South Korea Monday hailed Japanese Emperor Akihito's Sunday remarks on his kinship with the Korean Peninsula.
"It is a very good thing. The significance is the truth about South Korean-Japanese relations recognized by everyone was reaffirmed by the emperor. The intent of Emperor Akihito is a symbolic reference to how close the two countries are," South Korean Foreign Minister Han Seung-soo made a comment at a press conference on Akihito's remarks Sunday.
Early Monday, the ruling Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) said the emperor's remarks will serve as an epochal turning point in making Japan's society face history squarely.
"With keen interest, we will keep close watch on the motivation behind the emperor's first mention in public of the historical truth about the blood relationship between the Imperial Household and the Korean Peninsula," MDP spokesman Lee Nak-yeon said.
"We will also keep watch on reactions to the remarks from Japan 's academic, press and political circles," said the spokesman.
Meanwhile, the minor opposition United Liberal Democrats (ULD) also welcomed Akihito's remarks.
At a press conference Sunday marking his 68th birthday, Akihito said that he "feels a certain kinship with Korea."
Akihito said it was recorded in an eighth-century official history document, entitled Shoku Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan), that the mother of Emperor Kammu (736-806) was of the line of King Muryong who ruled the Paekche Kingdom, one of three ancient kingdoms of the Korean Peninsula in 501-523.
King Muryong had strong relations with Japan, and it was from his time that masters of the Five Chinese Classics (books on the teaching of Confucianism) were invited to Japan one after another to teach Confucianism, Akihito said.
In an apparent reference to Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula, the emperor said "it is regrettable however that Japan's exchanges with Korea have not all been of this kind. This is something that we should never forget."
Analysts said that Akihito made the surprise remark in a friendly gesture to the Korean peninsula following a decision that he would not attend the opening ceremony of next year's World Cup soccer finals in Seoul.
They said it appears that Akihito did not have prior consultation with the Japanese government on his remarks as most of Japan's major newspapers failed to report the emperor's remarks.
Seoul-Tokyo ties have been sour since the Japanese government approved eight middle school textbooks distorting or whitewashing Japanese atrocities in history.
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