Koreans warm to historic Japan apology on colonial rule – but want more
In South Korea, Japan's apology on colonial rule, which for the first time acknowledged the forced annexation of Korea, was well received. But those who suffered as sex slaves and laborers in World War II want compensation.
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Kan’s statement, Mr. Lee told Korean journalists, failed to “break the mistrust and other barriers existing between the two countries.”Skip to next paragraph
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Kan appeared to have timed the apology as a preemptive strike before the 65th anniversary Sunday of the Japanese surrender, observed as an important national holiday in North as well as South Korea. The actual anniversary date of Japan’s annexation of Korea is August 29.
Korean officials made much of the fact that Kan’s apology said specifically that Japan had annexed Korea against the will of the Korean people. That phrase, said a spokeswoman for President Lee, bore “a meaning” that advanced the level of the apology beyond that offered by a former Japanese prime minister, Tomiichi Murayama, 15 years ago.
“No Japanese prime minister has ever said that before,” says Choi Jong-won, an office manager. “That’s pleasantly surprising. It’s a good gesture.”
Japanese prime ministers have so often apologized for the evils of Japanese imperialism and colonialism that they are sometimes said to be practicing “apology diplomacy.”
Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi apologized at least twice, on different occasions, for Japanese aggression over the Korean peninsula and much of the rest of Asia. The impact was negated, however, by his visits to Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, which honors Japanese killed in wartime, including a number judged to be war criminals and executed.
The emphasis now is on cooperation while China begins to flex its muscle around the region as a growing military as well as economic power. Kan in his conversation with Lee suggested that Lee come to Japan before the G20 summit of economic powers that Lee is hosting in November.
The friendly tone reflects the relationship with Japan that Lee is pursuing while worrying about China’s position toward North Korea and the North’s threats of war.
“Lee Myung-bak is so pro-Japan,” says one critic, talking anonymously. “He’s so sycophantic to the US and Japan” – an allusion to Lee’s meetings with President Obama here and in Washington and also with Japanese leaders.
Meanwhile, Kan’s apology, approved by his cabinet, seemed unqualified. “For the enormous damage and suffering caused by this colonization,” he said, I would like to express once again our deep remorse and sincerely apologize.”