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By Agnes Donato

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, June 27) – In what appears to be a toning down of some of the rhetoric used earlier regarding the visit of the Japan's imperial couple to the island, the Korean Association of Saipan vowed yesterday to oppose any plan by any demonstrators to disrupt today's event.

The Korean association, led by its president Seung Baeg Kim, drew international media attention after it sent out a statement last week demanding Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to apologize to Koreans and other nationalities subjugated by the Japanese during World War II.

However, in a statement issued yesterday, the Korean group maintained that its members sincerely welcome Japan's imperial couple to Saipan. The visit presents an opportunity for Saipan to be known throughout the world "as a beautiful, peaceful and safe destination," the group noted.

The Korean association further denied any link to the 200 protesters from Korea who were reported to be planning to demonstrate against the imperial couple's visit.

"Our association opposes and purposefully intervened against the plan by hard-line, right-wing demonstrator groups from Korea to come here and protest Emperor Akihito's visit," a part of the statement read. "Should individual Koreans either living or visiting Saipan protest or demonstrate Emperor Akihito's visit, please understand they do not represent or have the support of the Korean Association of Saipan and the Korean Association should not be blamed for any individual's actions or comments."

Nevertheless, the group reiterated its call for the imperial couple to include at least a brief stop at the Korean Peace Memorial in Marpi during their visit and acknowledge the thousands of Koreans who died during the war.

"In all honesty and truth, the Korean Association of Saipan believes that the stated purposes of Emperor Akihito's visit should be expanded to honor the spirits of war victims of all races, regardless of nationality, who died here and on Tinian during World War II.

"Short of that kind of appreciation, the Koreans who died here should not just simply be forgotten and some acknowledgement of their deaths is called for. [T]hat is all the Korean Association hopes would be accomplished during Emperor Akihito's visit-a simple recognition of the death of Korean war victims," the group added.

In its previous statement, the Korean group had also weighed in on the ongoing controversy about Japanese history books that downplay Japan's role during the war, as well as territorial disputes between Japan and Korea over the island of Dokdo.

Both issues were not mentioned in the group's latest statement.

June 27, 2005

Saipan Tribune

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