• Kyodo

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South Korea’s foreign and trade minister has voiced hope that Emperor Akihito may visit South Korea in the near future.

Yoon Young Kwan issued the entreaty during an interview earlier this week, with a state visit to Japan by South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun starting Friday.

“I hope both countries make efforts to create a favorable atmosphere that could lead to the Emperor’s visit to (South) Korea,” Yoon said.

An Imperial visit has been a touchy issue in Japan and in South Korea, where strong anti-Japanese sentiment lingers over Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945.

“The Emperor’s visit to (South) Korea, symbolic of having built a ‘future-oriented’ bilateral relationship in the 21st century, will provide momentum to show the two countries have entered an era in which (South) Korean and Japanese people genuinely understand and respect each other,” Yoon said.

Roh took office Feb. 25, having won the December presidential election to serve a single five-year term.

He will hold talks with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi during his four-day visit and have an audience with the Emperor.

In the same interview, Yoon revealed that South Korea may further open its markets to Japanese cultural products in an effort to cement friendly relations.

Roh will publicize South Korea’s position on this issue during his visit, Yoon said.

The matter is under consideration in light of the friendly relationship forged by the successful cohosting of the 2002 World Cup soccer finals, Yoon said.

Roh’s predecessor, Kim Dae Jung, lifted a series of long-standing bans on Japanese cultural imports, although the South Korean market remains partly off-limits due to lingering public resentment of Japan’s colonial rule.

Turning to Koizumi’s appearances at Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead as well as Class-A war criminals, Yoon said South Korea cannot overlook these visits and they should stop.

“We can never condone tributes to the war criminals who inflicted suffering on neighboring countries by colonization and aggression, and we adhere to the position (that) such tributes should not be paid again,” Yoon said.

Koizumi’s visits to the Shinto shrine sparked outrage in South Korea and China, which suffered under Japanese occupation.

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