By Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL (Reuters) – President Yoon Suk Yeol plans to meet some South Korean survivors of the 1945 atomic bombing in the Japanese city of Hiroshima on the sidelines of a G7 summit, his office said on Friday.
It is Yoon’s first such meeting since taking office a year ago, as he pushes to close a chapter on feuds over history that have dominated ties with Tokyo for decades.
“This shows President Yoon’s commitment to resolving past history issues, while improving relations for the future generations of both Korea and Japan,” his spokesman told a briefing.
The meeting with the survivors, set for late on Friday, is part of an effort to not “elude the painful part of history” and console victims, he added.
During his three-day trip at the invitation of Japan, Yoon will join the summit as an observer and hold talks with U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, among others.
This month, Kishida became the first Japanese leader to visit the South Korean capital in 12 years, saying his “heart hurt” when thinking of suffering and pain during Japan’s colonial rule from 1910 to 1945, in a rare nod to wartime atrocities.
Japan conscripted many Koreans during its occupation for forced labour in Japan, Manchuria and the Russian Far East.
A plan to compensate victims of forced labour will use funds from South Korean corporates, rather than those of Japanese firms, as courts had ruled.
As many as 100,000 Koreans suffered during the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, half of them dying that year while about 43,000 returned to the South and 2,000 went to the North, the Korea Atomic Bombs Victim Association says.
Of the 2,261 victims registered with the association, fewer than 2,000 were still alive by late 2021, many old and ailing.
At a news conference in Hiroshima on Thursday, some members of the group called for a world without nuclear weapons and warned Russia against using an atomic bomb to attack Ukraine.
It welcomed a plan by Yoon and Kishida to visit a memorial in Hiroshima on Sunday and together pay tribute to Korean victims.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)