The Associated Press reported that on August 10, Japan apologized to South Korea for its colonial rule over the country, seeking to strengthen ties between the two countries ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Japanese annexation of the Korean peninsula. During Japan’s occupation from 1910-45, many Koreans were forced to fight as front-line soldiers, work in slave-labor conditions, or serve as prostitutes in brothels operated by the military. Older Koreans still remember atrocities committed by Japan, and the issue remains sensitive decades later. “For the enormous damage and suffering caused by this colonization, I would like to express once again our deep remorse and sincerely apologize,” Prime Minister Naoto Kan said in a statement approved by the Cabinet. Some victims of Japan’s rule called Tokyo’s apology insufficient. Later that day, about 50 South Korean activists rallied in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, urging Tokyo to offer a more sincere apology and return all Korean cultural artifacts in its possession. Despite their troubled history, Tokyo and Seoul remain closely tied economically and militarily.

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