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Koreans warm to historic Japan apology on colonial rule – but want more

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Lee Guk-eon, speaking for the elderly women who protest every week outside the Japanese embassy here for having been forced into sexual slavery during the war, criticized Kan for avoiding the issue of compensation for them. Kan's promise to return invaluable records of the Chosun Dynasty that ruled Korea for 600 years until the Japanese colonial era hardly compensates, he says, for that omission.

Nor did the statement mention other contentious issues, ranging from the wording of Japanese textbooks that Koreans say glosses over Japan’s aggression over much of Asia to the question of who really has rights to an outcropping of rock midway between the Korean peninsula and Japan. Korean police control what the Koreans call Dokdo and the Japanese call Takeshima.

Kan’s statement, Mr. Lee told Korean journalists, failed to “break the mistrust and other barriers existing between the two countries.”

Kan appeared to have timed the apology as a preemptive strike before the 65th anniversary Sunday of the Japanese surrender, observed as an important national holiday in North as well as South Korea. The actual anniversary date of Japan’s annexation of Korea is August 29.

Apology diplomacy

Korean officials made much of the fact that Kan’s apology said specifically that Japan had annexed Korea against the will of the Korean people. That phrase, said a spokeswoman for President Lee, bore “a meaning” that advanced the level of the apology beyond that offered by a former Japanese prime minister, Tomiichi Murayama, 15 years ago.

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