New South Korean president urges Japan to take action on history issues
SEOUL--South Korean President Park Geun-hye called on Japan to take specific action to resolve the controversies over history perceptions that have plagued relations, saying these issues should not be passed on to future generations.
"Japan must face history directly and take responsible action as well as make aggressive changes," Park said in a March 1 speech marking the anniversary of an independence movement against Japanese colonial rule.
The annual ceremony is held to commemorate the "three-one movement," which began on March 1, 1919. Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
Park did not specifically mention the issue of "comfort women," who were forced to provide sex to Japanese troops during World War II, or the territorial dispute over the Takeshima islets in the Sea of Japan. But the new leader did show that her administration would not back down on these issues.
"When there is an honest reflection on history, there may be the possibility for opening a future course of joint prosperity," Park said in her speech. "The historical standings of aggressor and victim will not change even after the passage of a thousand years of history."
She said that for South Korea and Japan to play leading roles in East Asia in the 21st century, "history must be squarely viewed in a proper manner and a responsible stance has to be taken. That will be the only way for strong trust to emerge."
Park said the onus is on Japan to create such an environment of trust.
"We cannot allow future generations of the two nations to shoulder the heavy burden of past history," Park said. "Now is the time for decisions and courage on the part of the political leaders of our generation."
After being sworn in as president on Feb. 25, Park met with Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, who attended the inauguration ceremony as a representative of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Park said at that meeting that the history issues were a barrier to the development of a forward-looking relationship between the two nations.
Recent events in Japan have fueled criticism in South Korea.
A central government official was sent for the first time to the ceremony held on Feb. 22 by the Shimane prefectural government to commemorate "Takeshima Day." In a Feb. 28 speech to the Diet, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida mentioned Japanese territorial claims to Takeshima, which South Korea administers and calls Dokdo.
Under such circumstances, Park likely felt the need to show the South Korean public that she would take a resolute stance on issues with Japan, even in public speeches.
She also mentioned relations with North Korea.
"Only after the North abandons its nuclear weapons and stops its provocative acts will the course open for joint development between the two sides," she said in her speech. "If the North makes the proper choice and proceeds along the course of change, we will be able to approach it in a more flexible manner."
By Akihiko Kaise
The Asahi Shimbun AJW
01 March 2013