S. Korea to File Complaint with China over History Dispute

South Korea said Friday it will file a complaint with China over Beijing's violation of an agreement not to claim that an ancient Korean kingdom is part of its history.

The two countries are at odds over a series of Chinese attempts to lay claim to Korea's Koguryo Kingdom (37 B.C.-668 A.D.), which controlled the upper part of the Korean Peninsula and much of what is today Manchuria in China.

The dispute cooled down last month as the two sides reached a five-point "verbal understanding," pledging efforts to prevent the history row from damaging their flourishing ties.

Although it was not specifically mentioned in the agreement, South Korean officials said they were assured by their Chinese counterparts that there would be no more government-level attempts to claim the kingdom as Chinese.

On Wednesday, however, a Chinese monthly magazine, published by a culture ministry-affiliated organization, repeated the Koguryo claim in its latest edition, saying the kingdom was a provincial regime of an ethnic minority living in China.

Published both in Chinese and English editions, the magazine has subscribers in 180 countries across the world and also operates an Internet site.

"We will file a formal complaint with China through our embassy in Beijing," Foreign Ministry spokesman Lee Kyu-hyung said.

"We will demand China to explain how this happened and take corrective measures in accordance with the verbal understanding the two sides reached last month," he said.

Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan said the three Northeast Asian countries -- China, South Korea and Japan -- should launch efforts to phase out emotional disputes and confrontation by recognizing historical facts and narrowing differences of opinion about history through the expansion of academic exchanges.

In an opening speech at the Northeast Asia Economic Forum in Seoul, Lee said such a dispute over history will be not be helpful for the prosperity and development of the region.

"We need to overcome the legacy of the past and resolve different views of regional countries about history based on historical facts as pre-conditions for promoting economic cooperation of Northeast Asian countries," he said.

The dispute began earlier this year when a state-funded Chinese history project claimed that Koguryo was part of Chinese history.

In April, China's Foreign Ministry deleted references to Koguryo from pages on Korean history on its Web site. The move, which followed a series of similar ones by other Chinese academic and media organizations, was interpreted as an attempt by China to claim the kingdom as part of its own history.

South Korea demanded the references be restored, but China, instead of accepting the demand, removed the entire description of Korea's history up until 1948, when South Korea was established.

Seoul sent a strong warning to Beijing over the issue, saying a crisis could occur in their relations, before the two countries worked out last month's agreement.

By Chang Jae-soon

(Yonhap News 2004-9-17)