South Korea and China have settled a row over an ancient kingdom that disappeared more than 1,000 years ago, officials said yesterday, mending a rift in the two countries' flourishing ties. \nChina agreed not to lay claim to the state of Koguryo, which straddled modern Manchuria from 57BC to 668AD, after both countries' officials reached a "verbal understanding," South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said. \nClash of cultures \nKoreans believe their ancestors founded the kingdom, which is rich in archeological relics -- including priceless paintings on the murals of burial sites -- and regard it as part of their national identity. \nBut they were outraged earlier this year when a state-funded Chinese history project claimed that Koguryo was always part of China. \n"China is mindful of the fact that the Koguryo question has emerged as a serious pending issue between the two countries," Ban said of the agreement, which was not put in writing. \nThe vaguely worded "understanding" did not specifically mention China's promise not to claim the kingdom as its history, but the two sides agreed to take it as meaning just that, another South Korean foreign ministry official said. \nIt also called for efforts to prevent the dispute from turning into a major political issue and to organize academic exchanges on the matter, the official said. \nChina, however, did not accept Seoul's demand that Beijing's foreign ministry restore deleted references to Koguryo from its Web site on Korean history. \nIn its heyday, Koguryo -- which is also known as Koryo, the origin of the name Korea -- encompassed much of what is now the border between China and North Korea. \nIt vanished after being conquered by China's Tang dynasty. \nSouth Korean politicians were up in arms over the row, accusing the Chinese government of attempting to rob Koreans of one of the gems of their cultural heritage. \nChina's news media had also waded into the dispute, claiming that Koguryo was a provincial government of China under the central authority of Beijing. \nHowever, the two sides have now agreed to make joint efforts to prevent the historical row undermining ties which have been developing fast since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992. \nChina was particularly concerned by the prospect of a reunified North and South Korea making claims on the area formerly covered by the ancient nation. \n"Although this is not included in the points of understanding, China showed acute reactions to claims by some Korean politicians and scholars that the Chinese far-eastern provinces [that used to be Koguryo territory] should be returned to Korea," Ban said. \n"China called for the [South Korean] government to restrain them," he added. \nNorth Korea, which lovingly maintains Koguryo tombs and relics on its territory, has so far remained silent on the dispute with China, a key ally of the Stalinist state. \nunited in anger \nThe dispute is one of the few issues to unite ruling and opposition parties in South Korea at a time of deep divisions on key issues including North Korea, the lackluster economy and the US-led war in Iraq. \nThe accord on Monday came after China's newly appointed vice minister, Wu Dawei, flew to Seoul on Sunday for a series of meetings with South Korean officials.
A CAUTIONARY TALE: Bookseller Lam Wing-kee speaks of the danger that his adopted home Taiwan now faces and the ordeal of his detention in China Lam Wing-kee (林榮基) leaned forward in his chair, answering quickly and sharply to issue a warning to the people of his new home, Taiwan. “Be ready now,” Lam said. “We should be more alert as citizens, we should get ready,” the 64-year-old Hong Konger said. “If they can take Hong Kong back, the next place, I feel, is Taiwan.” Late in Taipei at Causeway Bay Books Mark II, on the 10th floor of a nondescript building, Lam, a wiry, gray-haired bookseller, was sitting at his desk with a bemused gaze behind thin oval glasses. The desk was neat, but crowded with books and a
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