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`Japanese Emperor`s Visit to Korea Could Backfire`

Posted September. 17, 2009 08:37,   


Experts say a visit to Korea by Japanese Emperor Akihito’s visit to Korea could improve bilateral relations but could also backfire.

Akihito is known to want to visit Korea, but ties could aggravate depending on the level of his apology to the nation and the response of Koreans and Japanese to the apology.

Lee Won-deok, an international relations professor at Kookmin University in Seoul, said, “The important thing is that the Japanese emperor must sincerely apologize for Japan’s occupation of Korea and its irresponsible behavior after the war enough to persuade the Korean people.”

In other words, Akihito’s visit will prove meaningless unless he announces a statement or an official declaration to end past animosity on behalf of the Japanese people.

Experts suggest measures Akihito could use to handle past affairs. They include paying respects at Hongneung, or the tombs of Korea’s last emperor and empress in Namyangju, Gyeonggi Province. They cite the case of former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, who knelt down at a monument for Jewish Holocaust victims in Poland in 1970.

Experts also say Akihito might want to visit a place accommodating Korean women who were forced into prostitution for the Japanese army in World War II.

Kim Ho-seop, an international relations professor at ChungAng University in Seoul, said, “If Japan considers Akihito’s visit as Korea’s promise to liquidate past affairs, bilateral relations are highly likely to move in an unexpected direction.”

“Akihito visited China and apologized in 1992 on the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Both countries, however, do not have good relations now. Groundless optimism that Akihito’s visit will resolve all issues at once is not helpful at all.”

As anti-Japan sentiment still runs high among Koreans, the visit could be considered a superficial event regardless of his apology. If angry Koreans throw eggs at him upon his arrival, this might provoke Japan’s ultranationalists, thus worsening bilateral relations.

Many observers also say the Korean government should not be bound by the meaning of 2010, which is the 100th anniversary of Japan’s annexation of Korea. They say the Japanese emperor should voluntarily decide to visit Korea and issue an apology since Koreans are victims of Japan’s past atrocities and should not suggest requests to Japan.

Though Japan’s ruling Democratic Party of Japan has taken a progressive attitude toward history, no consensus on Akihito’s visit to Korea has been reached in Japan. That means Korea should approach the matter more carefully.

Akihito is 76 years old and hopes to contribute to reconciliation between Korea and Japan, but a consensus among the Japanese should come first.

Officials of Japan’s Foreign Ministry reportedly say it will be desirable for him to visit Korea and apologize.