News / Asia

Japan, South Korea Move to Ease Tensions

South Korea's president-elect Park Geun-hye, right, talks with Fukushiro Nukaga, the special envoy of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during their meeting at Park's office in Seoul, January 4, 2013.
South Korea's president-elect Park Geun-hye, right, talks with Fukushiro Nukaga, the special envoy of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during their meeting at Park's office in Seoul, January 4, 2013.
South Korea's president-elect on Friday met with a special envoy sent by Japan's prime minister. The meeting is seen as an initial move by the incoming leaders in both countries to try to ease the strained bilateral relationship.

There was little expectation the visit by Japanese special envoy Fukushiro Nukaga would lead to any immediate breakthrough. But the timing itself of the meeting with South Korean president-elect Park Geun-hye is considered significant.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office on December 26th while Ms. Park's inauguration is set for February 25.

The Japanese diplomat, who is a former finance minister, presented Ms. Park with a letter from Mr. Abe.

Park called Nukaga's visit timely, considering the transition of leadership since last month in both Tokyo and in Seoul.

The president elect says she hopes the two countries "can make a mutual effort to build trust based on the people's sentiment" and strengthen two-way relations in various fields.

A group of South Korean lawmakers is to head to Tokyo next week.

It is expected the interactions between politicians of the two countries will lead to a summit meeting sometime this year between President Park and Prime Minister Abe.

Relations between the two Asian neighbors deteriorated last year. The current South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, angered Japanese with an unprecedented visit to Dokdo. The small virtually unoccupied island, known as Takeshima in Japanese, has been held by South Korea since the mid-1950's but is also claimed by Japan.

South Koreans are upset by what they view as a lack of remorse by Japanese and their government over the country's early 20th century occupation of the Korean peninsula.

An especially sensitive issue concerns the so-called "comfort women" -- Koreans who were forced into prostitution for Japanese troops during World War Two.

The Japanese envoy, arriving at Gimpo International Airport on Friday, was met by a noisy group of anti-Japanese activists.

One of them - identified as 57-year-old Lim Chang-geun - armed with a small knife, stabbed himself in the stomach.

Another activist, Oh Cheon-do, termed Nukaga's visit to South Korea meaningless and premature.

Oh says Japan should only send special envoys here after it sufficiently apologizes to Korea and international society for its past misdeeds.

Japan and South Korea agreed in 1965 to ends claims of compensation for the colonial era.

Seoul has criticized a private fund, established in 1995, for those forced into wartime prostitution, saying the money is insufficient and compensation should come from the Japanese government.

Many Koreans also consider inadequate a 1993 apology from a Japanese government spokesman.

Japan Friday lodged a protest with South Korea over Seoul's decision to send home a Chinese man wanted by Japanese authorities for an attack on a controversial Shinto shrine.

Liu Qiang, who is 38, flew out of Incheon on a flight bound for Shanghai Friday morning, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

Japan had asked South Korea to extradite Liu to face trial for arson.  Authorities here say Liu admitted setting fire in December, 2011 to the gates of Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe told reporters at a news conference Friday that South Korea had "effectively ignored" a bilateral extradition treaty, and called the action "extremely regrettable."

Liu was released by South Korea after serving a 10-month sentence here for hurling firebombs at the Japanese Embassy.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid