Nevertheless, these two forward-thinking statesmen knew that the best way to look to the future was to take an honest look at the past. It was no small concession for either that they came up with a comprehensive declaration that would light the way to a better tomorrow.
The two leaders shared the view that in order for Japan and the Republic of Korea to build solid, good-neighborly and friendly relations in the twenty-first century, it was important that both countries squarely face the past and develop relations based on mutual understanding and trust.Sadly, Mr. Obuchi became deathly ill, suffering a stroke and lapsing into a coma, eventually dying. He was replaced by a man said to have "the heart of a flea and the brain of a shark," and his successor's successor seemed to scoff at the plans he had made with his friend, Mr. Kim, who long ago had sought refuge in the Land of the Rising Sun. For his part, Mr. Kim's term of office ended and he was replaced by a man with about as much sense of statecraft as a court jester. Both of these "leaders" chose to pander to nationalistic sentiments, one on the left wing and the other on the right wing, in a bid to bolster their position by seeking support from the vocal fringe.
Looking back on the relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea during this century, Prime Minister Obuchi regarded in a spirit of humility the fact of history that Japan caused, during a certain period in the past, tremendous damage and suffering to the people of the Republic of Korea through its colonial rule, and expressed his deep remorse and heartfelt apology for this fact.
President Kim accepted with sincerity this statement of Prime Minister Obuchi's recognition of history and expressed his appreciation for it. He also expressed his view that the present calls upon both countries to overcome their unfortunate history and to build a future-oriented relationship based on reconciliation as well as good-neighborly and friendly cooperation.
Further, both leaders shared the view that it was important that the peoples of both countries, the young generation in particular, deepen their understanding of history, and stressed the need to devote much attention and effort to that end.
Today, the long ago agreement seems to have been forgotten by the foolish rulers of the two lands. The pendulum of politics is swinging in each land, but for now the pendula are swinging in opposite directions, one to the left and one to the right.
But perhaps the spirit of the agreement is not lost. Maybe some day, the court jester and the man with the man with the flowing locks will be a distant memory, and they will be replaced by sage rulers who realize the two lands make far better friends than they do enemies, as Mssrs. Obuchi and Kim thought not so long ago.
Or is this just a fairy tale?