The South Korean counterpart of Japan’s Cultural Affairs Agency is apparently reluctant to hold bilateral discussions over widespread product-piracy concerns in Asia, according to agency officials.

The officials stressed the importance of talks between Japan and South Korea aimed at curbing piracy of animated films, game software and other products.

“I do not know exactly what the problem is,” said an official of the agency, which launched full-fledged antipiracy operations this year.

South Korea’s department on copyright issues has told the agency that matters have yet to be ironed out with relevant bodies due to concerns over the country’s efforts to open up its market to Japanese cultural imports.

The administration of President Kim Dae Jung — in a major policy turnaround — gradually began in October 1998 relaxing a long-standing ban on Japanese popular culture. This ban stemmed from negative public sentiment over Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

The South Korean copyright department told Kyodo News, however, that South Korea’s “open-door” policy on Japanese cultural imports has no direct connection with the envisioned bilateral talks.

The department said that while it does not object to discussions on copyright-protection issues, it believes trilateral discussions involving China would be more suitable, given the three nations’ geographical and historic ties.

Should bilateral discussions take place, each side would ask the other to crack down on piracy within its borders.

Japan agreed in late August to hold separate discussions with China, and the two sides are expected to hold talks within the next year.

Agency officials say trilateral discussions would hinder specific discussions, given the gap between China and South Korea in terms of technological infrastructure.

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