Kishida eager to improve bilateral ties as new South Korean president elected

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida answers questions from reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday expressed his eagerness to improve the stalled relationship between Japan and South Korea after main opposition candidate Yoon Suk-yeol won the South Korean presidential election.

The Japanese government intends to carefully assess how the new administration will handle such issues as lawsuits involving former wartime requisitioned workers from the Korean Peninsula and former so-called comfort women.

“I welcome the victory of President-elect Yoon and offer congratulations from the bottom of my heart,” Kishida told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo on Thursday. “I look forward to the leadership of the president-elect. I hope we will work closely to improve the relationship.”

Referring to the current state of the Japan-South Korea relationship, Kishida said, “The situation is very severe, but we can’t leave it as it is.”

“Keeping promises between countries is fundamental. I want to engage in dialogue after seeing how the new administration will move,” he added.

An in-person summit of the two countries’ leaders has not been held since December 2019. The Japan-South Korea relationship became stalled after the administration of President Moon Jae-in effectively abandoned a bilateral agreement under which the two countries confirmed the settlement of the issue of former comfort women. The Moon administration also left the issue of the lawsuits of former requisitioned workers unsolved.

Japan has taken a position that postwar compensation issues between the two countries have been resolved under the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Cooperation that was reached between Japan and South Korea in 1965, which stipulates that the issue has been “settled completely and finally.”