Former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama has stepped front and center into the argument over history between his country and South Korea. He is famous for the so-called ‘Murayama statement’ in 1995 apologizing for Imperial Japan’s aggression in the first half of the 20th century, he said, "Japan…through its colonial rule and digression caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly those of Asian nations," he further went on to say "[I] express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and submit my heartfelt apology."
During a recent visit to Seoul, Murayama said all Japanese prime ministers are bound by the apology he made back in 1995. And the current one, Shinzo Abe, had no choice but to do the same. Murayama’s statement got wide play in South Korea and Japan. Here's Japan's public broadcaster NHK.
Murayama is the former leader of Japan’s Social Democratic Party, which is currently in opposition. He is on a private visit to South Korea – invited by the country's opposition lawmakers.
I am convinced that my statement has national consensus. Therefore, I can assure you that Mr. Shinzo Abe, as prime minister of Japan, cannot deny my apology.
Murayama called on South Koreans to work to improve relations with Japan that have soured over historical and other issues.
Japan and South Korea must maintain friendly ties. For their mutual benefit, the development of the whole Asian region and world peace.
South Korean president Park Guen-hye reportedly considered meeting with Murayama, but decided not to.