China Concerned at Rift with S. Korea Over Ancient Kingdom, Seoul Official Says

A Chinese international relations official expressed concern over the country's diplomatic conflict with South Korea over the status of an ancient kingdom, a Seoul official said Friday.

China believes the dispute over the Koguryo Kingdom (38 B.C.-A.D. 668) should not affect its relationship with South Korea, Wang Jiarui, minister of the department of liaison of the central committee of the Communist Party, was quoted as saying by Seoul's ruling party spokeswoman, Kim Hyun-mi.

Wang made the remark during a brief meeting with Uri Party chairman Lee Bu-young, who is visiting Beijing to attend the International Conference of Asian Political Parties, a meeting of regional lawmakers, which opened Thursday and will last for four days.

"Koguryo is a spiritual home for the Korean people, and Koreans hope the Chinese Communist Party and its government will take visible action to solve the dispute," Lee was quoted by the spokeswoman as saying.

The Koguryo Kingdom stretched from the upper Korean Peninsula into what is today Manchuria in China. A dispute has arisen between China and the two Koreas over the historical status of the kingdom. It has long been recognized throughout Asia that Koguryo was part of a grouping of three ancient Korean kingdoms along with Baekje and Shilla, which governed the southern part of the peninsula to the west and east, respectively.

China launched a high-budget project in 2002 on the ancient history of its northeastern region, proclaiming a new perspective that the past should be interpreted from the modern-day situation.

During the conference, the South Korean delegation plans to meet Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, to discourage China from claiming the kingdom. The meeting is yet to be arranged.

The South Korean lawmakers are also seeking to meet the North Korean delegation in efforts to improve inter-Korean relations, which have soured lately due to Seoul's acceptance of hundreds of North Korean defectors last month.

(Yonhap News 2004-9-3)