SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea on Thursday expressed anger at Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to a controversial war shrine, calling it "anachronistic behaviour."
"We can't help deploring and expressing anger at the prime minister's visit to the Yasukuni shrine... despite concerns and warnings by neighbouring countries," Seoul's culture minister Yoo Jin Yong told reporters.
"The visit... is an anachronistic behaviour that fundamentally damages not only relations between the South and Japan but also the stability and cooperation of the northeast Asia," he said.
The comment came hours after Abe made his first visit since taking office last December to the shrine, which commemorates around 2.5 million Japanese war dead including several high-level war criminals.
South Korea and China see it as a symbol of Japan’s failure to repent its 20th century warmongering.
Mr Yoo said the shrine honoured those who inflicted “indescribable” pain and suffering on Koreans during Japan’s 1910-45 occupation of the peninsula.
“Japan, if it genuinely seeks to make an active contribution to world peace, first needs to build trust with neighbouring countries... through thorough self-reflection and apology... instead of denying its past and glorifying past aggression,” he said.
Bilateral relations have been icy for the past year, partly due to a dispute over Seoul-controlled islets also claimed by Tokyo.
Relations were further strained when a group of Japanese ministers and politicians visited Yasukuni in August.
Japan’s militaristic past has left a bitter legacy in China and both Koreas.
Seoul and Beijing have refused to hold formal bilateral summits with Mr Abe, whom they see as hawkish on the issues of territory and history.