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South Korea tells Japan to confront its history of war crimes and colonialism

September 29, 2012 (TSR) – South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung Hwan said in media interviews Thursday that Japan should educate its people about its wartime past if it is to have good relations with its neighbors.

In an interview with The Associated Press on the sidelines of the assembly meeting, Kim explained Thursday why his people are so irate over Japan’s claims to the pair of South Korean-controlled islets known as Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan, saying, “We are victims of Japanese colonial rule.”

Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan. (Credit: UN/Jennifer S Altman)

“When the Japanese government claims Dokdo is their territory, Korean people (take) it as another attempt to invade our country,” Kim said. “So that’s the Korean sentiment and I hope that the Japanese government understands this.”

Japan took over the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

According to AP, Kim also said Japan’s failure to educate its people properly about the past, as reflected in Japanese politicians’ denial of war crimes, is the root cause of its territorial disputes in the region, including over islands disputed with China and Russia.

“It’s in sharp contrast with what Germany did to get the support and respect from the neighboring countries” after World War II, Kim said. “If Japan does it, I’m sure they can (get) respect from neighboring countries.”

In a separate interview with South Korean reporters, Kim similarly called on Japan to “properly educate (its people) about history” as well as to acknowledge its “state and legal” responsibility for the enforced sex slavery of Korean women during World War II.

“After all, it is a matter to be resolved when Japan teaches correct history,” he was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

It said Kim also accused Japan of using “double standards” in its territorial spats with South Korea and China.

The foreign minister appeared to be alluding to Japan’s stance of denying the existence of a territorial dispute with China, at a time when it already controls the islands in question, but insisting on the existence of a territorial dispute with South Korea when it does not control those islands.

Also, Japan wants its territorial dispute with South Korea to be referred to the International Court of Justice for a ruling on sovereignty, but it does not want its dispute with China to be handled by the ICJ on the grounds that none exists.

Kim dismissed the possibility that Japan’s dispute with South Korea will be taken up by the ICJ.

“South Korea will never change its existing position that Dokdo is not disputed territory,” he was quoted as saying, noting that the court won’t take on the case without Seoul’s consent.

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