Seoul has ‘will’ for Tokyo relationsKorean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said that Seoul has a “clear will” to improve relations in a future-oriented manner with Japan in a press conference Thursday, despite current difficulties over historical issues.
Kang said, “Japanese Emperor Naruhito ascended the throne, ushering in a new era for Japan, and we will continue to push for the development of a future-oriented relationship while squarely facing history.”
Korea and Japan face bilateral tensions over historical issues, including Korean forced laborers and the victims of wartime sexual slavery during colonial rule and World War II.
Korean President Moon Jae-in sent a message to congratulate the new Japanese emperor, Naruhito, who ascended the throne Wednesday, succeeding his father, Akihito, who abdicated a day earlier. His ascension signals the start of the Reiwa era. On Tuesday, Moon also delivered a message to former Emperor Akihito expressing appreciation for his role in developing relations between Korea and Japan.
Japan has objected to the Korean Supreme Court’s landmark decisions last year calling for two Japanese companies - Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries - to compensate Korean victims of forced labor from the colonial era. Korea last year disbanded a Tokyo-funded foundation for comfort women victims created under the 2015 bilateral agreement that attempted to resolve the sexual slavery issue, which was deemed insufficient by the Moon administration. Tensions escalated at the end of last year after Japan accused a Korean warship of locking its fire-control radar on a Japanese maritime patrol aircraft in December.
On the issue of the Korean forced laborers, Kang said, “Our position is to respect the decision of the judicial branch, but going beyond that, we hold the stance that it is important to find a resolution that can be acceptable to the victims and contribute to their healing.”
She added, “However, we will continue to analyze and review how the current situation progresses, as there are many factors including the need to manage the Korea-Japan relations.”
“Our government is continuously considering opportunities to create momentum to develop future-oriented relations between Korea and Japan,” Kang said.
This includes a possible meeting between President Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit, which is scheduled to take place in Osaka next month. Kang also focused on the denuclearization negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington, adding that Seoul is also considering mediating roles, such as sending a special envoy to North Korea amid the current impasse in talks.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]