Go to contents

Koizumi Further Dampens Korea-Japan Ties by Visit to Yasukuni

Koizumi Further Dampens Korea-Japan Ties by Visit to Yasukuni

Posted October. 18, 2005 06:51,   


It was drizzling all day in Tokyo on October 17 when Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid another controversial visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, where Japanese war dead including convicted war criminals are enshrined. Hundreds of policemen were deployed from early in the morning around the shrine to guard the prime minister.

Our correspondent was stopped at the entrance of the shrine by a policeman, who said no one except those related to the event were allowed to enter. Only after talking to his senior office did he let me in.

Around 10:00 a.m., the guards started bustling up, hearing that the prime minister had departed from his residence. At 10:09 a.m., a black sedan with the prime minister stopped at the entrance to the shrine, surrounded by four cars. Two helicopters hovering around the sky also stopped above the shrine.

When Koizumi came into view, some visitors to the shrine applauded, saying, “Thank you, prime minister,” and “We are on your side.” Their shouts and applause were so vociferous that the slogans shouted by students from Hosei University, “We Oppose Paying Tribute to the Yasukuni Shrine,” and “No War of Aggression,” were barely audible.

He kept a straight face and headed to the shrine for the general public. After paying a silent tribute, he took a coin out of his pocket, dropped it into a box, and stayed there for some 25 seconds, his head bowing and hands pressed together. It took less than five minutes for him to get back to his car.

A 30-something man yelled that he should apologize for not making good of his promise to come to the shrine on August 15 in order not to offend Korea and China.

Earlier that day, Koizumi said to his Liberal Democratic Party leaders, “Journalists tenaciously ask me when to visit the shrine. I will go there not to keep them waiting any more. I will pay tribute to the shrine no matter what happens.”

Won-Jae Park parkwj@donga.com