S. Koreans watch to see if Japan will follow apology with action
Tokyo — With the symbolism of the first South Korean state visit to Japan behind them , Japan and South Korea must try to put substance into their much-heralded new era of cooperation, political analysts say.
Both Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone and Emperor Hirohito apologized to Korean President Chun Doo Hwan for Japan's colonialist activities on the Korean peninsula between 1910 and 1945.
But many Korean commentators say they will be watching to see the apologies expressed in the form of action - particulary in improving the conditions for Koreans living in Japan.
All the visiting Koreans got over the weekend was a promise - not a specific plan - for better treatment. (Some 700,000 people, about three-quarters of Japan's long-term foreign population, are Korean.)
In fact, Justice Minister Eisaku Sumi has rejected a request for South Koreans to be exempt from a rule requiring foreign residents of Japan to be fingerprinted.
The most concrete achievements of the weekend came in a statement of Japanese support for President Chun's policies toward North Korea. The final communique cited the importance of South Korean peace and security.
Japan also backed Seoul's stand of seeking reunification through direct negotiations with the communist regime in North Korea. Japan believes simultaneous entry of South and North Korea to the United Nations would help ease tensions, the communique added.
South Korean and Japan have agreed to promote cooperation in science and technology, but it is unclear as yet what action this will produce since Tokyo is unwilling to pressure its business community to cooperate. Fearing the growth of Korean competition, many Japanese industries refuse to share their high-tech know-how.
Trade friction also remained unresolved at the end of the visit. Deputy premier Shin Byong Hyun warned Japanese officials that the growing imbalance in bilateral trade ($2.8 billion last year) could become a serious political issue if neglected.
Japanese officials say they think the Chun visit can be rated a success if it begins to break down the wall of Korean suspicion of Japan. The two sides, said one source, may have an opportunity to develop a partnership for Far East stability.
But the trip did not do much for Japanese influence in North Korea, which immediately condemned the talks as promoting a military alliance against the North.
Seoul's ruling Democratic Justice Party expressed satisfaction with Japan's apologies for its colonial activities, but opposition parties felt they were inadequate.
Toshio Watanabe, a Tsukuba university professor, said: ''I suppose South Koreans were hoping for a stronger admission of guilt, but I think they can be quite satisfied.... Older Koreans may feel differently because of firsthand knowledge, but the anti-Japanese feeling of young Koreans is not born out of hatred, but out of rivalry now.''