SEOUL, July 2 (UPI) -- South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan issued an apology Monday for pursuing a military pact with Japan without working harder to gain public support.
"I sincerely apologize to our people for failing to smoothly proceed with the planned signing of a military agreement with Japan," Kim said three days after a delay in signing the agreement with the country's one-time colonial ruler. "I humbly accept criticism that our ministry didn't make efforts to seek people's understanding and support for the pact."
South Korea Friday postponed the signing of the intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan about an hour before the two nations were to formally ink the pact in Tokyo, Yonhap reported.
Observers said the delay highlighted how volatile the issue of military cooperation with Japan is in South Korea, where many citizens harbor bitterness toward Japan because of its brutal colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.
The General Security of Military Information Agreement would allow Seoul and Tokyo to exchange military intelligence on North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, as well as information about China, Seoul officials said.
Lee Hae-chan, leader of the opposition Democratic United Party, has called Kim to be held accountable for mishandling the scheduled signing.
During Monday's news conference, Kim said the accountability question should be discussed after the pact is signed, Yonhap said.
"As the opposition party is said to be considering raising the issue of who should be held responsible, let's talk about the issue once they make a decision," Kim said. "I am now trying to seek the people's understanding and parliamentary support."