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Akie Abe tells of admiration of South Korean culture, importance of bilateral relations

JIJI

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife Akie has told of her admiration of South Korean culture and stressed the importance of the Japanese people getting along with their neighbors despite differences between the two governments.

In an interview with South Korean daily Dong-A Ilbo, published Tuesday, Akie said whatever may happen, South Korea would remain a very important country for Japan.

Relations between Tokyo and Seoul have been strained over a girl’s statue symbolizing “comfort women” that was erected in front of the Japanese Consulate-General in Busan.

In protest, the Japanese government recalled its ambassador to South Korea, Yasumasa Nagamine, and its consul-general in Busan, Yasuhiro Morimoto, on Jan. 9.

Comfort women, mainly Koreans, refer to females who were forced into wartime Japanese military brothels.

Dong-A Ilbo said that Akie is a fan of South Korean culture, while citing her kindness and sophistication.

In the interview, Akie said she has a fridge at home exclusively for kimchi and has participated in projects between Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture, and its sister city Busan, the second-biggest city in South Korea.

Shimonoseki is part of the prime minister’s constituency in the House of Representatives. Shimonoseki and Busan have been in a sister city relationship since 1976.

Akie said that what mattered was that Japanese and South Korean people got along well. She also underscored the importance of bilateral private-sector exchanges.