German chancellor wins S. Korea peace prize

17th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

Angela Merkel was awarded the 2014 Seoul Peace Prize Wednesday for acknowledging Germany's wartime crimes and voicing the sort of contrition South Korea has repeatedly accused Japanese leaders of avoiding.

The German chancellor was cited by the prize foundation for awakening "global awareness of human dignity by apologising and taking responsibility for past wartime crimes".

The biennial award was established in 1990 to commemorate the success of the 1988 Seoul summer Olympics. The winner receives a $200,000 payment.

The foundation also praised Merkel for helping to overcome the European economic crisis, and for stressing the importance of human rights by apologising repeatedly for the Nazi Holocaust.

"She has sent out messages urging to take right actions to the states that are denying their past war crimes and actions against humanity," it said.

The citation carried an implied criticism of Japan, which South Korea has long condemned for not showing enough remorse for abuses related to its 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.

It specifically noted comments made by Merkel when she was asked by university students during a trip to China in July to explain the different attitudes of Germany and Japan to their wartime history.

"Merkel said she did not have the right to comment on the Japanese government... but added that, from Germany's point of view, it is important 'not to let tragic history repeat'," the citation said.

The award ceremony will be held at a later date in Seoul.

Previous winners of the prize include UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the late Czech president Vaclav Havel and Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).

© 2014 AFP

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