South Korean and Japanese cabinet ministers today discussed thorny trade and societal issues that continue to divide their two countries but appeared to have made little progress toward resolving them.
The talks came in the second day of South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan's official visit to Japan, the first by a Korean head of state, as ceremony gave way to talk of practical differences.
Chun closed the day by suggesting in a dinner speech that Tokyo would be a suitable place for a meeting between himself and Kim Il Sung, president of the rival Communist government in North Korea. Chun had previously called for talks in Korea or an unspecified third country.
Chun's visit marks a high point in Japanese-South Korean relations, which for years have been poisoned by Japan's 35-year colonial rule of Korea. But in meetings today, Chun's ministers and their Japanese counterparts restated long-standing, conflicting positions on specific bilateral issues.
South Korean Justice Minister Bae Myung In asked Japan to stop requiring that 670,000 Koreans who live here permanently be fingerprinted when they renew their registration papers. Koreans say the practice equates them with criminals.
But Japanese Justice Minister Eisaku Sumi told Bae that fingerprinting for identification "is a necessary system for Japan under the present circumstances," according to a Japanese Foreign Ministry official. Sumi did, however, promise further consideration.
At another meeting, South Korean Economic Planning Minister Shin Byong Hyun underlined his government's position that Japan should provide more technology. South Korea argues that this is the key to correcting a trade imbalance that has created a $30 billion deficit for South Korea since 1965.
But Toshio Komoto, director general of Japan's Economic Planning Agency, responded that technology was the property of private companies. "The government cannot force them to transfer," he told Shin, according to the Foreign Ministry official.
In the field of cultural exchanges, it was the Koreans who were on the defensive.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Minister Takao Fujinami complained that Japanese movies and songs are banned in South Korea and that at festivals, performers cannot even sing in Japanese. These practices were a reaction to the colonial era, during which many Japanese customs and practices were forcibly introduced.
"Japanese culture cannot be presented to the Korean people," Fujinami complained. South Korean Information Minister Lee Jin Hie replied that his government "must respect the national feeling among the Korean people."
Chun, meanwhile, refused to involve himself in bilateral issues. This morning, in a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, he surprised the Japanese by requesting that they be left to the ministers.
Today's meeting was his second with Nakasone. In both, Chun outlined his position on the need for vigilance in Korea and "prudence" in dealing with the North, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Nakasone's response in both sessions underlined differences between the two governments. He said Japan would not alter its support of South Korea, unless there were unspecified major changes in the international situation. But it also would not cut off its unofficial trade links with the North.
North Korea may be coming out of its current "isolationism," Nakasone said. Although the South has called for dialogue with the North, much of its diplomacy is aimed at isolating the government there.
Chun continued today to move under heavy guard that caused traffic jams by closing busy streets. In his meeting with Nakasone, he expressed regret that his presence in Tokyo had caused inconvenience to so many of its residents.