Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and visiting South Korean President Kim Dae Jung put the past behind them Thursday, with Japan apologizing for its past colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and both pledging to establish a new partnership in a variety of fields for the 21st century.Obuchi said at a joint news conference after his meeting with Kim that he apologized and expressed remorse for Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula and that Kim appreciated Obuchi’s remarks.According to a joint document issued and signed by the two leaders after the meeting, “Obuchi, looking back on the relations between Korea and Japan in this century, humbly accepted the historical fact that the Japanese colonial rule inflicted unbearable damage and pain on Korean people and expressed remorseful repentance and heartfelt apology for the ordeal.”In response, “Kim sincerely recognized and appreciated the prime minister’s perception on the history, and mentioned that the times require that Korea and Japan overcome the unfortunate history of the past and build a future-oriented relationship based on the spirit of reconciliation and friendship through concerted efforts by both sides,” the joint statement says.It is the first time that Japan expressed remorse and apologized directly to the Korean people in a document. The expressions were based on a 1995 statement by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama who said that “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 statement was issued Aug. 15 that year, the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.The recent apology “is different from past ones because the two countries announced it in a document” signed by the leaders of the two countries, Kim told the press conference. “The apology and remorse (expressed) is directed to South Korea — therefore, their significance is different from past ones,” Kim said.The bilateral relationship occasionally suffered strains on issues of history between the two countries because of negative remarks by some Japanese politicians despite apologies and regrets expressed by Japan’s prime ministers.In November 1995, Takami Eto, then Management and Coordination Agency chief, angered the South Korean people by making off-the-record remarks boasting of the benefits of Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.At a meeting of party executives Wednesday, several senior members of the Liberal Democratic Party reportedly expressed opposition to Obuchi apologizing for colonial rule in the joint document.Eto was quoted as saying at the meeting that “there was no (Japanese) colonial rule” over the Korean Peninsula.Obuchi stressed that the apology and remorse expressed in the joint document are “Japan’s unshakable position” and that he is sure that those who hold responsible positions in Japan will respect such a stance.

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