South Korea said Friday that it is meaningful that U.S. President Obama explicitly mentioned Korean victims in his historic speech in Hiroshima, while visiting a memorial site honoring those killed in an atomic bombing about seven decades ago.
Obama paid a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, where he laid a wreath for those who lost their lives and gave a speech in which he mentioned Korean victims as well. He, however, did not visit a monument dedicated to Koreans killed in the city.
"When expressing his feelings about the visit, he mentioned tens of thousands of Korean victims. We take notice that this is the first time that a sitting U.S. president explicitly has mourned Korean victims right in Hiroshima," a foreign ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
"In such a historic speech, it is meaningful that he clearly mentioned Koreans, putting them on par with American and Japanese victims," he added.
The visit to Hiroshima made Obama the first sitting American president to set foot in the city after it was bombed on Aug. 6, 1945, to end World War II. The bomb killed some 140,000 residents, including some 20,000 Koreans. The U.S. dropped another atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki three days later, leaving as many as 80,000 people dead.
Obama's visit to Hiroshima had been the focus of attention in South Korea amid concern that it could dilute Japan's wartime aggression by making the country look like a victim. Calls also mounted in South Korea for Obama's visit to the peace park to include a stop at a monument honoring the Korean dead.
He had expressed his wish to use the visit to "highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons" and "to honor the memory of all innocents who were lost during the war."