South Korean lawmakers are seeking to invite a former Japanese prime minister known for his apology to victims of Japan's past aggressions to speak about ways to move the two countries' relations forward, a parliamentary official said Wednesday.
Tomiichi Murayama, the then Japanese prime minister, issued a statement in 1995 acknowledging and apologizing for the suffering his country inflicted on neighboring Asian nations, including Korea, through its aggressions in the early 20th century.
Amid signs of growing nationalism in Japan, calls have grown in South Korea for Tokyo to honor the so-called Murayama statement as well as a similar apology issued by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in 1993.
If realized, Murayama's lecture, which is being organized by a group of lawmakers from South Korea's ruling and opposition parties, would take place at the National Assembly on Feb. 11, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"Under the current grave political situation in Northeast Asia, the Kono and Murayama statements have very significant meaning," one lawmaker said, asking that he not be identified.
It remains unclear, however, whether the 89-year-old former leader will be physically fit to travel for the lecture.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who has refused to meet with incumbent Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as long as he maintains his nationalistic views, has also stressed the meaning of the Murayama statement.
"I hope the current Japanese leaders will make sure they inherit the Murayama and the Kono statements, and refrain from words and acts that put their sincerity into doubt," she said in an interview with CNN on Monday.
South Koreans have long resented Japan for its brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
Relations between Seoul and Tokyo soured further recently after Abe paid his respects late last year at a war shrine that honors Japan's war dead, including class A criminals. Abe was the first Japanese prime minister to visit the shrine in more than seven years. (Yonhap News)