North Korean official condemns Japan and demands apologies over past

SEOUL, Nov 17, 2018. Kyodo, Reuters. A North Korean official urged Japan on Friday to take responsibility for its “sinful history,” including the forced mobilization of millions of Koreans during its 1910-1945 colonial rule, and to officially apologize and sufficiently compensate the victims and their families, reported The Japan Times.

Ri Jong Hyok, vice chairman of the Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, made the remarks in a speech at a conference on the subject held in Goyang, a city north of Seoul, with some 300 participants from 10 Asia-Pacific countries.

Ri condemned Japan as “a war criminal nation that invaded, plundered and committed massacres in many countries,” and called its forced mobilization of Koreans as soldiers, laborers and brothel workers “a malicious criminal act of killing the nation.”

“Japan nowadays not only … conceals its sinful history but also revises its history textbooks to guide the public opinion the way it wants,” he said, adding, “If Japan does not acknowledge its past guilt, North and South (Korea) must show a determined will.”

Ri said Japan should stop mentioning North Korea’s abduction of its Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s, so long as it fails to “thoroughly investigate and reveal the entire truth” about its wartime drafting of Koreans.

He was referring to Tokyo’s call for Pyongyang to account for any Japanese nationals still in North Korea after being abducted — the main sticking point in the fraught ties between the two countries.

The conference was scheduled since before a recent South Korean Supreme Court ruling against a Japanese company that awarded four South Koreans damages for forced labor during colonial rule.

Ri said they should be fully compensated and issued sincere apologies.

The Japanese government has criticized the ruling, saying individuals’ right to seek compensation was terminated under a 1965 bilateral treaty issues relating to property and claims between the two countries and their peoples.

The meeting was also attended by former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who said the historical fact that Japan colonized Korea and waged a war should be taken seriously and he believes that the 1965 treaty does resolve the issue completely.

“I can understand how the victim cannot understand the attitude of a perpetrator who holds there is no need to apologize anymore after having already once apologized,” he said, suggesting that Japan should apologize until the victims feel they do not need anymore apologies.

North Korean state media brought up Japan’s forced labor issue on Tuesday, Wednesday and again on Friday.

Unlike South Korea, North Korea never signed a treaty with Japan dealing with compensation.

The two countries have been discussing the issue since 1991 but the matter is not settled, legal and international relations experts said.

In 2002 in a joint statement by North Korea and Japan, Tokyo acknowledged causing “tremendous damage and suffering to the people of Korea through its colonial rule in the past, and expressed deep remorse and heartfelt apology.”

Tokyo says ties cannot be normalized until the three issues of the abduction of Japanese citizens, missiles and nuclear weapons are comprehensively resolved.

“The Japanese authorities are not only avoiding the settlement of past crimes, but are clamoring about some abduction of ordinary people issue which is the pot calling the kettle black,” Ri said.

Jin Chang-soo, research fellow in Sejong Institute and expert on South Korea-Japan relations, said the South Korea-Japan relationship will be “most influenced” by how South Korea reacts.

“If mistrust within Japan grows towards South Korea, there’s a strong chance that bilateral relations and matters of defence, especially its stance about North Korea’s nuclear issue, could be affected as well,” he said.

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