Bilateral ties hinge on young: Lee

by Reiji Yoshida

The future appears to be the key theme South Korean President Lee Myung Bak has chosen to stress during his first trip to Japan since his inauguration.

Appearing on a 90-minute TV talk show with more than 158 people in the audience, South Korean officials specifically asked Tokyo Broadcasting System Inc. to include young participants, according to TBS.

Of the 100 people chosen to participate at the Tokyo studio, 56 were either youths or adults in their 20s and 30s. In addition, 58 students from Ritsumeikan University participated via a live broadcast from Kyoto.

“The two countries will build a closer relationship if young generations of the two countries overcome history and deepen understanding for the future,” Lee said.

“I find it very meaningful to visit Japan and have a dialogue with Japanese people, particularly young people,” he said.

The bilateral relationship has in the past repeatedly become bogged down due to nationalist rows over Japan’s past colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

But the younger generations’ love of each other’s pop culture is often regarded as one of the few hopes for the bilateral relationship.

Lee touched on the need to expand the number of working holiday visas granted between the two countries, an issue Fukuda agreed on during Monday’s talks.

More importantly, Lee repeated that he will not respond to remarks of individual Japanese politicians over historical issues.

“If you react to words of many politicians each time, the bilateral relationship with any country would not work,” Lee said during the TV program.

Meanwhile, he urged Japanese people to be cautious over their words and attitude, saying that in general those who abuse others tend to forget their actions much quicker than the victims.