South Korea says Japan must heal wounds of wartime excesses

Fri Jan 4, 2013 5:54am EST
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By Jack Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's president-elect said on Friday that Japan needed to come to terms with its colonial history as tension between two Asian allies of the United States simmered over Japan's rule of Korea and an island dispute.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a December 31 interview he wanted to issue a statement that would supersede a landmark 1995 apology for Japan's military aggression, a move bound to raise hackles in South Korea, ruled by Japan from 1910-1945, and in China, where bitter wartime memories run deep.

Japan's top government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, confirmed on Friday that Abe wanted to issue his own "forward-looking" statement but also told reporters the 1995 statement by then-premier Tomiichi Murayama would stand.

"The two sides must have a correct view of history and pursue a future of reconciliation and cooperation," South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye told Abe's aide, Fukushiro Nukaga, in Seoul, according to her spokeswoman, Cho Yoon-sun.

A "correct view of history" is shorthand for South Korea's desire for Japan to acknowledge its wartime and colonial excesses, something Tokyo says it has already done.

"The older generation must make the commitment to try to heal the wound, and must not become an obstacle to opening the way for the future generation."

China's Foreign Ministry said the Murayama statement was a "solemn declaration of attitudes and promises" made to countries in Asia victimized by Japanese invasion and colonization.

"We hope Japan can adopt a spirit of reflecting on history and facing the future, and properly handle relevant issues," ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing.   Continued...

South Korea's conservative President-elect Park Geun-hye speaks during a news conference at the main office of ruling Saenuri Party in Seoul December 20, 2012. REUTERS/Woohae Cho