Pre-birthday celebration for the Japanese Emperor in Seoul makes some 'uncomfortable'
SEOUL, South Korea -- The Japanese embassy in Seoul hosted a congratulatory party on Friday for Japanese Emperor Akihito's upcoming 80th birthday on December 23rd. According to Korean media outlets, the occasion made "some Korean citizens uncomfortable with the occasion."
While several Korean business leaders, along with former government officials, were in attendance, no currently serving Korean officials accepted invitations to join in the gathering at the Lotte Hotel in Jung-gu.
Though often at the center of controversy in Japan-Korea relations, the Emperor has long sought to establish stronger ties between Korea and Japan —a task which is often dismissed by parties in both countries.
Akihito was quoted in a 2012 magazine interview saying that he hopes that “Japan and Korea maintain good relations in the coming days.”
Despite the strict restriction placed upon his constitutional position, Akihito has issued several wide-ranging statements of remorse to Asian countries in the 1990s, for their suffering under Japanese colonial rule.
In a 1990 meeting with Korean President Roh Tae Woo, Akihito said: "Reflecting upon the suffering that your people underwent during this unfortunate period, which was brought about by our nation, I cannot but feel the deepest remorse"
Six years later, in a speech at a dinner with the South Korean president Kim Dae Jung, the Emperor stated, "There was a period when our nation brought to bear great sufferings upon the people of the Korean Peninsula. The deep sorrow that I feel over this will never be forgotten"
The Emperor’s Korean Family Background
Akihito's desire to mend relations with Korea goes deeper than mere geopolitics or a simple desire for reconciliation. In 2001, he told reporters that he feels a deep kinship with Korea, noting that the grandmother of his eighth-century imperial ancestor was born in the Korean kingdom.
“I, on my part, feel a certain kinship with Korea, given the fact that it is recorded in the Chronicles of Japan that the mother of Emperor Kammu was of the line of King Muryeong of Paekche.”
Kammu, ruled Japan from 781 to 806 AD, while Muryeong reigned over the Paekche Kingdom on the western half of the Korean peninsula from 501 to 523 AD.
The fact that the Emperor acknowledges his bloodline runs through Korea has raised the ire of Japanese right wing conservatives and observers note that those same people would like to hem the Emperor in.
In 2005 Akihito spontaneously stopped his motorcade to offer prayers and place flowers at a Korean peace memorial during a visit to the U.S. territory of Saipan, the site of a World War II battle between the United States and Japan. This act of contrition came after calls from Saipan Koreans for him to do so went unanswered by the Japanese embassy there.
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