Scholars say annexation of Korea by Japan coerced

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Scholars say annexation of Korea by Japan coerced

A group of Korean and Japanese scholars concluded yesterday in a study commissioned by the two governments that Japan’s annexation of Korea was done over the objection of Koreans.

Observers here expect the joint study, the conclusions of which match an Aug. 10 statement by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, to end any denial that Koreans were coerced into the annexation, which led to a 35-year colonial rule of Korea along with tragic events like sex slavery and forced labor.

“Japan embarked on annexing Korea with power in the face of opposition from Koreans in the early 20th century,” the final report by 13 Korean and 13 Japanese scholars read.

“The numerous losses, pains and the national grudge brought on by such a colonizing process and the colonial rule afterward are factors impeding the Korea-Japan relationship from being normalized since 1945.”

The scholars, led by Ha Young-sun of Seoul National University and Masao Okonogi of Keio University, began conducting the study in February 2009. Ha and Okonogi announced the result of the study at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Seoul yesterday.

“The statement mentioning that the annexation and the colonization were done based on power could be virtually interpreted as [the annexation] having an element of coerciveness,” Ha told reporters.

Japanese Prime Minister Kan acknowledged that colonial rule was forced upon Korea against the will of its people in an address on Aug. 10, the first time a Japanese prime minister had made such an admission.

The controversy over whether the annexation was legitimate or not, which could expose Japan to financial liabilities, lingers and the scholars reached no conclusion on the point.

The study, named “A joint study project for the new Korea-Japan era,” was also intended to come up with policy proposals for improving the bilateral relations.

Among its forward-looking proposals is realizing “Campus Asia,” a deeper-level of student exchange programs.

“It [the student exchange program] should not stop at such levels as [short-term] mutual visits by students, exchange of academic units or joint degrees,” Okinogi said. “We should foster leaders in the era of an incorporated [East Asia].”

The creation of an “East Asian Knowledge Bank” was another suggestion. It proposes a database of historical records and political or diplomatic documents from the East Asia region and translation of classic books written by East Asians.

The scholars also called for building an undersea tunnel linking the two countries, cooperation on North Korean issues and the signing of a free trade agreement as other methods of future-oriented bilateral cooperation.

By Moon Gwang-lip []
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