Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's expression of remorse over shared history came of his own accord without prior consultations between Seoul and Tokyo, sources said Monday.
South Koreans paid close attention to whether Kishida would apologize or express remorse over Tokyo's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula when he held a summit with President Yoon Suk Yeol in Seoul on Sunday.
In a joint press conference following the summit, Kishida made a reference to forced labor victims of the colonial period, saying, "My heart aches over the fact that many people had an extremely painful and sad experience in harsh conditions at the time."
A presidential official told Yonhap News Agency Monday that the remark was not coordinated in advance of the summit.
"I think Prime Minister Kishida thought he should reciprocate in some way the determination of President Yoon Suk Yeol" to improve bilateral ties, another presidential official said, referring to steps Yoon has taken to mend the badly frayed relations.
Some South Koreans have regarded the Yoon administration's decision in March to compensate Korean forced labor victims without the involvement of Japanese firms as a major concession to Japan.
National Security Adviser Cho Tae-yong reportedly conveyed South Koreans' wish for "reciprocal action" from Kishida when he met with his Japanese counterpart, Takeo Akiba, last week.
Yoon, however, told Akiba to tell Kishida "not to feel too much pressure," according to sources.
Ahead of his departure to Seoul, Kishida reportedly told Japanese officials to leave the history issues to him.
Source: Yonhap News Agency