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(LEAD) S. Korea forms team to promote relations with Japan despite long-standing rows

2018/05/28 18:48

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(ATTN: ADDS info in last 3 paras)

SEOUL, May 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea launched a government-civilian team Monday to promote cultural and social ties with Japan despite decades of disputes between the neighboring countries over historical issues.

The move reflects Seoul's efforts to expand non-political exchanges with Tokyo separately from the diplomatic stand-offs over its wartime atrocities and territorial claims.

Speaking at a related ceremony here, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha reaffirmed the government's two-track approach, saying the bilateral relationship has been "very stagnant" in recent years.

She cited the need to promote "people-to-people, cultural exchanges between the two countries, while (the South Korean government) continues to deal with issues related to our history with principle."

   The minister noted that 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the historic declaration by South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi on building a new, future-oriented partnership between the two sides.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (4th from L) speaks at a government-civilian ceremony to launch a task force on ties with Japan on May 28, 2018. (Yonhap) Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (4th from L) speaks at a government-civilian ceremony to launch a task force on ties with Japan on May 28, 2018. (Yonhap)

In the joint statement, Obuchi expressed "keen remorse and apologized for the historical fact that Japan, through its past colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, imposed great damage and pain on the South Korean people."

   But Seoul-Tokyo ties remain strained. South Korea says the issue of Japan's sexual enslavement of Korean women for its troops during the World War II has yet to be resolved. It has also called on Japan to cease its claim to sovereignty over Dokdo, a pair of rocky islets in the East Sea.

The team tasked with enhancing bilateral ties is led by chairman Lee Hoon, a tourism professor at Seoul's Hanyang University.

"We plan to discuss ways (for Korea and Japan) to better understand each other, ease prejudices or misunderstandings and help them develop good feelings towards each other," Lee told Yonhap News Agency over the phone.

"History shows that when they communicate well with each other and have exchanges, the situation is win-win," he added.

lcd@yna.co.kr

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