• Kyodo News

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Around 900 citizens from Japan and South Korea gathered Sunday to call on the Japanese government to offer complete compensation for the damage it inflicted on the Korean people during its 35 years of colonial rule from 1910 to the end of the war.

The meeting, cohosted by citizens groups from the two countries, was held at a public hall in Toshima Ward, Tokyo, as the centenary of Japan’s forced annexation of the Korean Peninsula approaches on Aug. 29.

The participants sought state compensation for the thousands of former “comfort women” who were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers, the Koreans who were left behind in Sakhalin after the war, the Koreans who survived the atomic bombs, and the Koreans who perished in the air raids on Tokyo. All have been excluded from full redress.

“It is time for the Japanese government to provide an apology and compensation to the Korean victims in order to come to terms with its colonization and to promote measures so that Japan will not repeat the same mistakes in the future,” the attendants said in a statement adopted at the end of the gathering.

They also called for the termination of policies that discriminate against Koreans living in Japan, such as the exclusion of ethnic Korean schools from the new tuition waiver for public high schools.

“We, the Korean school students, lead lives as Japanese students do, laughing with friends during recess and working out at club activities,” said Ko Yong Chae, a student at the Korean school in Tokyo.

“We just want to have learning opportunities and rights as Japanese students do,” said Ko, who is in his third year of senior high school. He said the tuition waiver program ought to be available to ethnic Korean students as well.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan issued a statement of apology earlier this month to South Korea, expressing remorse for the annexation and his determination to deepen ties for the sake of peace and prosperity in East Asia.

But the statement didn’t please everyone.

“Mr. Kan did not touch on North Korea. It suggests he seeks a decoupling (of the Korean Peninsula),” said Naruhiko Ito, who leads the organizers of the meeting.

“How can he compensate for the misdeeds of the past 100 years and create a peaceful and amicable course for the future?” he asked.

The organizers plan to hold similar meetings in Seoul next weekend.

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