Cooperation between Japan and South Korea in the aftermath of the Tohoku triple disaster proved that ties between the two nations have never been stronger, Seoul’s new envoy to Tokyo said Monday.
Speaking at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, South Korean Ambassador to Japan Shin Kak Soo, who assumed the post last month, said it was becoming increasingly important in the shifting landscape of East Asia for the two neighbors to further strengthen their partnership.
Shin, who visited hard-hit Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures less than a week after he was appointed to the new post on June 12, said the largest-ever amount of donations were collected in South Korea for disaster victims.
He also said officials from South Korean consular offices across Japan were also dispatched to the consulate in Sendai to help with relief efforts.
“The governments and people of South Korea and Japan have confirmed through the recent disaster the two nations’ close ties,” said Shin, who was stationed in Japan in the late-1980s as first secretary at the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo.
“Coming back to Japan after 22 years, I am amazed with the Korean boom that is taking Japan by storm,” he said, referring to the massive inflow of South Korean TV dramas and popular music into Japan, adding that such cultural exchanges have helped deepen understanding between the two neighbors.
Shin said that while only 10,000 people annually traveled between Japan and South Korea back in 1965, when diplomatic ties between the two nations were established, that number has ballooned, with roughly 5.5 million people making their way over the border last year.
“We need to expand this number to 10 million as soon as possible,” he said.
Shin also said that it was important that Japan and South Korea resume and conclude talks regarding a free-trade agreement.
Serious negotiations on an FTA first began in December 2003, but were suspended in November 2004.
“I believe that a general consensus regarding the necessity of an FTA has already been formed,” he said.
And with a rapidly growing China and North Korea’s nuclear threat changing the region’s landscape, Shin stressed the importance of Japan and South Korea deepening their strategic cooperation “in order to establish a peaceful and prosperous East Asia.”