Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Yu Myung-hwan, left, shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart, Katsuya Okada, in Seoul, Thursday. Okada offered an apology for Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula in the early 20th century.
/ Korea Times Photo
by Kim Ju-sung
By Kim Sue-young
Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada offered a rare apology Thursday for Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula (1910-45), saying that the occupation hurt Koreans' pride.
Noting that the Hatoyama administration follows the "Murayama Statement," which contains an apology for the colonization, Okada said that the Tokyo government will advance bilateral relations in a future-oriented way.
"I believe what happened 100 years ago deprived Koreans of their country and national pride," the Japanese minister said after a meeting with his Korean counterpart, Yu Myung-hwan, in Seoul.
"I can understand the feelings of the people who lost their country and had their pride wounded."
Saying that the pain of the victims must not be forgotten, Okada stressed that Japan was seeking to strengthen ties with South Korea in a future-oriented way.
The minister also indicated that the Hatoyama administration was making continuous efforts to build this partnership.
The statement issued by former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in 1995 includes his apology for colonial rule and wartime atrocities.
Last August, Hatoyama promised to abide by the statement and pledged not to visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo where Class-A war criminals are enshrined along with the war dead.
Okada's remarks are widely considered as an apology, as this year marks the 100th anniversary of Japan's colonization of Korea.
During the colonial period, hundreds of thousands of Koreans were forcibly drafted to fight in World War II or to labor for Japan, and into sex slavery.
As to the North Korean nuclear issue, the two countries shared the view that its return to the six-party denuclearization talks was necessary.
"We decided to make continuous efforts to have the North come back to the six-way talks while taking into consideration the opinions of the other participants," Minister Yu said during the joint press conference.
"We also agreed to maintain the two-track approach of abiding by U.N. sanctions while pursuing dialogue."
The multilateral forum, involving the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, China and Russia, has been stalled as the reclusive state declared a boycott in protest against sanctions imposed by the United Nations over its second nuclear test on May 25 last year.
Asked about a possible visit to South Korea by Emperor Akihito, the Japanese minister said that his country is to carefully review this.
"This year will be a great turning point in Korea-Japan relations," Okada said. "I also hope that a committee for cultural exchanges, which the two countries agreed to set up today, will boost civic exchange."