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Yoon, Kishida agree on the need to improve relations

Posted September. 23, 2022 07:50,   

Updated September. 23, 2022 07:50


South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol had a summary meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and has reached a consensus on the need to improve their relations. The bilateral talk is significant in that it has opened a conversation to thaw the relationship between the two nations, which has frozen owing to the South Korean Supreme Court’s decision in October 2018 on the wartime forced labor during Japan’s colonial occupation of Korea and Japan’s export restrictions against South Korea in July 2019.

President Yoon met with Prime Minister Kishida at a conference building nearby the UN Headquarters in New York City and talked for 30 minutes. The bilateral talk was the first since former President Moon Jae-in met former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in December 2019.

“The leaders of the two countries have reached a consensus on the need to improve relations by addressing pending issues,” the South Korean Presidential Office said. “[President Yoon and Prime Minister Kishida] agreed to direct the two countries’ foreign affairs authority to expedite the talk process and continue communications.”

Regarding the meaning of “pending issues,” a high-level official at the Presidential Office explained that it means the forced labor issue for improving bilateral relations. The Presidential Office further elaborated that the two leaders reached a mutual consensus on the need to address the issue of compensating the victims of forced labor under Japanese colonial rule to aim for future-oriented bilateral relations. However, the difference in the terms the two countries used to describe the bilateral meeting, i.e., Korea’s “summary meeting” and Japan’s “talk,” foretells many obstacles lie ahead until finding practical solutions.

Meanwhile, President Yoon had a 48-second brief conversation with U.S. President Joe Biden at the Global Fund’s seventh replenishment pledging session. The South Korean Foreign Ministry initially pursued the South Korea-U.S. summit, but it was substituted with a brief talk as President Biden was pressed for time. The Presidential Office announced that President Yoon talked with President Biden on matters including the Inflation Reduction Act, bilateral cooperation with financial stabilization, and U.S.'s extended deterrence on the Korean Peninsula.

Su-Young Hong gaea@donga.com