South Korea's foreign minister said Thursday that Japan's wartime past will overshadow relations between the two countries until Japan educates its people about crimes committed during colonial rule.
In an interview on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, S.Korean foreign minister Kim Sung-hwan said: "We are victims of Japanese colonial rule."
Kim, speaking a few hours before "serious" talks with Japan's foreign minister, also said South Korea would not compromise in its dispute over the Dokdo islands.
"When the Japanese government claims Dokdo is their territory, Korean people (take) it as another attempt to invade our country," Kim said. "So that's the Korean sentiment and I hope that the Japanese government understands this."
Japan occupied the Korean peninsula for 35 years until the defeat of fascist forces in World War II and also occupied much of China. Japan issued a formal apology in 1993 over its use of Korean women as sex slaves by its soldiers during the war, but has failed to convince South Korea it is truly contrite.
Kim accused Japanese politicians of denying war crimes and said Japan's failure to educate its people properly about the past was the root cause of its various territorial disputes over islands in the region - including with Russia and China.
"It's in sharp contrast with what Germany did to get the support and respect from the neighboring countries" after World War II, Kim said. "If Japan does it, I'm sure they can (get) respect from neighboring countries."
The dispute escalated last month when South Korean President Lee Myung-bak made an unprecedented visit to Dokdo, which drew unusually stern criticism from Japan. South Korea has rejected a Japanese proposal for the dispute to be settled in the International Court of Justice.
The issue stirs particularly strong nationalist passions among Koreans, as Japan's takeover of Dokdo in 1905 presaged its annexation of Korea five years later. South Korea took the islands back in the early 1950s and deploys police there.