Japanese and Korean Christians seek historic reconciliation

By Ecumenical News International
July 18, 2010

A group of Korean and Japanese Christians living in Japan have declared that they want to work for reconciliation in marking the 100th anniversary of Japan's colonisation of Korea - writes Hisashi Yukimoto.

Japan ruled Korea from 1910 until the end of the Second World War on 15 August 1945. Under colonial rule, Japan brought many Koreans to work in Japan. Many Koreans say this was forced labour to support Japan's war actions. They included Korean women euphemistically called "comfort women" many of whom were in effect sex slaves for Japan's military.

Korean residents in Japan say they have often faced discrimination by the majority Japanese.

Statistics at the Immigration Bureau of Japan show that in 2008 there were 589,239 Koreans in the country. This number excludes those who have adopted Japanese citizenship.

"We will send out our wishes for our repentance, reconciliation and living together to the Japanese society, Korean society, [the rest of] Asia and the world," said participants in a statement at a two-day symposium on 5 July and a subsequent service at the Tokyo-based Korean YMCA in Japan.

"We will submit [the statement] to the government and the Diet [Japan's parliament] during this month," an organizer told ENINews.

"Japanese churches and Christians will begin by asking … how their denominations and organisations got involved in Japan's colonial rule, why they were silent [about it], and how it was examined or not in their post war discussions about mission and evangelism," the statement said. Participants said Japanese churches and Christians were not free from "the pre-war and post-war State colonialism and ethnocentrism".

The meeting was organized by the National Christian Conference on Issues of the Alien Registration Law, an interdenominational group for the rights of foreigners in Japan.

They said that they recognise that the north-south division of the Korean Peninsula since 1945 "resulted from a historical factor related to Japan's colonial rule of Korea and its end".

"Japan has been a beneficiary of the division, as in the [1950-53] Korean War special procurements," the statement noted. "The Japanese churches and Christians fully support and want to be in solidarity with Korean churches and Korean-resident churches in Japan and other countries outside Korea in their efforts for 'peaceful unification' [of the Korean Peninsula]."

In the statement, participants urged the Japanese government and the Diet to recognise that treaties that led up to the 1910 Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty were "illegal and unjust" and to resolve that Japan will "apologise for its liability" for the sin of colonial rule.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]


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