An association of Japanese singers and its South Korean counterpart have signed a friendship agreement in a deepening of cultural exchanges in the wake of Seoul’s decision in June to further ease its ban on cultural imports from Japan.

Speaking at a news conference Tuesday at a hall in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward, Yoshio Tabata, a well-known singer and president of the 430-member Japanese association, said, “I am glad that the signing was realized, as I always thought the roots of Japanese songs are in South Korea.”

Kim Kwang Jin, who heads the 2,000-member section for singers in South Korea’s entertainment association, said, “Anti-Japanese feelings remain among some generations in South Korea, but we would like to break such walls by singing in both countries and touch off cultural exchange between the two countries.”

In a concert sponsored by the Japanese association the same day, Kim and fellow South Korean singer Han So Gyong performed South Korean songs, while Japanese singer Tsuzuko Sugawara performed Japanese songs related to South Korea.

Japanese singers are expected to appear in a show to be held in South Korea on Nov. 15, officials of the Japanese group said.

The two organizations have been working since September 1999 on signing the agreement, proposed by the South Korean group as a way of improving Japan’s image in their country.

Under its third opening to Japanese culture in late June, the South Korean government lifted restrictions on public performances of Japanese pop music.

South Korea first began rolling back its long-standing ban on Japanese cultural products in October 1998. The ban was imposed because of negative public sentiment over Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945.

Under its second opening to Japanese culture in September 1999, South Korea for the first time allowed public performances of Japanese pop culture, but only at indoor venues with a seating capacity of less than 2,000.

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