North, South Korean resident groups met in Japan

Rival groups representing Koreans in Japan, long divided in their allegiances to either communist North Korea or capitalist South Korea, met for the first time Wednesday and agreed to end decades of emnity and foster a common ethnic identity.

Leaders of the two groups, the pro-North General Association of Korean Residents in Japan and the pro-South Korean Residents Union in Japan, held talks Wednesday morning and issued a joint statement promising to increase future cooperation.

Politics have long bitterly divided Japan's biggest ethnic minority.

Many of the roughly 600,000 ethnic Koreans here are the descendents of men and women who came to Japan as forced laborers when the Korean Peninsula was a Japanese colony from 1910 until Tokyo's surrender ended World War II in 1945.

Today, about 200,000 are affiliated with Pyongyang, making them the largest concentration of North Koreans outside North Korea or China. The pro-South group, known informally as Mindan, represents many of the other Korean residents, mostly affiliated with Seoul.

Regardless of their political affiliation, Koreans in Japan are often the subject of harsh discrimination, particularly in employment, marriage and other social areas. Most are now born and raised in this country, however, and often have little direct connection with Korea.

So Chung On, a spokesman for the pro-North group, said the meeting was a "historic moment."

"We have agreed to find areas on which we can cooperate," he said. "We still have our differences, but we are all Koreans. There is no mistake about that, " reports the AP.


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