In a significant diplomatic development, South Korea and Japan are set to engage in high-level economic talks for the first time in eight years, highlighting a positive shift in their relations. This move comes as both nations increasingly find themselves aligned on shared geopolitical concerns.
The talks, initially initiated in 1999, had been stalled since 2016 due to historical disputes stemming from Japan's occupation of Korea between 1910 and 1945. However, since taking office in 2022, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has prioritized the mending of ties with Tokyo.
Representing South Korea in these discussions will be Kang Jae-kwon, the deputy foreign minister for economic affairs, who will assess bilateral economic cooperation and engage in discussions regarding economic security policy with his Japanese counterpart, Keiichi Ono, the senior deputy foreign minister, according to the Seoul foreign ministry.
Earlier this year, South Korea announced its plans for companies to compensate individuals who were forced to work under Japan's occupation from 1910 to 1945. This initiative aimed to resolve a longstanding dispute that had previously undermined efforts by the United States and its allies to present a unified front in dealing with China and North Korea.
As a testament to increasing trilateral cooperation, Japan, South Korea, and the United States jointly announced the establishment of a real-time missile data-sharing system, which will aid in monitoring Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.
In another positive move, Japan reinstated South Korea to its "white list" for exports, granting it fast-track trade status. This decision followed Japan's lifting of export restrictions on high-tech materials to South Korea in March.
However, it is essential to note that some friction remains in the relationship between Japan and South Korea. South Korea has maintained a decade-long ban on seafood from the vicinity of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and a recent South Korean court ruling favored a group of South Korean women known as "comfort women," who were forced to work in Japanese wartime brothels.
The last round of economic talks between the two nations took place in Tokyo back in 2016. This renewed engagement signals a promising step toward improved diplomatic and economic relations between South Korea and Japan.