SEOUL, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Visiting Japanese Foreign Minister, seeking closer ties with South Korea, said his country's occupation of Korea 100 years ago had left a "great wound."
Katsuya Okada, accompanied by his South Korean host and counterpart Yu Mying-hwan, told a news conference Thursday: "Regarding what happened 100 years ago, Japan deprived Koreans of their nation and left a great wound on their national pride," South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.
Japan's colonial rule of Korea lasted until 1945.
"We should not forget the pain of the victims," Okada said, noting the two countries should now build truly friendly relationship "for the next 100 years to come," Yonhap reported.
Japan's Kyodo News Service reported despite efforts by both countries to highlight their ties, there are concerns about anti-Japanese sentiment rising in South Korea in this historical year.
''Without turning our eyes away from the negative past history, we would like to look ahead and reinforce our truly future-oriented friendly ties,'' Kyodo quoted Okada as saying.
The Yonhap report said Okada's remarks were widely seen as an apology; during the colonial rule hundreds of thousands of Koreans were forced to do labor for Japan or into front-line brothels during World War II.
In his remarks Yu said he and Okada noted bilateral ties are becoming closer than ever and agreed to further develop them "while working to solve the issues related to the countries' past history."
Kyodo said the two officials also agreed to cooperate on climate and other global issue and while dealing with North Korea.
There was no firm commitment on granting local suffrage to foreign residents in Japan, many of them of Korean descent.