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S. Korea-Japan Tie Depends on Japan's View on History

South Korean ruling party leader said Sunday that the future of the relationship between South Korea and Japan largely depends on how Japan looks on the countries' shared history.


Moon Hee-sang, chairman of the ruling Uri Party, made the remarks in a written interview carried by local major news agency Yonhap.


"The most important thing in Japan's efforts to become a world leader is to win the trust of its neighboring countries," Moon said. The interview was made on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of liberation from the Japanese colonial rule.


Moon, who also co-heads a friendly association of South Korean and Japanese legislators, said the countries will only be able to put the past behind when there is complete trust between the countries, but claimed Japan has yet to make sincere efforts to win South Korea's friendship.


Moon's remarks also came on the eve of celebration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Korean Peninsula from the Japanese colonial rule on the next Monday. Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910 through 1945.


Moon pointed out although a number of Japanese leaders have had offered apologies for their country's invasion and hostile occupation of some Asian countries and regions during World War II, but their apologies have been made "meaningless" by an equally large number of Japanese leaders saying the opposite.


"It would not be an overstatement to say that the very foundation of South Korea-Japan relationship depends on Japan's recognition of correct accounts of history," he said.


"That is why we are continuously asking Japan to make a sincere apology and reflect on its past wrong doing through action," he added.


One way for Japan to show its sincerity, according to Moon, would be to compensate Korean victims of its colonization.


"If Japan wishes to be viewed as a peace-loving country and improve its friendly relationship with South Korea through true reconciliation, Japan would have to take a lesson from Germany in bearing its war responsibilities," he said.


As many as 200,000 women on the Korean Peninsula are believed to have been forced to work as sex slaves for the Japanese military during World War II, but the Japanese government continues to claim they worked as prostitutes voluntarily and refuses to pay reparations.


Also, millions of Korean men were either killed or forced into labor during Japan's colonial rule of Korea.


"The mutual trust between the countries' peoples is most important in our efforts to improve the countries' ties based on a spirit of friendly cooperation," Moon said, calling on the Japanese government and its people to take "extraordinary steps" to offer a heartfelt apology and sincerely atone for its past.


Moon said the relationship between South Korea and Japan has matured enough to survive what he called recent difficulties, including history and territorial conflicts.


"But we still need to increase and expand mutual understanding between the countries' peoples by supporting and promoting civilian exchanges between the countries," he said.


The two countries had agreed to designate this year as "South Korea-Japan Friendship Year" and planed to hold more than 700 events to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic normalization.


But the South Korean government has been forced to cancel a large number of the events this year, following Tokyo's approval of textbooks that many critics here believe distort the countries' shared past and repeated claim to a disputed islet, which both the two countries claimed their own territory.


(Xinhua News Agency August 15, 2005)

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