Remains issue clouds Tokyo-Seoul ties

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Historical issues involving Japan and South Korea have entered a new phase with the inauguration in Seoul last week of a conservative president and the return to South Korea last January of the remains of 101 Koreans who died while forcibly serving in the Japanese military during World War II.

President Lee Myung Bak has said he "does not want to tell Japan to apologize or engage in self-reflection," calling instead for future-oriented ties and a "mature relationship" with Tokyo. Lee began his five-year term on Feb. 25, replacing a liberal leader who spoke of a "diplomatic war" over history.

Yet the tough stance of previous President Roh Moo Hyun, coupled with vigorous cross-border activism involving South Korean and Japanese citizens, has begun yielding real results. Japan is cooperating "on humanitarian grounds" in resolving some historical legacies, while digging in its heels on many others.

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