SEOUL--South Korean President Lee Myung-bak denied on Oct. 8 that he had demanded that Emperor Akihito apologize for Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, according to former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso.
The denial was made in a meeting in the South Korean presidential palace between Lee and Aso, who was visiting Seoul as the head of a Japanese delegation.
“I was told (by Lee) that he had never demanded that the emperor come to South Korea or apologize,” Aso told reporters after the meeting.
On Aug. 10, Lee visited the Takeshima islets in the Sea of Japan, which are effectively controlled by South Korea which calls them Dokdo, but are also claimed by Japan.
On Aug. 14, Lee allegedly sought Akihito’s apology in comments he made at a seminar for teachers in Cheongwon, North Chungcheong province. It was initially reported in the media that Lee said the emperor should apologize for Japan's colonial rule if he wants to visit South Korea.
Those incidents have contributed to the deterioration of relations between the two Asian neighbors. In such circumstances, some media had reported the possibility of Aso conveying a message from Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to Lee in their meeting.
However, Aso did not do so. In addition, Lee rarely referred to the contentious issues of the Takeshima islets or “comfort women,” who were forced to serve as sex slaves for Imperial Japanese Army soldiers during World War II, according to informed sources of both countries.
On Oct. 8, the Japan-Korea Cooperation Committee, which mainly consists of politicians and business leaders from Japan and South Korea and is currently headed by former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, held a joint general meeting in Seoul. Aso visited South Korea as the head of the Japanese delegation.
Lee sent a message to the general meeting, which read, “The two countries should strengthen their matured partnership further with the courage and wisdom for looking squarely at history and with sincere acts that support the courage and wisdom.”
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