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, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora