Japan and Korea paper over cracks

The weekend summit between the leaders of South Korea and Japan, hosted by President Kim Young-sam for the Japanese Prime Minister, Ryutaro Hashimoto, ended yesterday as it began, with a display of uneasy gimmickry.

When the two men had their first meeting on the Korean island of Cheju on Saturday, the gimmick was sartorial - instead of business suits and ties, the leaders wore sports jackets and open-necked shirts.

The intention was to promote a chummy, informal atmosphere. But East Asian politicians never quite cut the casual look, and the pair ended up looking more like elderly models in a menswear catalogue.

For the closing ceremony, the diplomatic image makers had come up with a different wheeze: instead of signing a joint declaration, Mr Kim and Mr Hashimoto exchanged footballs. This was an allusion to the main topic on the agenda, the 2002 World Cup which, after a fierce bidding war, has been jointly awarded to both countries.

When the result was announced last month, sports officials and candidate cities in both countries found it difficult to hide their dismay. But both leaders put a brave face on it yesterday.

"While embracing the burden of the past," said Mr Hashimoto, "we are trying to work out a future dream by taking advantage of the World Cup."

In the course of their talks, the two cautiously reaffirmed the standard bilateral positions on fisheries, security and North Korea. But the summit was more about avoiding controversy than beating out new policy.

"The burden of the past", for instance, is code for Japan's colonial occupation of Korea, the painful memory of which constantly dogs Seoul's relations with Tokyo. Its bitterest manifestation is the issue of the "comfort women" - Chinese, Europeans and, overwhelmingly, Koreans, 200,000 of whom were forcibly recruited into military brothels dedicated to servicing Japanese soldiers.

The subject was not touched on in the meeting between the two leaders but it inevitably arose in the post-summit press conference. "From the bottom of my heart I apologise and I am regretful," Mr Hashimoto told reporters. "At no time has women's honour and dignity been hurt more than in this case."

Such regrets have been voiced before, and the Prime Minister did not touch on the keenest controversy of the moment, the question of compensation for the 300 or so surviving women. After years of procrastination, the Japanese government has set up a private fund, which offers $18,500 (pounds 12,250) to each of them. Comfort women's organisations reject the sum, insisting on official compensation.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Content and PR

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor