Japan’s top envoy takes time for informal talks

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Japan’s top envoy takes time for informal talks


Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, right, and Japanese Ambassador to Seoul Koro Bessho talk at the 10th Anniversary Korea-Japan Festival, held at Coex in southern Seoul yesterday. [NEWS1]

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se yesterday held his first one-on-one talks with Japanese Ambassador Koro Bessho along the sidelines of an annual Korea-Japan cultural festival in Seoul, signaling a possible ease in relations between the neighboring nations.

Yun sat down for a conversation over tea with Bessho, who took his post in Seoul in March 2013, along the sidelines of the 10th Anniversary Korea-Japan Festival, held at Coex in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This marks the first joint cultural event that the minister has attended since the start of the Park Geun-hye administration in February 2013.

Yun was scheduled to hold official talks with Bessho at the end of last year, but following Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s unexpected visit in late December to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines World War II war criminals, the meeting was canceled.

This time it was anticipated that the two would discuss key issues related to historical and territorial disputes between Korea and Japan.

Yun and Bessho addressed some concerns, though they did not talk about them in-depth because of the informal nature of the meeting.

“I think it is a positive thing that the minister came to such an event,” Bessho told reporters after the meeting. “I look forward to continued exchanges as an opportunity to make even a little headway in Korea-Japan relations.”

“We are also on the same page in regards to wanting mutual efforts to prepare for next year,” he added.

Because next year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalizations of bilateral ties, Bessho said, “I hope we can make a new starting point.”

The festival marks the largest cultural event between Korea and Japan since the onset of the Abe administration. While the relationship between the two nations has been fraught recently with historical and territorial issues, there is anticipation that some of that tension may ease before the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties.

The Korea-Japan Festival was launched in 2005 in Seoul to mark the 40th anniversary of bilateral ties and to expand cultural contact. It has been hosted by both Seoul and Tokyo since 2009.

Yun and Bessho sat together and watched a collaborative performance by renowned Korean traditional percussionist Kim Duk-soo’s samulnori troop and Hikami Daiko’s taiko ensemble.

Samulnori is a genre of traditional Korean percussion music, while taiko refers to a collection or ensemble of Japanese drums.

“Cultural exchange will enable the people of the two countries to open their hearts to one another and other similar events will be hosted ahead of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Korea-Japan relations next year,” Yun said at the festival.

On Thursday, Japan, China and Korea held the ninth round of talks in Seoul among their foreign deputy ministers, the first gathering of its kind in 10 months.

However, the three delegations did not reach a breakthrough in the resumption of a long-stalled leaders’ summit.

However, they did agree to expand trilateral cooperation and explored the possibility of holding a summit with their foreign ministers before the end of the year.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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