July 19, 2022
SEOUL – South Korea and Japan appear to be making good on their respective leaders’ pledges to seek better relations, with Seoul’s foreign minister making the first official visit to the country in nearly five years.
On Monday, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin met with his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi to discuss a series of contentious issues between the two countries, as well as North Korea-related issues
It is Park’s first official trip after the inauguration of President Yoon Suk-yeol in May, and also the first visit by a Korean foreign minister to Tokyo in four years and seven months.
Upon arrival at the Haneda International Airport in Japan, Park said he would talk about stable operation of the General Security of Military Information Agreement, an intelligence-sharing pact forged between Seoul and Tokyo in 2016.
“The changing global supply chain and economic security is ever more important, so Japan’s trade curbs (imposed against South Korea) should be lifted,” Park said.
“Nuclear and missile threats from North Korea is also escalating, and South Korea and Japan also need to work together to handle this matter.”
Under the GSOMIA, the two countries had exchanged dozens of pieces of military information up to 2019. Following a ruling from Seoul’s top court ordering Japanese companies to provide compensation for Korean victims they forced into labor during wartime in 2018, Japan introduced trade-curbing measures in retaliation.
The exchange of military information between the two countries also dwindled following the series of disputes.
The bilateral meeting with Japanese foreign minister was held in the afternoon, with a banquet scheduled afterward.
Park is also expected to hold a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday. Park confirmed the schedule when asked by reporters at the airport on Monday.
Park will deliver his condolences for the death of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was shot during a campaign speech earlier this month.
Park’s three-day trip comes as part of President Yoon’s efforts to rebuild ties with Japan, as bilateral relations have reached their lowest point in recent years.
The neighboring countries have been at odds over a series of issues deriving from Japan’s human rights violations during its colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
Park was expected to broach the issue of South Korea’s top court ruling, which ordered Japanese firms to sell off their assets based in Korea to provide compensations for the victims they forced into labor during wartime, in 2018.
With the Korean court set to finalize the order in the coming months, the Japanese companies have refused to comply with the ruling, citing that all reparation issues were already settled through the agreement of the two countries in 1965.
The Japanese government has also been urging South Korea to come up with a solution to the issue.
During the bilateral talk with Hayashi, Park is also expected to touch on potential solutions and opinions gathered from Korea’s consultative entity of public and private groups, where government officials, experts, victims and their legal representatives discuss the issue.
“As you know, we are currently operating a public-private consultative group and have received many good opinions. I will explain them to the Japanese government and we will find ways to resolve the issue in the most rational way,” Park said at the airport.
Park also said he will deliver President Yoon Suk-yeol’s message and Yoon’s determination to improve bilateral ties with Japan.
The two sides were also expected to discuss their joint efforts to deter North Korea’s nuclear provocations together with the United States.