Political Apologies Archive

AHDA Political Apology

How does the act of apologizing enable societies to come to terms with their past?

Political apologies can be a powerful tool in the re-examination of a nation's history, and the significance this history has on democratic processes. The project includes a working list of political apologies throughout history that political scientist Graham Dodds has researched and compiled.

This is a working list of major political apologies and related events. The selection criteria for compiling the list are somewhat loose, but the intent is to include any and all apologies that involve states, nations, or major political groups and actors, generally for significant public wrongs. Thus, apologies by individual politicians for more narrow matters (e.g., alleged personal or criminal failings) are generally excluded.

Should you wish to add to the list, please e-mail ahda@columbia.edu.

Date of Apology Title Summary Source
1 December 1991 1991: USA refuses to apologize for the use of atomic bombs in World War II

U.S. President George H.W. Bush refuses to apologize for the use of atomic bombs in World War II.

Hein, Laura and Mark Selden, eds. Living With The Bomb. M.E. Scharpe, 1997. p182.
18 October 1991 1991: Russia enacts a law “On the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression

Russia enacts a law “On the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression.

 

 

Adler, Nancy. The Gulag Survivor. Transaction Publishers, 2004. p31.
August 1991 1991: The mayor of Honolulu invites Japanese officials to a ceremony to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor-Japan Refuses

The mayor of Honolulu invites Japanese officials to a ceremony to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but on the condition that they apologize for the war.  The Japanese spokesman Ishihara Nobuo refuses, saying “the entire world is responsible for the war.”

Daizaburo, Y.U.I. “Between Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima/Nagasaki.” [In Hein, Laura and Mark Selden, eds. Living With The Bomb. M.E. Scharpe, 1997.] p61.
December 1992 1992: Australia- Aborigines acknowledgement of wrongs done to Aborigines

 Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating acknowledges wrongs done to Aborigines.

“The Leaders’ Apologies.” The Guardian. October 13, 1993.
November 1992 1992: Russian-Korean Apology for the downing of a Korea Airlines jet

Russian President Boris Yeltsin apologizes for the Soviet downing of a Korean Airlines jet with 269 people aboard in 1983.

Jameson, Sam and John-Thor Dalhburg. “Yeltsin to Seoul.” Los Angeles Times. October 20, 1992.
31 October 1992 1992: The Catholic Church begs pardon for placing Galileo Galilei under life-long house

The Catholic Church begs pardon for placing Galileo Galilei under life-long house arrest in 1633.

 

“Um, Sorry About That.” Time. October 13, 1997.
23 October 1992 1992: Japanese Emperor Akihito expresses his sorrow for Japan’s wartime abuses

 During a royal visit to China, Japanese Emperor Akihito expresses his sorrow for Japan’s wartime abuses.

“Japan’s War With China, Revisited.” The Economist. September 6, 1997.
July 1992 1992: France-Jewish Community Complicity in persecution of Jews

On the 50th anniversary of the roundup of Parisian Jews, French President Francois Miterand refuses to apologize for French complicity in the persecution of Jews.

ooth, W. James. “Communities of Memory: On Identity, Memory, and Debt.” American Political Science Review. June, 1999.
18 January 1992 1992: Japanese apology for Japan’s use of “comfort women"

 Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa apologizes for Japan’s use of “comfort women.”

“Japan Apologizes for Sex Slaves.” Columbia Daily Tribune. January 18, 1992. [Cited in Benoit, p4.]
6 August 1993 1993: The Anglican Church of Canada- Native peoples- abuse at residential schools

The Anglican Church of Canada apologizes to native peoples for abuse at residential schools.

 

http://www.anglican.ca/relationships/trc/apology/english
9 August 1993 1993: Catholic Church involvement with the African slave trade

Pope John Paul II apologizes for Catholic involvement with the African slave trade.

 

Leo, John. “So Who’s Sorry Now.” U.S. News & World Report. June 30, 1997.
15 August 1993 1993: Japan World War II was a mistake

Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa declares that World War II was a mistake and an act of aggression.

Field, Norma. “The Stakes of Apology.” Japan Quarterly. October-December, 1995.
23 August 1993 1993: Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa conveys remorse that the country’s past acts of aggression and colonial rule caused unbearable suffering and sorrow for so many people

Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa uses his first parliamentary policy address to convey “a feeling of deep remorse and apologies for the fact that our country’s past acts of aggression and colonial rule caused unbearable suffering and sorrow for so many people.”

Berger, Michael. “The Hidden Japanese; Rites of Summer.” The New Leader. September 6, 1993.
29 August 1993 1993: South African President F.W. de Klerk apologizes for apartheid

 South African President F.W. de Klerk apologizes for apartheid.

“The Leaders’ Apologies.” The Guardian. October 13, 1993.
31 August 1993 1993: Nelson Mandela -African National Congress' suspected enemies Apology for attrocities

Nelson Mandela apologizes for atrocities allegedly committed by the African National Congress against suspected enemies.

“Who’s Sorry Now?” Time. September 13, 1993.
20 September 1993 1993: Japan apologizes for suffering caused by Japan in World War II

 Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa apologizes for suffering caused by Japan in World War II.

“The Leaders’ Apologies.” The Guardian. October 13, 1993.
1 October 1993 1993: USA-Japanese Americans redress payments for Japanese Americans

U.S. President Bill Clinton issues a letter of apology accompanying redress payments for Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II.

www.pbs.org/childrenofcamp/history/clinton.html.
12 September 1993 1993: Russia- Japan Japanese POWs

 Russian President Boris Yeltsin apologizes for the internment of 600,000 Japanese POWs in Siberia after World War II.

Kawauchi, Tomaki. “POW Apology Seen Aimed at Russian Public Opinion.” Daily Yomiuri. October 13, 1993; “The Leaders’ Apologies.” The Guardian. October 13, 1993.
6 November 1993 1993: South Korea, Japan World War II

In South Korea, Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa apologizes to South Korean President Kim Young Sam for Japan’s wartime actions.

Massayuki, Mizuno. “Hosokawa Apologizes.” Daily Yomiuri. November 7, 1993.
15 November 1993 1993: USA native Hawaiians Overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii

The U.S. House passes U.S. Public Law 103-150: “To acknowledge the 100th anniversary of the January 17, 1893 [sic] of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and to offer an apology to native Hawaiians on behalf of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.”

Mitchell, Emily. “Apologies: who’s sorry now?” Index of Censorship. May-June, 1998.