ROUNDUP: Japan apologizes for its colonial rule of Korea Eds: Adds more Korean reaction grafs 8-11
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan apologized Tuesday to South Korea for his nation's colonial rule of Korea ahead of the 100th anniversary of the annexation of the Korean peninsula later this month, dpa reported.
Kan expressed regret for the suffering inflicted during the 1910-45 colonial period, in a statement released five days before Koreans celebrate their independence on August 15.
Japan felt "deep remorse" and offered its "heartfelt apology for the tremendous damage and suffering" under colonial rule, the prime minister said.
Japan's colonial rule "deprived the people of Korea of their nation and culture and deeply hurt their ethnic pride," he said.
Tokyo also plans to return cultural artifacts taken from the peninsula "in the near future," Kan said.
These include some royal records of the Joseon Dynasty, currently being kept by the Japan's Imperial Household Agency, the statement said.
Kan said he hopes Japan's relations with South Korea can be strengthened at this historic juncture.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak "noted the sincerity of the statement this time and said what is important is how Japan will carry it out from now on," his spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung was quoted as saying by South Korean Yonhap News agency.
South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said Seoul "paid attention" to Japan's admission that the colonization had been against the Korean people's will.
"We expect all Japanese people to share this view," Kim said in a statement. "We recognize Prime Minister Kan's statement as his and the Japanese government's willingness to overcome the unfortunate past between Korea and Japan and to develop bright bilateral relations in the future." dpa tk tl cd se Author: Takehiko Kambayashi