TOKYO/SEOUL, July 19 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s top diplomat said on Tuesday he relayed President Yoon Suk-yeol’s verbal message stressing his desire to improve relations with Japan during his courtesy visit to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio. Kishida.
In a meeting with reporters, Foreign Minister Park Jin explained the outcome of the meeting at the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo, a highlight of his three-day visit to Japan seen as an effort to repair bilateral relations strained by history and wartime trade.
In his message to Kishida, Yoon said his meetings at a NATO summit in Madrid last month assured him that he could work with Kishida as a “trusted partner” to develop bilateral relations of cooperation.
Yoon also expressed hope for continued close cooperation with Kishida and offered his condolences to the late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated during a campaign speech earlier this month.
The Japanese leader listened carefully to Yoon’s message and recalled that he had “good” talks with Yoon at the NATO summit, expressing expectation of further talks with him in the future, according to Park.
During the 20-minute meeting, the two sides also discussed thorny issues related to wartime forced labor and sex slavery in Japan, the minister said.
Park added that he expected a summit between Yoon and Kishida to materialize at a mutually convenient time to help foster a new relationship between the two countries.
Their meeting followed Park’s bilateral talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi the previous day, which focused on ways to mend ties frayed over long-running historic feuds.
At Monday’s meeting, Park and Hayashi agreed on the need for a speedy resolution of issues related to Koreans who were forced to work during Japan’s colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
In 2018, South Korea’s highest court ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Inc. and Nippon Steel Corp. to compensate Korean victims of forced labor, but the companies refused to pay them, saying all reparations issues had been settled under a 1965 agreement to normalize bilateral diplomatic relations.
Park pledged Seoul’s efforts to resolve the forced labor issue ahead of the liquidation of Japanese companies’ assets, as South Korea’s top court is expected to issue its final ruling on related cases in the coming months.
Seoul’s foreign ministry has sought advice from a public-private advisory body launched earlier this month on possible compensation schemes for Korean victims of forced labor.