Restored Gwanghwamun opens on Liberation Day

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Restored Gwanghwamun opens on Liberation Day

President Lee Myung-bak said yesterday that Korea believes that Japan showed sincerity in reflecting on the troubled history shared by the two countries.

The remark, made as part of Lee’s Liberation Day speech, was in response to the statement by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan last Tuesday, which was the first direct, official apology by Japan for the country’s colonial rule of Korea.

“For the first time a few days ago, the Japanese prime minister, on behalf of his government, issued a special formal statement to Korea reflecting on and apologizing for the colonial rule that had been imposed over Korea against the will of the Korean people,” Lee said.

Lee delivered the speech at the ceremony marking the 65th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from the 35-year-long Japanese colonial rule. The ceremony was held at Gwanghwamun Plaza in front of the palace gate in central Seoul and drew around 4,500 people, including prominent figures and civic leaders.

The ceremony included the unveiling of the restored Gwanghwamun, the front gate of the Gyeongbok Palace, which has suffered at the hands of the Japanese.

The royal palace gate was burned down by Japanese in the 1590s. The gate, which was rebuilt in the late 19th century, was moved from the front of the palace to the northeastern corner by the Japanese colonial rulers.

It was again destroyed during the Korean War and restored under the Park Chung Hee government. The latest restoration was meant to return it to its original condition during the Joseon period.

“A century ago, we lost our country,” Lee said. “Gwangwhamun was blocked and neglected, and the flow of our national spirit was choked off.”

Lee said the Japanese aggression in Korea’s history caused suffering and tribulation for the Korean people, but Korea is ready to move on, to build a future-oriented relationship with Japan.

“As we reflect on Japan’s forced annexation of Korea 100 years ago, there is a definite need for the two countries to chart a new course for the years to come,” Lee said.
To that end, however, Lee said issues remain to be resolved and he urged the two countries to take measures to improve the relationship.

Kan’s statement, despite its sincerity, was seen as lacking substantial reflection on the past, some analysts said.

Specifically it lacked comments on the illegality of the forced annexation, which might impose on Japan a liability for the damage it caused to individual Korean victims, as well as an apology about the “comfort women.”


[joe@joongang.co.kr]

President Lee Myung-bak giving the Liberation Day speech yesterday. [NEWSIS]

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