Old hatreds bred from old atrocities and injustices are slow to disappear. South Korean President Park Geun Hye said at the start of visits to France and Britain this week that she is willing to hold a summit with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, whose country regularly threatens war against South Korea.
But she rejects flatly any idea of meeting the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, until Japan apologises for wrongdoings during its 35-year occupation of Korea.
In particular, South Korea wants a deeper apology and greater compensation for an estimated 200,000 South Korean "comfort women" who were forced to work as prostitutes in Japanese military brothels during the occupation. Everything to do with the 1910-45 Japanese occupation of Korea, brutal and authoritarian even compared with most other imperial occupations, still festers.
The Japanese response to Park's remarks - that what happened during the occupation and World War II is very ancient history - is not going to mollify South Korean resentments.
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The speed of South Korea's economic development is astonishing. The country is now the sixth-biggest exporter and the 15th-biggest economy in the world. Yet a sense of vulnerability bred from past humiliations and suffering still lies not far beneath the surface.
South Korea may be courted by world leaders today but look back just over a century to 1905 when one of Korea's first diplomats in London, Yi Han Yeung, took poison and killed himself because there was nothing he could do to prevent Japan's takeover of Korea with the approval of Britain.
Park's visit to Britain is marked by events and exhibitions aiming to show South Korea's cultural and technological prowess. But the exhibit that is most original, interesting and revealing about modern South Korea in an exhibition at Old Billingsgate is a long, raised garden of green plants and ferns growing in a bed of gravel and an occasional rock with a stream of water running down the middle.
Ji Hae Hwang, the designer, had filled the garden with green plants and only a few flowers to underline a lack of gaudiness in the Korean character. Somehow, this strange and wonderful garden seemed to tell one more about the Korean character than all the other gadgets and designer items on display.