On July 1, 2011, the European Union-South Korea free-trade agreement took effect, promising to significantly facilitate the exchange of goods and services and give both nations a major economic boost. The conclusion of the deal demonstrated the huge European interest in South Korea's economy and markets.

Six months later, Tokyo is still trying to convince the EU to at least start official negotiations on a similar accord with Japan. But the talks are stalling as interest in Europe seems limited. Even before the euro crisis, Japan, unlike its neighbor, was not a top priority for EU officials. The reasons are manifold.

Over the past few years, Japan did more than just lose its status as the world's second-largest economy. It is also facing the acute risk of being overtaken by South Korea in many areas.