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South Korea's new president calls for better relations with ex-colonial ruler Japan

South Korea's new president calls for better relations with ex-colonial ruler Japan

South Korea's new President Lee Myung-bak called for better relations with former colonial ruler Japan on Saturday, saying his nation should look to the future instead of dwelling too much on the past.
Lee's address, made at a ceremony marking Korea's 1919 uprising for independence, contrasted with speeches his predecessor Roh Moo-hyun gave on the holiday in recent years, in which he criticized Tokyo for not living up to its repeated apologies.
Lee's speech included no criticism of Japan and no demand for a new apology.
"South Korea and Japan should build a future-oriented relationship in a pragmatic attitude," Lee said in the nationally televised address. "We should never look away from the truth of history. However, we cannot give up on future relations, bound by the past forever."
On March 1, 1919, hundreds of thousands of Koreans rose up against Japan and demanded independence. Hundreds of people were killed or wounded. The uprising is commemorated in both Koreas, although the anniversary is not a national holiday in the North.
Lee, who assumed office on Monday, has said since his December election that improving relations with the United States and Japan would be one of his foreign policy priorities, saying ties with the two countries had frayed under his predecessor.
On the day of his inauguration, Lee held a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and agreed to hold regular summits with Japan and consider reviving talks to tear down trade barriers between the two nations.
South Korea and Japan are key trade partners but have sparred over rows stemming largely from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea, including Japanese leaders' repeated visits to a war shrine that critics say glorifies the country's wartime atrocities.
Korea was liberated in 1945, at the end of World War II, and was then divided into two. Lee said the division is not only a matter between the two Koreas, but also the international community.
"We cannot resolve the South-North question with exclusive nationalism," he said. "We should view it as an internal issue, but at the same time as an international issue as well."
North Korea has long called for Seoul and Pyongyang to resolve problems on the Korean peninsula alone, and its state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper reiterated that sentiment Saturday in an editorial marking the uprising anniversary.
"We should never allow any foreign force to intervene" in efforts to unify the peninsula, it said in a report carried by the North's Korean Central News Agency.
Lee, who took office with a promise to boost the economy, also stressed that South Korea should be forward-looking and pragmatic amid stiff global competition. "We have too many things to do to remain looking back," he said.


Updated : 2021-05-07 01:33 GMT+08:00