July 18, 2022
SEOUL – South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin will hold his first bilateral talk with his Japanese counterpart this week to discuss ways to improve the long-strained bilateral ties during his visit to Japan, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.
It would be the foreign minister’s first official trip to Japan after the inauguration of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration in May. During the three-day trip from Monday to Wednesday, Park is expected to discuss a series of contentious issues with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, according to the ministry.
The envisioned bilateral meeting of the foreign ministers in Japan would be the first in four years and seven months after the last one was held in December 2017.
The bilateral meeting is scheduled for Monday. Park and Hayashi are set to attend a banquet afterwards later that day in the evening.
During his trip, Park is also expected to pay tribute to the former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, who was shot during a campaign speech in the city of Nara, days before the country’s upper house elections on July 10.
Among the major sticking points expected to be discussed include the South Korean top court’s rulings in 2018 ordering Japanese companies that coerced Koreans into labor during the Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910-1945 to provide compensation for the victims.
In 2018, the South Korean Supreme Court handed down separate rulings against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel to provide compensation to Korean victims who were forced to work for them during Japan’s colonization of Korea.
But as Japan claims all issues regarding reparation were settled through a 1965 accord aimed at reviving diplomatic relations, Japanese firms have refused to comply with the ruling, prompting victims to take the issue back to court. The judges here ordered the companies to liquidate their Korea-based assets to provide the compensation in 2021.
As the two sides remain at odds over the issue, Japan has demanded that the Korean government come up with a solution. The incumbent Yoon Suk-yeol administration has launched a consultative group of public and private groups to gather opinions from officials, experts, victims and their legal representatives.
Other topics on the table stemming from their shared history include Japan’s coercion of Korean women into sexual slavery and a territorial dispute over the Dokdo islets. The two sides are also expected to talk about their joint efforts to deter North Korea’s nuclear provocations, together with the United States.
In their bilateral talks, the ministers may also discuss holding the first bilateral summit of the leaders of Korea and Japan. While South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met in person for the first time at the NATO leaders’ summit last month, they were not able to hold a bilateral summit.
At the NATO summit, two leaders held a trilateral summit involving US President Joe Biden.