SEOUL — SOME might consider it a stately building, set at the head of a sweeping boulevard, with a craggy mountainside as a backdrop for its copper-green dome.
But the massive granite Renaissance-style structure, now home to South Korea's National Museum, was once the seat of the hated Japanese colonial government. Because of that, authorities plan to tear it down next year.
For many, demolishing the building is a matter of national pride. But pride has its price: at least $100 million to tear down the old museum and build a new one. South Korea's struggle to deal with the past carries into the present, coloring relations with Japan at a time when they face common challenges, like the North Korean nuclear threat.
During the 1910-45 Japanese colonial period, Korean culture, politics, language, and religion were brutally suppressed. Books were burned, and secret police ferreted out any sign of unrest.
Japan and South Korea have been moving to put the past behind them. Japan's Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa has apologized more explicitly than any Japanese leader to date for wartime aggression, and has expressed regret over the brutality of the colonial period.
South Korea is preparing to gradually lift its ban on Japanese films and pop songs, and dissident-turned-President Kim Young Sam is to make his first official visit to Tokyo later this month.