Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said on Oct. 22 that his trip to Japan will help South Korea and Japan take a step forward in mending their frayed ties over the issue of Tokyo’s wartime use of forced labor.
Earlier in the day, Lee arrived in Tokyo for a three-day trip to attend the Japanese emperor’s enthronement ceremony at 1 p.m. and meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday.
“I don‘t think a single trip will resolve everything, but I believe this visit will work as a step forward in the bilateral ties,” Lee was quoted by government officials as telling Nagamine Yasumasa, Japan’s top envoy to South Korea at Seoul Airport, just south of Seoul, before departure.
South Korea-Japan relations have been strained since Japan protested the South Korean top court’s 2018 orders for Japanese firms to compensate Korean victims of Tokyo‘s forced labor during its 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
In July, Japan imposed export curbs against its neighbor in apparent retaliation for the Korean court’s rulings. In August, it removed the South from its list of countries subject to preferential trade status.
Lee’s meeting with Abe would be the first high-level talks between the two nations since late last year.
Experts and government officials hope that Lee’s trip will pave the way for the two nations to mend their soured relations and set the stage for President Moon Jae-in and Abe to hold a summit this year.
“I will discuss ways to facilitate dialogue between Seoul and Tokyo during meetings with Abe and political and economic leaders,” Lee said on social media before his departure for Japan.
By Ram Garikipati and newswires (firstname.lastname@example.org)