Yoon Suk Yeol Eager to Strengthen Ties with Japan, G7

Ryohei Moriya / Yomiuri Shimbun Photographer
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun in Seoul on Tuesday.

SEOUL — South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has expressed his desire to resume periodic reciprocal visits between Japanese and South Korean leaders, in an exclusive interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Such visits have been halted for years amid strained bilateral relations.

Yoon said Tuesday that Japan and South Korea, as well as the Group of Seven industrialized nations, share universal values such as the rule of law, and should strengthen their solidarity.

He recalled seeing the leaders of European Union members “talking frankly like friends” when he attended the U.N. General Assembly and Group of 20 summit meetings. “They seemed to be communicating frequently and meeting immediately to resolve issues as they come up,” Yoon said.

“Seoul and Tokyo are only two hours apart. It would be good to meet as soon as possible to resolve concerns, clear up misunderstandings and discuss ways to cooperate, but why haven’t the leaders of South Korea and Japan done this?” he asked. “My cabinet ministers and I intend to strengthen a little more our diplomacy of mutual visits with Japan and try to meet more often.”

“Japan and South Korea have various cooperative relations with countries around the world,” Yoon said. He expressed his desire to contribute to the international community by “returning the bilateral relationship to the good days of the past.”

Regarding the G7 summit to be held in Hiroshima in May, the president said, “Our systems are similar and we can trust each other, and we can anticipate” how we’ll respond to things.

“Both Korea and Japan, as well as the G7 nations, have freedom, solidarity, human rights and the rule of law as the fundamental order of their countries,” Yoon said about the possibility of being invited to the summit by the Japanese government. “Nations that share such universal values can stand in stronger solidarity with each other in the international community.”

A trilateral summit among the leaders of Japan, China and South Korea has not been held for the past three years.

“Communications among the leaders can play an extremely important role in regional stability, as well as for global peace and prosperity. It’s desirable to promote” such a summit,” Yoon said.

A trilateral summit is expected to be held in South Korea this year according to a rotating schedule, which could be an opportunity for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to visit South Korea.

Related stories