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Roh Urges Koreans to Look to Future, Not Past

May 26, 1990

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ President Roh Tae-woo said Saturday that Japan’s apologies for its brutal colonial rule might not satisfy all South Koreans, but he urged them to look to the future, not the past.

Roh returned from an emotional three-day visit to Japan aimed at beginning a new partnership between the Asian neighbors. At its conclusion, he invited Emperor Akihito to make the first Japanese imperial visit to South Korea.

During Roh’s visit, Akihito expressed ″deepest regret for the sufferings and pain″ Japan inflicted on Korea during its colonial rule from 1910 to 1945. Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu extended his ″sincere remorse and honest apologies.″

Kaifu’s apology was Japan’s clearest statement of regret ever over its military past. But Roh acknowledged many South Koreans would be dissatisfied with it.

″I well understand what feelings my fellow countrymen have about what went on between our country and Japan in the past. No amount of apology can be fully satisfactory,″ Roh said at a news conference at Seoul’s airport.

During much of the colonial period, Koreans were forced to speak Japanese, use Japanese names and worship the late Japanese Emperor Hirohito, Akihito’s father. Many Koreans died after being conscripted into Japan’s army or in dangerous jobs as laborers in Japan.

Before leaving Tokyo on Saturday, Roh said Akihito’s words of regret ″were very significant,″ and said the emperor and Kaifu had ″expressed a common awareness about this unfortunate period between our two countries.″

″With this, I feel that myself and the people of my country feel we can put the unfortunate period of our history behind us,″ Roh said.

In Tokyo, about 20,000 police had been mobilized to guard against threats to Roh from both rightist and leftist groups, but no incidents were reported.

During a brief visit to Osaka in western Japan on his way home, about 30 leftists demonstrated peacefully against Roh’s visit, police said.

Roh’s visit had sparked far bigger protests in South Korea. Before he left for Japan, radicals and human rights groups demonstrated almost daily, demanding that he cancel his visit.

One man slashed his belly with a knife in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul in protest.

Roh said after his return that he believed Kaifu’s and Akihito’s statements of regret were sufficient and urged that they be accepted.

″Even if we may feel that the Japanese apologies do not fully live up to our expectations, we should accept them with magnanimity and generosity now that Japan has forthrightly admitted its mistakes, reflected on them and apologized,″ he said.

″With that, I believe we must now forge a new era of neighborliness and friendship,″ he added.

Some sore points remain unresolved, including discrimination against Korean residents in Japan and health care for Korean survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Roh made clear that he had asked Japan to move forward on those issues, but he said he was satisfied with the progress so far.

″If we are to promote the peace and prosperity of northeast Asia and also usher in an Asian-Pacific age by the 21st century, we should advance friendly cooperation with Japan, our next-door neighbor,″ he said.

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