Catholic Bishops of Japan have apologized for the annexation of Korea by the Japanese 100 years ago on August 29, 1910, the occupation lasting until the end of the Second World War in 1945. The head of the Japanese Bishops' Conference, speaking for the Catholic Church of Japan, is asking the government of Japan to reflect on the harm that was done by the annexation.
A recent editorial in the Catholic Times acknowledges that the Japanese government has expressed sorrow for the annexation and the force and threats in making the treaty of annexation, but they are not any closer to admit the annexation was illegal and invalid--a confession that may still be, even now, too embarrassing to acknowledge publicly.
A Bishop Conference spokesman said it is important for Japan to admit to the harm that was done by its imperial policy, and the Japanese Catholics have to share some of the blame. We should, in the presence of God, have the courage to acknowledge our faults and ask forgiveness. This is not putting ourselves down but being truly human beings. It is with this apology that we will enter the road to reconciliation.
The Japanese Bishops' apology was praised by the editorial writer. The ball is now in the court of the Japanese government and diet. They need to show, with a sincere formal apology for the annexation, their desire for a different, more amicable relationship with Korea.
The editorial concludes by citing the example of the United States when it apologized to Hawaii for the annexation of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1993. The United States acknowledged that it was illegal and infringed on the rights of the native Hawaiians for self-determination.
The reports are beginning to show that the Japanese government is planning to make an apology for the annexation, but these apologies, it seems, always lack something the other side wants. Hopefully, this time the government of Japan will be more sensitive and not only apologize sincerely, but acknowledge in unmistakable terms that the annexation was both illegal and invalid from the start-- without avoiding the difficult but many believe necessary plea for forgiveness. With apologies, litigation is always a possibility and reparation a natural response. Immunity from penalties would make it easier. Many cultural artifacts were taken from Korea and never returned and the on-going comfort women problem has not been resolved. We will have to see if there will be a resolution to these problems.