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Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi expressed hope Tuesday that exchanges of people between Japan and South Korea will top 5 million this year, the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

“Forty years ago, when our two nations normalized relations, there was an exchange of about 10,000 people a year,” Koizumi said at a reception that marked the opening of Japan-Korea Friendship Year 2005. “Now, the figure has grown to 10,000 a day.”

More than 4 million people came and went between the two nations last year. The prime minister said he hopes that the figure will grow by more than 1 million this year to correspond with the opening of the 2005 World Exposition in Aichi Prefecture, which begins in March.

Swarms of Japanese female tourists traveled to South Korea last year to visit shooting locations for that country’s popular TV drama series “Winter Sonata.” The program, which featured star Bae Yong Joon, known in Japan as “Yon-sama,” set off a craze in Japan for all things South Korean.

The two countries resumed diplomatic relations in June 1965. Japan-Korea Friendship Year 2005 is aimed at further promoting mutual exchanges and understanding.

More than 100 cultural, academic and sports exchange events are planned this year, including a joint concert by pop stars from Japan and South Korea, and kabuki plays in South Korea.

A similar reception will be held in Seoul on Thursday, and will be attended by South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun and former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.

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