by Kim Junghyun
SEOUL, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- With the centenary of Japan's past colonization of the Korean peninsula less than three weeks away, South Korea on Tuesday embraced Japan's renewed apology for its past colonization of the peninsula with mixed feelings.
"I express a renewed feeling of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology for the tremendous damage and suffering caused by colonial rule," Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said in a statement, according to Japanese media reports.
He admitted that the annexation was against Korean people's will. "It is easy for the side that inflicted the pain to forget, while those who suffered that pain cannot easily forget," he said.
The prime minister's remarks were reminiscent of the 1995 statement by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, who acknowledged Japan's wartime atrocities inflicted upon Asian nations, including South Korea. Kan's apology was directed only at Seoul.
Kan, who took office in early June, also promised to return historical artifacts plundered during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial occupation of the peninsula, including a collection of royal documents from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).
His Democratic Party of Japan, which ended 50 years of conservative rule of the Liberal Democratic Party in a historical election victory last year, has traditionally advocated better ties with Japan's Asian neighbors.
Such party views had garnered much anticipation among liberal activists and politicians here for breakthroughs in issues stemming from the colonial era, which ranges from territorial disputes to interpretations of history to compensation for South Koreans forced into labor during the occupation.