South Korea's Yoon meets Hiroshima survivors for the first time

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visits South Korea

By Hyonhee Shin and Hyunsu Yim

SEOUL (Reuters) -President Yoon Suk Yeol met some South Korean survivors of the 1945 atomic bombing in the Japanese city of Hiroshima on the sidelines of a G7 summit on Friday.

The meeting comes as Yoon pushes to close a chapter on historic feuds that have dominated ties with Tokyo for decades.

"As President, I deeply apologize that your homeland could not be there while you were suffering from pain and sadness," Yoon said at the meeting.

Yoon is the first South Korean president to meet with the survivors, a presidential spokesperson said.

As many as 100,000 Koreans suffered during the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, half of them dying that year while about 43,000 returned to the South and 2,000 went to the North, the Korea Atomic Bombs Victim Association says.

Of the 2,261 victims registered with the association, fewer than 2,000 were still alive by late 2021.

During his three-day trip at the invitation of Japan, Yoon will join the summit as an observer and hold talks with U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, among others.

This month, Kishida became the first Japanese leader to visit the South Korean capital in 12 years, saying his "heart hurt" when thinking of suffering and pain during Japan's colonial rule from 1910 to 1945, in a rare nod to wartime atrocities.

Japan conscripted many Koreans during its occupation for forced labour in Japan, Manchuria and the Russian Far East.

A plan to compensate victims of forced labour will use funds from South Korean corporates, rather than those of Japanese firms, as courts had ruled.

At a news conference in Hiroshima on Thursday, some members of the Korea Atomic Bombs Victim Association called for a world without nuclear weapons and warned Russia against using an atomic bomb to attack Ukraine.

It welcomed a plan by Yoon and Kishida to visit a memorial in Hiroshima on Sunday and together pay tribute to Korean victims.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Christina Fincher)