South Korea angered by Japan and ruling LDP: Yasukuni Shrine

South Korea angered by Japan and ruling LDP: Yasukuni Shrine

Sawako Utsumi and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Once more important politicians within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) pay homage to Yasukuni Shrine. This is despite the positive overtures of the President-elect of South Korea, Yoon Suk-yeol, promising to improve ties with Japan. 

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan – despite negative economic news and the weakness of the Japanese yen – is utilizing his anti-Russia stance concerning Ukraine to boost his popularity. However, with negative relations with fellow Northeast Asian nations (China, North Korea, the Russian Federation, and South Korea), the one nation open to improving relations under the prevailing conditions is the president-elect of South Korea. 

Yoon is laying the foundation for improved ties with Japan. Thus the Yasukuni Shrine is once more putting a spanner in the works. It may not derail the hope of opening a new page between Japan and South Korea. However, it provides the opponents of Yoon with ammunition even before he takes over the reins of power. Therefore, it was incumbent on the ruling LDP to keep a low profile about upsetting China, North Korea, and South Korea over the nationalist angle of the Yasukuni Shrine. 

The Foreign Ministry of South Korea said, “The government expresses deep disappointment and regret over the fact that Japan’s responsible leaders have once again sent offerings to and paid respects at the Yasukuni Shrine, which glorifies Japan’s history of the war of aggression and enshrines war criminals.”

Kyodo News reports, “In 1978, Yasukuni added wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo and 13 other Class-A war criminals to those elevated to the status of gods at the shrine, stirring controversy in Japan and abroad.”

Nations understand that Japan wants to pay homage to ordinary Japanese soldiers who died on the battlefield. Also, to remember the vast numbers of civilians killed by America. This concerns the horrendous carpet-bombing of several cities, nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – and the brutal methods used by America in killing the indigenous in Okinawa. However, the ruling LDP is hiding its real mask – and this notably concerns the nationalist elements within the main political party of Japan. 

Yoon recently said, “South Korea and Japan are partners that share many tasks to tackle, such as security and economic prosperity and, therefore, to overcome the current thorny relationships, it is needed to form a future-oriented partnership based on correct perspective toward history.”

Nationalism is growing within the ruling LDP. This is expressed clearly by the recent internal elections within the ruling party of Japan. 

Modern Tokyo Times says, “In the internal Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) election in 2021, it is worth remembering that Sanae Takaichi came second concerning Diet member votes. This points to the mounting nationalism within the ruling LDP. After all, Takaichi opposes the Murayama Statement that clarifies the war crimes committed by Japan during the war, denies Comfort Women being forced into sexual slavery, took a picture with a holocaust denier (Kazunari Yamada), and utilizes the Yasukuni Shrine openly in league with her nationalist tendencies. Hence, for Takaichi to come second in the Diet voting ballot last year – highlights the rise of nationalism within the ruling LDP.”

China is also visibly angered by the Yasukuni Shrine visit of powerful LDP members and the offering provided by Kishida. Yet, from a geopolitical point of view, Japan and South Korea have a great deal to gain from improved ties. Therefore, it is incumbent on the ruling LDP to revert to the pre-1978 position concerning the Yasukuni Shrine. 

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