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North Korean delegation visits South to attend history forum

North Korean vice chairman of the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee Ri Jong Hyok, center, arrives at the Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. A five-member North Korean delegation is visiting South Korea to attend an academic forum on Japan's wartime actions. (Kim In-chul/Yonhap via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A five-member North Korean delegation came to South Korea on Wednesday to attend an academic forum on Japan’s wartime actions, as the rivals continue reconciliation efforts despite stalemated U.S.-led nuclear diplomacy.

The North Koreans are among 300 people from nine countries who are taking part in Friday’s forum near Seoul. The meeting will discuss Japan’s forced mobilization of laborers in the region during World War II and how to boost exchanges now among Asia-Pacific countries.

The North Koreans are led by Ri Jong Hyok, vice chairman of the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee. Participants from other countries including South Korea, Japan and China, are mostly civilian scholars and former officials. Ex-Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who has been apologetic about Japan’s past wrongdoing, will represent the Japanese side, according to organizers.

The forum is organized by Gyeonggi province, which surrounds Seoul, and a South Korean civic organization. The South Korean government has said it has no plans to meet with the North Koreans during their four-day visit.

Anti-Japanese sentiment runs deep in both Koreas because the Korean Peninsula was colonized by Japan for 35 years before its division at the end of World War II in 1945. However, the Koreas have rarely taken joint steps to tackle history and other issues stemming from the colonization because of their decades-long split.

Relations between the Koreas have improved this year, with the North entering disarmament talks with a vague promise to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. U.S.-North Korea talks have reported little recent progress as skepticism has grown over whether the North is truly committed to disarmament.

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