing their schedule to pay their respects to the Japanese war dead.

Earlier, representatives of the Korean community on Saipan held a press conference on June 27 to call on the Japanese emperor to pay tribute to the Korean war victims as well.

The Japanese imperial palace said that the “visit to the two memorials was finally confirmed only a day earlier,” and “Even though we considered the visits, we were worried that situation might get complicated if we made them public beforehand.”

Kim Seung-baek (44), president of the Korean community on Saipan, said in a telephone interview with Dong-A Ilbo on June 28, “The Japanese consulate to Saipan informed us of the emperor’s visit right before it was made,” and, “Not only the Japanese consulate but also Japanese journalists here were ‘very surprised’ at the unexpected decision of the emperor.”

The Japanese emperor is said to have stayed for about four minutes at the Korean memorial, made a silent prayer, and walked around near the memorial without laying a wreath or making a memorial speech.

The June 28 evening edition of Japanese newspapers reported the visit of the emperor and empress to Saipan with photos but gave little significance to their visit to the Korean Peace Memorial.

With regard to the response of the Saipan residents, Asahi said, “They have complicated feelings about Japan because their pains about loss in the times of war still remain.”

Yang Sun-im, the president of the bereaved family committee of the Pacific War, said, “I am not sure what the emperor was thinking during his visit to the Korean Peace Memorial, but if he is to sincerely atone for war crimes, he needs to resolve the issue of Korean war victims (beyond visiting the memorial monument).”

Hun-Joo Cho hanscho@donga.com