South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Monday she hopes Japanese politicians will "get back on the right path," apparently calling for the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to face up to history and atone for colonial-era wrongdoings.
Park made the remark during a lunch meeting with the wives' association of South Korean residents in Japan, saying it is because of politicians in Japan, not ordinary people, that relations between the two neighboring nations are strained.
"I think most Japanese people have different thoughts from some Japanese politicians. The peoples of the two countries are sharing hearts through cultural exchanges," Park said.
"Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and I hope Japanese politicians will get back on the right path as early as possible."
Park also said her government will continue to move economic cooperation and cultural exchanges between the two countries forward while trying to minimize any negative impact the political tensions would have on civilian exchanges and cooperation.
Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have been badly strained due to Japan's refusal to address long-running grievances over sexual slavery and other atrocities committed during its 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea and its repeated claims to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo.
The relations soured further recently after Abe paid respects late last year at a war shrine that honors Japan's war dead, including 14 Class A war criminals. Abe was the first Japanese prime minister to visit the shrine in more than seven years.
South Korea and China, which suffered from Japan's aggression in the early 20th century, have long resented visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine by Japanese leaders, and the latest visit was considered a flagrant insult to Japan's closest neighbors.
Park has shunned a summit with Abe, saying she sees no point unless Japan first takes steps to resolve long-running grievances over colonial-era atrocities, including the sexual slavery of hundreds of thousands of young women, mostly Koreans, for front-line Japanese troops during World War II. (Yonhap News)