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Kim Jong Pil, honorary president of South Korea’s United Liberal Democrats, called on Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to “show sincerity” toward the Korean people during a Saturday meeting with Japanese lawmakers here.

The remark was taken to indicate that Seoul believes Japan must take some sort of action to patch up bilateral relations after such thorny issues as Koizumi’s visit earlier this month to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead, including war criminals.

“I would like Prime Minister Koizumi to show sincerity to South Koreans,” Kim, a former South Korean prime minister, was quoted as saying during a meeting with former Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe after attending a ceremony to unveil a cenotaph honoring Korean delegations to Japan during the 17th to 19th centuries.

At the same time, Kim added that both nations must make efforts to not let such issues drag on, given that they are to cohost the 2002 World Cup soccer finals next year.

In response, Abe stressed that Koizumi “has no intention whatsoever” of hurting the feelings of Koreans or to justify Japan’s past colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. Mitsuzuka promised to convey South Korea’s views to the prime minister at the earliest possible time.

Cenotaph to Koreans

KITAKYUSHU (Kyodo) An unveiling ceremony was held Saturday for a cenotaph commemorating Korean delegations to Japan from the 17th to the 19th century at a park in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

About 70 people, including Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe and Kim Jong Pil, honorary president of South Korea’s United Liberal Democrats, a party in the ruling coalition, attended.

The delegations from Korea’s Yi Dynasty (1392-1910) came to Japan in the Edo Period (1600-1868) to convey advanced learning and arts. Shimonoseki is considered to be the first landing place for the missions.

The ceremony was held amid ongoing disputes between South Korea and Japan over Tokyo’s approval of junior high school textbooks that Seoul says distort history, and over Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Aug. 13 visit to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, where convicted war criminals are enshrined. Kim, a former South Korean prime minister, said in his speech that South Korea and Japan should cooperate with each other to achieve a peaceful coexistence as long as the Earth exists.

A mission of several hundred Koreans, including numerous skilled workers such as potters, with books and copper movable type, was received and feted at Edo, now Tokyo. , and provided an important diplomatic contact during the era of Japan’s national seclusion. The potters initiated the manufacture of Karatsu, Arita and Hagi wares, which became traditional Japanese pottery.

Twelve such missions were sent between 1607 and 1811, usually on special occasions, such as the succession of a new shogun.

The cenotaph, made of stone from South Korea, carries a copper relief depicting the missions and an epigraph written by Kim, reading “The landing and sojourn place of the Korean embassies” in Chinese characters.

The cenotaph was established by donations from people in both countries and collected by a cenotaph establishment group consisting of a Japan-South Korea friendship association in Yamaguchi Prefecture and others, officials with the group said.

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