South Korea Willing to Issue New Joint Document with Japan; Preparing for 60th Anniversary of Normalizing Relations

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shakes hands with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in May 2023.

SEOUL — With 2025 marking the 60th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan an South Korea, a senior official of South Korea’s Presidential Office held a joint interview with select media outlets including The Yomiuri Shimbun, and expressed hope of working with Japan to issue a new joint document by the leaders of the two countries.

South Korea hopes to propose consultation work with Japan, aiming to further develop the 1998 Japan-ROK Joint Declaration, which set out to build a future-oriented relationship.

The interview was conducted on Monday before the 1-year anniversary of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s first official visit to Japan on March 16 last year, which was a turning point for the previously chilly relations between the two countries.

In the 1998 Joint Declaration, then Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi expressed apologies and remorse for causing harm and suffering to the people of what is now the ROK during the period of colonial rule. Then President Kim Dae Jung highly appreciated Japan’s postwar role in the international community.

The senior official praised the Joint Declaration as a political agreement for the 21st century and said that it was clear that the time has come to reflect the changes in the international community since then. The official cited several factors, including the escalation of the North Korean nuclear issues.

For the new joint document, the official stressed a need to expand the geographical area in which Japan and South Korea cooperate beyond the Korean Peninsula and to include future-oriented commitments to overcome the past, among other things. The Indo-Pacific region is believed to have been under consideration. The official said that South Korea would like to consult with the Japanese side and gather the opinions of experts.

The issue of lawsuits regarding former wartime requisitioned workers from the Korean Peninsula has been an obstacle to the improvement of the relationship between the two countries. As a solution, the South Korean government announced a third-party compensation scheme on March 6 last year. Concerns have since been raised that the foundation which pays compensation equivalent to the amount owed to the plaintiffs may be running out of funds.

The senior official revealed that South Korean companies are willing to donate funds and said that it will be resolved successfully in the end.

The official also expressed hope for the continuation of reciprocal visits by the leaders of the two countries, adding that Yoon has expressed his desire multiple times to visit regions in Japan if there is an opportunity.