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President Roh Calls for “Sincere Apology” From Japan

Posted March. 01, 2005 22:54,   


Regarding the historical issues between Korea and Japan, President Roh Moo-hyun stated yesterday that “Japan should bring true history to light, sincerely apologize and reflect, and reconcile after making reparations, if there is such to do so.”

Stating the above in his commemoration speech made at the 86th anniversary event of the Independence Movement of March 1, 1919, held at the Yoo Gwan-soon Hall in Ewha Girl’s High School in Jung-gu, Seoul, President Roh stressed, “That is the universal way of the entire world to liquidate the past.”

It is the first time a Korean president has commented publicly on the Japanese “reparations” problem since the normalization of relations between Korea and Japan in 1965. In particular, President Roh’s remark is expected to bring about a diplomatic conflict as it coincides with the opening to the public of the 1965 Korea-Japan Agreement document on January 17, which deals with claims issues of forcefully drafted Koreans during the colonial era.

“Normalization of relations between Korea and Japan was inevitable, and there must have been some reason for being unable to realize all of our demands, but it would be difficult for victims to acquiesce, since the nation unilaterally disposed of each citizen’s claims rights. Albeit late, [I] will seek a reasonable solution, even from now on,” said President Roh.

The government is planning to launch a civilian-government joint committee headed by co-chairman Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan and another civilian around March 2 or March 3 and come up with compensation measures after receiving and investigating victims’ statements by the end of coming June.

Meanwhile, President Roh pointed out, “I once said that I well understand the indignation of the Japanese people caused by [North Korea’s] abductions. Likewise, Japan should think from our perspective. From forced drafting to Japanese comfort women, Japan should understand the wrath of our people who suffered thousands more [than the Japanese] for 36 years of Japanese rule.”

“The enhancement of the two countries’ relationship requires more than unilateral effort; the sincere endeavors of the Japanese government and people are necessary,” added President Roh.

In the meantime, the Japanese government did not make any official response to President Roh’s remarks yesterday, but much of the Japanese media analyzed that there is a great probability that the Korea-Japan conflict caused by the Dokdo issue may proliferate.

In addition, after being asked to comment on President Roh’s remarks at a regular briefing yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Jianchao emphasized, “Korea and China basically share the same view regarding Japan’s invasions. Japan should, as a matter of course, reflect on history.”

Jung-Hun Kim Won-Jae Park jnghn@donga.com parkwj@donga.com