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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2008, 14:49 GMT
Japan returns Korean WWII remains
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Japan has handed over the remains of 101 South Koreans who were forced to fight for the Japanese army during World War II.

South Korean officials and relatives of the dead are flying the remains back to Seoul, after a memorial service in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Officials said it was the first time the two governments had arranged such a ceremonial handover.

About 22,000 South Koreans died fighting for Japan during the war.

Many others were forced to work in Japanese factories or as prostitutes.

Controversial shrine

More than 1,000 sets of remains have been handed over to diplomats, but officials said it was the first time South Korean families had been invited to a government-level ceremony.

Kim Kyeong-bong, whose brother Kim Jeong-bong was conscripted at the age of 20, read a eulogy at the ceremony.

"My elder brother was forced into the war and died alone in a faraway land at such an early age," Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo quoted him as saying.

"May he rest in peace when he returns to the homeland."

South Korea's ambassador to Tokyo, Yu Myung-hwan, called the ceremony "a valuable start to heal historical wounds between the two countries".

"Friendly, peaceful and forward-looking relations between Korea and Japan will be achieved only when we look straight at the past and make a sincere effort," he said.

Japan's Deputy Foreign Minister Hitoshi Kimura offered an apology as a representative of his nation for having "inflicted suffering on Koreans".

The two countries began an effort in 2004 to repatriate remains, amid lingering tension over Japan's attitude to its wartime past.

The issue of Korean women being forced to act as prostitutes has caused tension.

And Junichiro Koizumi, Japanese leader between 2001 and 2006, inflamed the situation by paying annual pilgrimages to the Yasukuni shrine that venerates Japanese war dead and holds a number of war criminals.

SEE ALSO
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23 Aug 07 |  South Asia
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