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Ex-S. Korean President Kim urges Japan to face history.

TOKYO, May 23 Kyodo

Former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung criticized Japanese leaders for making statements that he said justified Japan's past invasion of other countries and urged Japan to learn from Germany's example of fully apologizing for its wartime deeds and teaching its people about them.

''Japanese people must not look away from the historical issues that Japan has with Korea and China but instead should deal with it head on,'' Kim said in a lecture at the University of Tokyo. ''You should admit the wrongs that were done as we also hope for a new start (in the relations).''

Kim, who was president from 1998 to 2003, said that despite the clear historical facts between Japan and Korea, ''a considerable number of people in Japan including government and ruling party leaders have been justifying the Japanese history of invasion and even saying it was beneficial to other countries.''

He also criticized Japan's claims to the South Korean administered Tokto Island, called Takeshima Island in Japanese, as well as repeated visits by Japanese leaders to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Class A war criminals along with Japanese war dead.

South Korea, which was colonized by Japan from 1910 to 1945, has also voiced anger over Japan's recent approval of a controversial junior high school textbook, which Seoul sees as whitewashing Japan's wartime aggression on neighboring countries.

The textbook issue and the Yasukuni visits by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and other lawmakers have also infuriated China.

Kim, referring to a meeting he had with the late Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi in 1998, said, ''As the prime minister has expressed his deep apology for the past history, leaders of Japan should not say words that go against such an apology.''

Kim said the Japanese people were also ''victims'' of past wars who were misled and suppressed by ''unwise leaders.''

Turning to the unprecedented boom of South Korean dramas and pop stars in Japan, Kim said, ''From the viewpoint of our unfortunate history with Japan, I was very surprised in the beginning to see recently how enthusiastic Japanese people were in accepting our culture.''

Kim, who during his presidency lifted a longtime ban on Japanese culture to South Korea despite domestic opposition, said, ''I hope Japanese people will respond to the historical issue more openly and squarely, and with more courage.''

''As long as there is no agreement on the perception of history between South Korea and Japan, such conflict will repeat itself whenever the issue comes up,'' said the former president, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his efforts of reconciliation with North Korea.

Speaking on the prospect of reunification on the Korean Peninsula, Kim said, ''On whether peaceful coexistence between the North and the South is possible, I believe it is possible once the U.S.-North Korean relations improve.''

''Whether it may take 10 years or 20 years, the South and the North must achieve unification peacefully,'' he added.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:May 23, 2005
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