South Korean delegation calls for new effort to improve relations

A delegation representing South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol called on Seoul and Tokyo to step up efforts together to improve their difficult bilateral relations.

The seven-member delegation arrived in Japan on April 24 to outline the Yoon administration’s diplomatic policies and priorities ahead of its inauguration in May.

The delegation met with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi for about 15 minutes at the Foreign Ministry building in Tokyo on April 25.

“South Korea and Japan should expand bilateral exchanges and trade to build a forward-looking relationship because we were destined to be neighbors,” Chung Jin-suk, vice president of the agency, told reporters. National Assembly leading the delegation, after the meeting.

“It’s hard to resolve the long-standing issues between the two nations if only one works in this direction,” he said. “We must make diplomatic efforts by making the most of this new starting point for relations between the two countries.”

Another key member of the delegation is Park Cheol-hee, a professor of Japanese politics at Seoul National University, who is fluent in Japanese and considered a candidate for the next South Korean ambassador to Japan.

Sources said the two sides exchanged views during the meeting on how to improve the relations between the two countries, which deteriorated under the administration of Moon Jae-in on the problems of the “comfort women”, who were forced to provide sexual relations to the Japanese soldiers before and during World War II, and former Korean war workers.

Yoon had also entrusted the delegation with a letter addressed to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida expressing his desire to improve relations between the two countries.

“The letter expresses (Yoon’s) hope for a new bilateral relationship and a positive response from the Japanese side,” Chung told reporters at Narita Airport on April 24.

The delegation is due to stay in Japan until April 28 to meet with other politicians, business leaders and experts. He also arranges a meeting with Kishida on April 27.

(This article was written by Takuya Suzuki in Seoul and Yuichi Nobira in Tokyo.)

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