A senior leader of South Korea's ruling party on Tuesday called Japan a "terrorist state" for having inflicted mass suffering on its neighbors in the past, a day after Japan's top government spokesman applied the "terrorist" label to a Korean independence hero.
"If Ahn Jung Guen was a terrorist, then Japan was a terrorist state for having mercilessly invaded and plundered countries around it," said Hong Moon Jong, secretary general of the Saenuri Party.
Hong also said Japan has become "a subject of international condemnation for having twisted the historical facts, and with the visits by government officials to the Yasukuni Shrine."
The controversial shrine in Tokyo honors Class-A World War II criminals along with the country's war dead.
Hong further criticized Japan for "trying to glorify the misdeeds done in the past and hampering efforts for peace and cooperation with neighboring countries."
"Japan, based on a thorough self-reflection, should offer a heart-felt apology not only for its remarks on the righteous fighter Ahn Jung Geun, but for its past wrongdoings," Hong said.
On Monday, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference that Ahn was "a terrorist who received a death sentence" for the 1909 assassination of Hirobumi Ito, then governor general of Japanese-ruled Korea, at a railway station in China's northeastern city of Harbin.
Suga's remarks about Ahn came as he was criticizing the opening of a memorial hall in his honor that opened Sunday at Harbin Railway Station, after being built at South Korean President Park Geun Hye's suggestion.
Later Monday, the South Korean government reacted to Suga's remarks by calling them "ignorant and anti-historic."
A statement issued by the Foreign Ministry in Seoul said Ahn, who was executed at a Japanese prison in China on March 26, 1910, at the age of 30, "is a hero who had sacrificed himself for the recovery of Korea's independence and for true peace in Asia."
It said Ito was the main culprit in exerting inexpressible suffering and evil by masterminding the plundering of the Korean Peninsula by force.