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S. Korean civic groups denounce Abe's remarks, shrine visits
SEOUL, April 26 (Yonhap) -- Several South Korean civic groups on Friday strongly denounced nationalistic remarks made by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his past visits to a controversial war shrine.

   The call came amid heightened diplomatic tensions after dozens of Japanese lawmakers paid homage at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo that honors Japan's war dead, including World War II leaders convicted of war crimes. Abe also raised doubts over Japan's history of "invasion" during a parliamentary session.

   The Korea Freedom Federation held a press conference in front of the Japanese Embassy in central Seoul and noted that Abe's denial of Imperial Japan's aggression should not be condoned.

   "We cannot control our anger over Prime Minister Abe's remarks made during the Tuesday parliamentary meeting when he said that the definition of aggression is vague academically and internationally, and depends on from which side one looks at the situation," the federation said.

   Visits to the shrine by Japanese politicians are routinely criticized by South Korea and other Northeast Asian countries such as China and North Korea, which bore the brunt of Japan militarist expansion. Visits are often seen as evidence that Japan's leaders do not acknowledge their country's responsibility for its militarist past. Abe has visited the shrine several times in the past, but was absent at the recent visit.

   The federation also voiced that visits to the Yasukuni Shrine is an act of glorifying Japan's wars of aggression that caused huge losses and pain to the victims of the Northeast Asian countries.

   In a separate press conference in central Seoul, a group of six conservative groups also lashed out at Japan in unison and questioned the Abe Cabinet's perception of history.

   "We strongly denounce the Abe Cabinet's disregard of the country's militaristic past and the 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula," the groups said in a statement.

   Separately, 30 members of a group representing those who suffered from forced labor during Japan's colonial rule, called for Tokyo's sincere apology and compensation.

   "The Japanese government should fix its perception of history and sincerely ask for forgiveness from neighboring countries," the Association for the Pacific War Victims said.