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First Korea-Japan summit planned in four years

SEOUL: South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol will visit Japan next week, his office said Thursday, as the two neighbors seek to ease diplomatic tensions over Japan’s wartime atrocities during its 35-year colonial rule.

The visit — the first by a South Korean leader in four years — comes after Seoul on Monday announced plans to compensate Korean victims of Japanese forced labor during the war without Tokyo’s direct involvement. However, the deal has sparked strong protests from victim groups in Korea.

Yoon will visit Japan on March 16-17 for a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the presidential office said, adding that the trip was at Tokyo’s invitation.

“This visit will resume bilateral summit exchanges between South Korea and Japan, which have been suspended for 12 years, and will mark an important milestone in the improvement and development of South Korea-Japan relations,” he added.

She expressed hope that Yoon’s visit will provide the two countries with an opportunity to “overcome the unfortunate history of the past” and strengthen cooperation.

The Korean Peninsula was under brutal Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945, during which some 780,000 Koreans were conscripted into forced labor, according to Seoul data.

Other atrocities included the forcible wartime recruitment of tens of thousands of Korean women as sex slaves, euphemistically known as “comfort women.”

Over the more than three decades, attempts have also been made to erase Korean culture by forbidding Koreans from using their own language in schools and forcing them to adopt Japanese names.

Japan says colonial-era disputes were settled in 1965, when diplomatic relations were normalized and Tokyo gave Seoul about $800 million in loans and economic aid.

Seoul’s new compensation plan has sparked outrage among South Koreans, including those forced to work for Japanese companies during World War II, but it was quick to win praise from Tokyo and Washington.

Seoul and Tokyo — both US allies — have stepped up security cooperation in the face of the growing threat posed by nuclear-armed North Korea.

Japanese government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno said the two countries have maintained close exchanges and communications since Yoon took office, describing South Korea as “an important neighbor.”

“With this visit, we aim to further enhance Japan-South Korea relations based on the friendship and cooperation that has lasted since relations were normalized,” he told reporters.

The last time a South Korean president visited Japan was in 2019 when Moon Jae-in attended a G20 summit in Osaka. At the time, meetings between the leaders of the two countries were curtailed due to rising tensions fueled by issues related to their shared history.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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