South Korea’s newly elected, and first female president, Park Geun-Hye, revealed on Friday that she has agreed to meet with a Japanese envoy dispatched by the country’s new prime minister, Shinzo Abe. Shortly after Park’s election win, Abe dispatched envoys to both Korea and China, with the hopes of beginning to mend diplomatic ties. Park, however, quickly turned down the meeting, citing a busy schedule.
A spokeswoman for the South Korean government says the meeting with the Japanese delegation, which has not yet been named, is now scheduled for January 4th. Abe originally had sent Fukushiro Nukaga, a former finance minister, to meet with Park and present her with a letter offering congratulations on the election win, as well as seeking improved relations after recent territorial and historical disputes have resulted in heightened tensions. While scheduling was the reason given, many saw Park’s decline as the South Korean government’s hesitation to meet with Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party, who won their election by campaigning on a nationalist platform.
Park officially takes her position in February, but she has previously stated that under her rule, South Korea will not negotiate on its claims over the Dokdo Islands, the disputed territory that Japan refers to as Takeshima. The other source of tensions between the two countries is bitter feelings held by many Koreans over Japan’s colonial rule from 1910 to 1945, along with what they see as Tokyo’s refusal to make amends for the forcing of women to serve as sexual slave to the Imperial Army. This topic is likely to get much worse before it gets better, as Abe’s Cabinet stated yesterday that it may revise previous apologies and official statements about the use of “comfort women” during World War II.