Problems with Abe’s team outweigh mere handshake: Park

Kyodo

South Korean President Park Geun-hye criticized the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a long-ranging interview with a foreign news agency over historical issues that remain unresolved between the two countries, the president’s office said Monday.

In the interview with Bloomberg News on Friday, Park dismissed Abe’s calls for a summit and said she would refuse to meet with him until his government does more to atone for its wartime past.

When asked whether she would shake hands with Abe at the World Economic Forum in Davos later this month, Park replied, “This isn’t simply a matter of whether we would engage in a handshake.”

“If you put yourself in Korea’s shoes, I would in fact ask the question of whether you can actually pretend nothing has happened and just move forward,” she was quoted as saying.

Relations between South Korea and Japan have long been strained by differing perceptions of history related to Japan’s brutal colonial rule of the peninsula from 1910 to 1945, and a territorial dispute over a tiny pair of South Korea-controlled rocks in the Sea of Japan, which South Korea calls the East Sea. The outcroppings are known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea and lie roughly midway between the countries.

Abe’s visit to Tokyo’s war-related Yasukuni Shrine last month, however, aggravated Japan’s already frigid ties with Seoul and Beijing, which have refused to hold summit-level talks with Abe. Park took office in February 2013.

Meanwhile, South Korean Prime Minister Jung Hong Won on Monday called former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s remarks comparing Park to a petty schoolgirl “the height of rudeness,” according to Yonhap News Agency.

Noda, in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun published Friday, accused Park of conducting “tattletale diplomacy like a schoolgirl” by criticizing Japan while visiting the United States and Europe.

Jung told South Korean reporters that Noda’s remarks and Abe’s pilgrimage to Yasukuni Shrine are “acts opposed to historical justice and conscience” and “invite isolation in the international community.”