SEOUL – Business leaders in Japan and South Korea are calling for an improvement in bilateral ties strained by an island dispute and visits to war-related Yasukuni Shrine by Japan’s Cabinet ministers.
A statement adopted Thursday at the end of a two-day business conference in Seoul said the executives hope to see the political turbulence end as soon as possible, and called for a bilateral relationship based on deep bonds. The bilateral gathering was the 45th of its kind.
Tense ties between Tokyo and Seoul caused by competing claims to a pair of tiny South Korea-controlled islets called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo by the South were exacerbated by the shrine visits last weekend.
The unusually large turnout included members of the Cabinet and more than a hundred Diet lawmakers.
The Shinto facility honors Class-A war criminals among the nation’s war dead and is regarded as a fervent symbol of Imperial Japan’s militarism by those who were invaded by Japan.
The conference statement meanwhile noted the South Korean participants’ concerns about the yen’s rapid drop and sought appropriate economic management by their governments. It also urged Tokyo and Seoul to conclude an economic partnership agreement soon to promote free trade.
At a joint news conference after the gathering, Mitsubishi Corp. adviser Mikio Sasaki said Japanese companies are hoping to bolster economic ties with the South through a future-oriented approach.
The chairman of South Korean conglomerate Hyosung Group, Cho Suck Rai, said that bilateral economic cooperation is progressing smoothly despite the territorial and Yasukuni Shrine disputes.
Kishida calls for calm
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida called Friday for keeping ties with South Korea under control in the face of a fresh rift over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s defense of minister’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine.
“We must steadily control (the relationship) in such a way that an individual issue will not affect overall ties,” Kishida said, noting the need to communicate with political leaders in Seoul.