• Kyodo

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Atami Mayor Ichio Kawaguchi told visiting South Korean President Kim Dae Jung on Saturday that the city is considering building a park to commemorate the president’s visit, Foreign Ministry officials said.

The mayor, who called on Kim with Shizuoka Gov. Yoshinobu Ishikawa, said he expects the municipal assembly and citizens of the hot-spring resort city to respond positively to the plan, the officials said.

Kawaguchi said he hopes to hold events annually at the park to promote friendly relations between the two countries.

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who attended the 25-minute meeting at a local hotel, explained that the mayor is hoping to turn Atami into a city that represents bilateral friendship, the officials said.

Ishikawa said soccer is popular in Shizuoka Prefecture and told how the Shizuoka Shimbun, a local newspaper, has for the past 20 years been inviting two South Korean high school soccer teams to an annual prefectural tournament, the officials said.

Kim said the growth in bilateral citizen exchanges, which were activated following his visit to Japan in October 1998, are exceeding expectations.

He said many people travel between the two countries and mentioned the occasional difficulties in obtaining flight tickets, as was seen recently when the president of the Asahi Shimbun and officials of Japan’s tripartite ruling coalition visited South Korea.

The head of the Asahi, one of Japan’s major dailies, used a private jet, while the party officials had to detour to Kansai airport in Osaka Prefecture — actions that Kim said signify the strength of Japan’s democracy.

Kim said it is unthinkable that media representatives and officials of ruling parties in South Korea would be denied flight tickets when traveling out of their country, and drew laughter by saying that democracy can be inconvenient.

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