Published : 2013-02-14 20:24
Updated : 2013-02-14 20:27
President-elect Park Geun-hye on Thursday called for future-oriented ties with Japan, saying historical issues stemming from Tokyo's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula should not get in the way, according to her spokeswoman.
Park met with former Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, who in 1993 made an official apology to women who were forced into sexual slavery for Japan's World War II soldiers.
The issue of the former sex slaves, euphemistically called "comfort women," has long been a thorn in relations between Korea and Japan. Historians say up to 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were coerced into sexual slavery at front-line Japanese military brothels during World War II.
"President-elect Park said she believes the two countries' relations can easily develop in a future-oriented way," Park's spokeswoman Cho Yoon-sun told a news briefing.
"Historical issues should not irritate public sentiment or disrupt future-oriented development at a crucial period for Korean-Japanese cooperation, and expressed hope that Japan's perspective would stem from an understanding of the victims' pains," the spokeswoman quoted Park as saying.
South Korea has expressed concern that the new Japanese government under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is increasingly assertive on a far-right platform that includes a possible revision to Kono's apology.
In the meeting, Kono said he hopes younger Japanese politicians will take a serious attitude to learning history and resolve the issues of the current generation to pave the way for a new future for younger generations, according to Cho.
The two also discussed North Korea's recent nuclear test and agreed that the international community should work together to resolve the issue, the spokeswoman said.
After the meeting with Park, Kono gave a special lecture at a forum in Seoul on the Seoul-Tokyo relations and stressed the need for Japan to review what it did to Koreans during its 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.
"In order for Japan and South Korea to build trust, Japan should face and clearly repent for the historical facts of depriving South Korea of its independence and forcing its own values. Without such efforts, it would not start anything," Kono said in Japanese.
South Korea is pressing Japan to provide compensation and extend a formal apology to the "comfort women," but Tokyo refuses to do so, claiming that all the rights to demand compensation were terminated by a 1965 treaty that normalized relations between the two countries.
Kono recalled that the normalization treaty "neither mentions the compensation issues nor carries any apology for its colonial rule," which drew harsh criticism from the South Korean people at the time of the signing.
"It is unfair that Japan had not make any apology in a clear written statement before the joint declaration between the two countries agreed upon in 1998," Kono said.
In 1998, then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung met with his Japanese counterpart Keizo Obuchi in Tokyo, after which they announced a joint declaration, called "the partnership toward the 21st century."
In it, Obuchi "expressed his deep remorse and heartfelt apology" for "tremendous damage and suffering" to the Korean people.
"The agreement served as the foundation of building a relationship based upon humanity and justice," Kono said, adding that the two countries "should build a relationship of respecting each other," while seeking common interests in terms of security and economic development.
Recalling a 2001 incident in Tokyo in which a young South Korean man was killed while trying to save a Japanese who fell off from the platform of a subway station, Kono called on the younger generations of the two countries to try to explore ways to improve relations. (YONHAP)