President Yoon Suk Yeol said he expects Japan to roll out actions commensurate with its recently renewed commitment to a forward-looking South Korea-Japan relationship built on a past apology for its 1910-45 rule of the Korean Peninsula. Yoon flew to Japan on Thursday for a two-day summit.
In a joint interview with major Japanese newspapers Thursday, Yoon said the March 6 decision to use Korean company funds to compensate Korean victims forced to work for Japanese companies during the colonial period is the “result of efforts to recognize” both the 1965 Seoul-Tokyo agreement and the 2018 ruling by Korea’s Supreme Court.
Japan argues the Treaty on Basic Relations, which reset ties following its colonial rule of the peninsula, already settled the issue, and refused to recognize the court decision that held Japanese firms liable for damages. Without apologizing for using forced labor, Japan instead reaffirmed the 1998 Seoul-Tokyo declaration, which discusses Japan’s “genuine reflection on its wartime past and sincere apology for it.”
“We have to move beyond conflict and antagonism so that we bring about opportunities for the future,” Yoon was quoted as saying by the Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun and Nihon Keizai Shimbun. Yoon is believed to have referred to a joint scholarship fund that Korea is floating to draw participation from the Japanese companies that are refusing to compensate the Korean victims.
Pursuing common interests like curbing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, and bolstering an economic partnership over chips, are more important than ever for both South Korea and Japan, according to Yoon. The conservative leader took office in May last year, vowing closer ties with not only Japan but the US, Seoul’s biggest ally.
At the first summit in 12 years, Yoon and his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, are expected to solidify that commitment to bolstering fresh ties for America’s two biggest Asian allies to deal better with unrelenting North Korea and emboldened China. Pyongyang is still carrying on with its missile launches, while Beijing openly takes aim at Washington, economically and politically.