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SEOUL — South Korea announced on Tuesday that it will remove a decades-old ban so that international prize-winning Japanese films and others jointly produced by the two countries can legally be shown in the country.In announcing the decision to lift the longtime ban on Japanese cultural items, Shin Na Kyun, South Korea’s minister of culture and tourism, said the government will begin allowing Japanese pop culture to enter the country in two stages, and that a ban on Japanese videos would immediately be lifted for award-winning films featured at the the Academy Awards and the Cannes, Venice and Berlin international film festivals.Japanese comics and comic books published in Japanese will also immediately be allowed into South Korea, Shin said, with the exception of violent, lewd and pornographic products and cartoon movies, which will continue to be banned.A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Japan welcomes Seoul’s decision as the first stage of a policy recently promulgated by President Kim Dae Jung upon his visit to Japan earlier this month.It is hoped the two countries will be able to strengthen bilateral ties and promote understanding through a new bilateral organization being proposed by Seoul for expanding cultural exchange, the official said.Shin also noted that a cultural exchange panel for discussing the introduction of other aspects of Japanese culture will be formed by the end of the year.Although South Korean youths have been exposed to Japanese culture through books, films, magazines and recordings smuggled into the country, the government has banned the import of such cultural products, and forbidden public performances of popular Japanese songs for decades since Japan’s brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910-1945.And anti-Japanese sentiment still runs deep. Many people accuse Japan of trying to forget its past without fully owning up to its wartime crimes, such as the Imperial Japanese Army’s induction of thousands of Korean and other Asian women into sexual slavery.

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