Yes, Japan and Korea disagree on several historical issues, including the history of Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo/Takeshima), but there are many other, more important things, that the two countries do agree on, which are the things that should be focused on.
Focusing on the positive aspects of Korean-Japanese relations was a concept that former Korean President Roh Mu-hyun seemed unable to understand, but Korea's new president, Lee Myung-bak, does seem to understand it. (See HERE.)
President Lee has said, "“We must not ignore the historical truth, but we cannot indefinitely postpone going forward into the future because we are bound to the past." Then he added, "Korea and Japan both need to form a future-oriented relationship with a pragmatic attitude.”
I agree completely, except that "historical truth" often depends on one's perspective, and Koreans and Japanese have to accept the fact that they have different perspectives on much of their history; otherwise, it will not be long before they are fighting again.
Besides former President Roh, many other Koreans also do not seem to understand the concept of "Agree to Disagree." Though Koreans see nothing wrong with their historians and politicians standing up and shouting "Dokdo is our land," they get extremely upset when the Japanese do the same thing by standing up and shouting, "Takeshima is our land."
Disagreeing with someone does not mean you hate them or that you are trying to ruin the relationship you have with them. It only means that you disagree with them on certain issues. It should not be used as an excuse to upset diplomatic relations, hurt economic cooperation, or stop cultural exchanges. History is something that will always be debated.
I think the Japanese government understands the concept of "agree to disagree," but I wonder if the Korean government really understands it? For example, I doubt the Japanese government expects the Korean government to stop claiming Dokdo as their territory, yet the Korean government still seems to expect Japan to stop claiming it as theirs. (See HERE). Such unrealistic expectations will only lead to disappointment and bad feelings. Both countries need to accept the fact that they disagree on history and stop making a big deal about it. I hope President Lee will continue to focus on the positive aspects of a good Korea-Japan relationship instead of later reneging on this statements to score political points, as past Korean presidents have done.
The following is an excerpt from an editorial in the Korean newspaper, The Hankyoreh. The editorial is not only an example of the writer's not seeming to understand the concept of "agree to disagree," but is also an example of what many Koreans believe.
It was not Japan that "ruined" the relationship by focusing on historical disagreements; it was Korea. Koreans had also made "reckless remarks," distorted history books, claimed Dokdo (Liancourt Rocks), and honored people and events that many Japanese do not agree with, yet the Japanese government, unlike the Korean government, did not make those issues the focus of the Japan-Korea relationship. Both Koreans and Japanese need to realize that people and countries can disagree on history but still be friends.
Lee’s call to stop being “tied to the past and move forward to the future” is in fact not something entirely new. Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun both said something similar when they were still fresh in office....
It is Japan of course that ruined these Korean efforts each time. For Kim, it was the repeated “reckless remarks” (mangeon) from members of the Japanese Cabinet that forced issues of history to make a comeback with another leading role in the relationship. For Roh, it was ultra-right-wing school history textbooks that distorted the past, territorial claims on Dokdo, and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to worship at Yasukuni Shrine.