Japan demands apology for National Assembly speaker’s comments on emperor

Posted on : 2019-02-13 16:46 KST Modified on : 2019-02-13 16:46 KST
Moon Hee-sang refers to emperor as “the son of the main culprit of war crimes” in interview
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

The Japanese government has demanded an apology from Moon Hee-sang, speaker of South Korea’s National Assembly, after he described the Japanese emperor as “the son of the main culprit of war crimes.”

Speaking for Japan’s House of Representatives on Feb. 12, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked for “an apology and a retraction” of Moon’s remarks.

“I was really shocked when I read an article about the remarks. We immediately used the diplomatic channel to strongly communicate to the South Korean government that the speaker’s remarks were highly inappropriate and extremely regrettable,” Abe said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga made a similar response during the regular briefing on Tuesday, saying that Moon’s remarks were “very inappropriate and extremely regrettable for the South Korean government. We have issued a strong complaint and asked for the remarks to be retracted and an apology to be made.”

“On Feb. 8, director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs communicated [the Japanese government’s position], and on Feb. 9, Japanese Ambassador to South Korea Yasumasa Nagamine reiterated that position to the first vice minister of the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Suga said.

During an interview with Bloomberg on Feb. 8, Moon referred to Emperor Akihito as “the son of a main culprit of war crimes.” In order to resolve the comfort women issue, Moon said, “It only takes one word from the prime minister, who represents Japan – I wish the emperor would do it since he will step down soon. [. . .] If a person like that holds the hands of the elderly [comfort women] and says he’s really sorry, then that one word will resolve matters once and for all.”

These remarks have received major coverage in the Japanese press. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono criticized what he described as “very rude remarks” in comments to the Diet and during a regular press conference on Feb. 12.

“The phrase appeared in the context of calling for a sincere apology from a leader who is in an important position. I’ve already said several times before that a word of consolation to the former comfort women would help them overcome their pain and bitterness,” explained Moon on Feb. 11, while on a visit to the US.

“What I’ve been told is that [Moon’s] remarks were intended to emphasize the need for the Japanese to exhibit a sincere attitude in line with a victim-centered approach in order to restore the reputations and dignity of the victims and to heal their emotional wounds,” said South Korean Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Roh Kyu-deok.

By Cho Ki-weon, Tokyo correspondent

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