Koizumi: 'Heartfelt remorse' for Korean suffering
By Sohn Jie-Ae
SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- Dogged by protesters on his one day visit to South Korea, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has voiced "heartfelt remorse" for the pain and sorrow inflicted on the Korean people under Japanese colonial rule.
The statement is being seen as the most outright apology ever by the Japanese leader for his country's wartime conduct.
At a park in the capital, Seoul, Koizumi laid a wreath before a small monument dedicated to Korean independence freedom fighters tortured to death during the Japanese occupation of Korea.
He said he was visiting the park "not as a Japanese prime minister, but more as a politician and a person" to pay respects to "the sacrifice and the pain of Koreans".
"I saw the various museum displays including scenes of torture while feeling heartfelt remorse and sorrow over the great pain and suffering inflicted on South Koreans by Japan's colonial rule," Koizumi said
As Koizumi made his speech, anti-Japanese protesters held a noisy protest in the vicinity surrounded by a cordon of riot police.
A planned afternoon visit to the national assembly was canceled because opposition politicians planned their own demonstrations.
War shrine visit
Koizumi has been trying to address criticism over his August 13 visit to a shrine in Tokyo honoring Japan's war dead -- including convicted war criminals.
Many Asian countries, particularly South Korea, have also condemned a school textbook approved by Japanese authorities in April that critics say glosses over Tokyo's wartime atrocities.
Koizumi covered similar ground with Chinese leaders in a visit to Beijing a week ago.
Analysts say the Japanese leader is keen to ease strains before the October 20-21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Shanghai.
Earlier, Koizumi met with South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung in a short summit.
South Korea's presidential office said the two leaders shared views on their wartime history, the September 11 terror attacks in the United States, a joint approach to North Korea, controversy surrounding fishing grounds and the two country's joint hosting of the World Cup soccer finals next year.
"The 2002 World Cup in Korea-Japan is important for the Korea-Japan relationship and should be held successfully," Koizumi said.
"The 2002 World Cup is the first important joint project in the 21st Century. Therefore, I expect that through the World Cup project, the two nations will expand their exchange programs by co-operating closely."
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