ASIA paused yesterday to remember Japan’s surrender to the Allied forces which ended World War II 65 years ago, as the Japanese prime minister apologised for wreaking suffering on the region and the South Korean president said Tokyo’s remorse was a step in the right direction.
From Nanjing – the site of a 1937 massacre by Japanese troops – to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which has drawn outrage from Asia for honouring Class A war criminals, people prayed for themillions who died in war and expressed hopes for peace.
In Seoul, President Lee Myung-bak, dressed in traditional robes, led a ceremony celebrating the liberation of the Korean peninsula from Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule with the August 15 surrender.
He also urged North Korea to abandon military provocations and make a “courageous change” toward peace.
In Tokyo, at a ceremony for the war dead, Prime Minister Naoto Kan reiterated his apology to South Korea for wartime atrocities, and this time offered his regret to all of Asia.
Last week Kan offered “deep remorse” in an apology issued ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Japanese annexation of the Korean peninsula on August 29, 1910.
“We caused great damage and suffering to many nations during the war, especially to the people of Asia,” Kan said yesterday before a crowd of about 6,000, including Emperor Akihito, at Budokan hall.
“We feel a deep regret, and we offer our sincere feelings of condolence to those who suffered and their families,” Kan said.
Lee said history should not be forgotten, but that Kan’s apology last week marked progress.
“However, there still remain issues that have to be resolved,” he said.
Many older Koreans still harbour resentment against Japan over the colonisation. Hundreds of thousands of Koreans were forced to fight as frontline soldiers, work in slave-labour conditions or serve as prostitutes called “comfort women” in brothels operated by the military.
Kan and his Cabinet broke from the past by staying away from Yasukuni Shrine, while members of the opposition continued with their visits.
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