South Korea, Japan resume high-level economic talks amid improved ties

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea and Japan will hold high-level economic talks on Thursday for the first time in eight years, Seoul’s foreign ministry said, in a further sign of improving ties as the countries are drawn closer by shared geopolitical concerns.

The talks, which first began in 1999, had been stalled since 2016 as relations between the two North Asian U.S. allies took a hit over historical disputes stemming from Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of Korea.

But South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has made it a priority to mend ties with Tokyo since taking office in 2022.

The South Korean side will be represented by Kang Jae-kwon, deputy foreign minister for economic affairs, who will assess bilateral economic cooperation and discuss economic security policy with his Japanese counterpart Keiichi Ono, senior deputy foreign minister, Seoul’s foreign ministry said.

Earlier this year, South Korea announced plans for its companies to compensate people forced to work under Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation as it pushed to end a spat that has undercut U.S.-led efforts to present a unified front against China and North Korea.

In a further example of increasing trilateral cooperation, Japan, South Korea and Washington announced the launch of a real-time missile data-sharing system to help monitor Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programme.

In July, Japan also reinstated South Korea to its “white list” for exports with fast-track trade status after lifting export curbs on high-tech materials to South Korea in March.

Nonetheless, there continues to be friction in the ties between Japan and South Korea.

This includes Seoul’s decade-long ban on seafood originating from the area around the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant and a recent South Korean court ruling in favour of a group of South Korean women, known as “comfort women”, who were forced to work in Japanese wartime brothels.

The last such economic talks were held in Tokyo in 2016.

(Reporting by Hyunsu Yim; Editing by Ed Davies and Jacqueline Wong)