South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin met with his Japanese colleague in Tokyo on Monday, conveying a message of reconciliation in the hope that the neighbors can overcome historical differences and mend strained relations.

For years, relations have been strained due to the terrible memory of Japan’s colonization of Korea from 1910 to 1945. Disputes range from wartime forced labor to export limits, although both countries have stated a desire to improve ties. 

Park informed Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi that he would strive to fix the forced labor problem before making a decision on compensation payments, with both ministers pledging to find a swift solution, according to a statement from the Japanese foreign ministry.

Japanese authorities believe it is necessary to strengthen relations, but they have turned to Seoul for solutions to issues, such as South Korean court orders to take assets of Japanese corporations accused of not paying certain colonial-era laborers.

The Supreme Court of South Korea is likely to issue a final ruling on disposing the assets in August or September, and Tokyo has warned of harsh consequences if the orders are carried out.

Park grinned as he touched elbows with Hayashi on his first visit to Japan since South Korea’s new President Yoon Suk-yeol took office in May.

Park characterized his trip to media in Seoul before travelling to Tokyo as “very meaningful” He said that he would inform the Japanese side of Yoon’s great desire to enhance South Korea-Japan ties.

The meeting took place against the background of the US’s attempts to push both of its main North Asian allies to heal relations and cooperate on concerns such as North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, as well as China’s increasing influence.

According to Japan’s foreign ministry, the two foreign ministers agreed to expand their cooperation in dealing with North Korea and to speed up bilateral talks in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

They “agreed that the course of Japan-South Korea, and Japan-South Korea and U.S. cooperation has never been more critical,” according to the statement.

According to the South Korean foreign ministry, Hayashi and Park agreed to “resolutely respond to further North Korea provocations, while also keeping the door open for dialogue and promoting a flexible and open diplomatic approach,”

Despite fears that the death of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might affect Japan’s policy goals, South Korean authorities hoped the high-level visit would kick off negotiations to seek a breakthrough in the issues.

According to a top official overseeing Japan policy, the trip intends to “turning on the tap” for real negotiations on problems such as forced labor, which froze under Yoon’s predecessor.

Source: Reuters

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