National / Politics

South Korea's new ambassador aims to get closer to Japanese people

Kyodo

South Korea’s new ambassador to Japan, Lee Joon-gyu, said he wants to have a more intimate relationship with the Japanese people and shape bilateral relations toward the future.

“I want to open the door of the ambassador’s office open and do my best to have a closeness to the Japanese people and to be accepted as affectionate,” Lee said during a meeting Monday with a group of Japanese journalists.

Lee, a career diplomat, said relations between Japan and South Korea should be headed in a future-oriented direction.

“There are a variety of problems that arise from the unhappy history of colonial rule. The relations should be a future-oriented one,” he said, referring to Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

He said the landmark “comfort women” agreement between the two neighbors last December on females forced into wartime brothels for the Japanese military shows an indication that “bilateral ties are now on the way to becoming normal.”

He also said the number of Japanese books that contain material aimed at inciting hatred toward the Korean Peninsula is on the decline, citing the increasing number of Japanese tourists to South Korea.

Lee said the current status of economic cooperation between the two countries is not sufficient, considering the possibilities and potential.

“It’s true Japan plays quite a big role in developing South Korea’s economy,” he said.

Lee, who previously served as ambassador to India and will succeed Yoo Heung-soo, a former lawmaker who stepped down in April, takes office Friday.