South Korean President Park Geun-hye implied in a meeting with her senior aides today that Japan has been “digging up past wounds” in an apparent reference to the recent controversy over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni shrine. Countries like South Korea consider high-ranking politicians’ visits to the memorial for their wartime dead a glorification of Japan’s militaristic past.
She didn’t mention Japan by name, but her statement was most likely a dig at Abe‘s recent move. “In the new year … I hope that there will be no act of letting trust between countries crash and people’s feelings deteriorate by digging up wounds of the past,” she mentioned during the meeting. She also said that no matter how rich a country is, if they do not adhere to the universal values and standards of the international community, they cannot be referred to as a “first class nation.” Japan is considered to be the world’s third-largest economy, so once again, it is assumed she was referring to their former colonizer.
While Park has not made an official statement about Abe’s trip, a statement from South Korea’s Culture Minister Yoo Jin Ryong called the act deplorable and they cannot “repress condemnation and rage” over what is perceived to be a celebration of their East Asian neighbour’s colonial aggression. The Yasukuni shrine memorializes the thousands of war dead, which includes convicted Class-A war criminals. Abe received strong criticism from several countries, including its closest ally, the United States.