Staff writerWhen South Korean President Kim Dae Jung makes his official visit this week, Japan is expected to apologize and express remorse for its past conduct toward Koreans. But complete reconciliation between the people of the two nations may not be possible until they come to a better mutual understanding of their shared past.A senior Foreign Ministry official said an apology from Japan is necessary to establish a framework for further cooperation between the two countries heading into the 21st century.Kim Suk Kyu, South Korea’s ambassador to Japan, said last month that President Kim’s visit is a good opportunity to resolve issues that took place during the 20th century, before the start of the next century.President Kim is scheduled to visit Japan from Wednesday to Saturday to hold talks with Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. It will be his first visit to Japan since he took office in February.In a joint document to be issued at a Thursday meeting between Obuchi and Kim, Japan will express remorse and offer an apology to the Korean people for its 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, based on an Aug. 15, 1995 statement by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, Foreign Ministry officials said.Murayama said in the statement, which was issued on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, “Japan … through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations.”The apology this time will be directed at South Korea, because the Murayama statement did not name specific countries, Vice Foreign Minister Shunji Yanai said.The statement, however, is not expected to mention specific conduct by Japan, such as the forced change of Korean names to Japanese names during the colonial rule, and the “comfort women,” Korean women who were made to provide sex for wartime Imperial army troops at frontline brothels.Experts say an apology will not completely resolve the historical chasm between the two countries. “Issues of history will not be completely resolved by simply issuing the joint document,” Keio University Professor Masao Okonogi said.Bilateral relations suffered strains after Murayama made his statement, when in November of that year then Management and Coordination Agency chief Takami Eto made off-the-record remarks boasting of the benefits of Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. Eto reportedly said Japan did some good things, such as building schools, railroads and ports, during its colonial rule.Teruo Komaki, senior researcher at the Institute of Developing Economies, said that if similar remarks continue to be made in Japan, these issues will be raised again and again. “Japan thinks that it has to repeat its apology for its past conduct every time South Korea has a new administration. But South Korea considers Japan’s apology insincere as long as there are (negative) remarks in Japan,” Komaki said.Ambassador Kim said he is aware of Japan’s dissatisfaction with having to repeat its apology to each new leader, but noted South Koreans are skeptical about the sincerity of Tokyo’s apologies because of repeated negative remarks by some Japanese politicians. President Kim hopes to hear a sincere, courageous apology from Japan at the turn of the century, the ambassador said, adding that past incidents should not prevent the two countries from expanding future relations.Professor Okonogi said Japan has not captured the Korean people’s hearts through its repeated apologies, and it has a tendency to forget how terribly it treated Koreans.Tokyo is expected to offer about $3 billion in loans from the Export-Import Bank of Japan to help South Korean companies cope with foreign currency shortages and to help them obtain import materials and components.
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