• Kyodo

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South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Japanese Ambassador Koro Bessho held talks Sunday during a cultural exchange event in Seoul as the two countries struggle to mend a strained relationship.

It was Yun’s first meeting with the Japanese ambassador since becoming foreign minister in February 2013, when the administration of President Park Geun-hye was launched. Their meeting Sunday lasted around 20 minutes.

“The South Korean government is not linking history issues with problems in other areas and is actively involved in economic and cultural exchanges,” Yun told reporters after the meeting.

To make next year a starting point for the two countries to foster a future-oriented bilateral relationship, “I’d like to make further efforts to resolve outstanding issues,” he said

Yun also expressed hope for “swift progress as much as possible” with regard to history issues, without making a negative comment about Japan.

Bilateral ties have been strained by a territorial dispute and differing perceptions of wartime history, including Seoul’s demand for an official apology and compensation for Korean women who were forced to work in wartime Japanese military brothels.

Last month, Park urged Japan to work with South Korea to make next year, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties, “a new starting point for a new era” of relations between the two countries.

Bessho said he and Yun “did not talk about difficult subjects,” and that they agreed both countries will strive to make next year a new starting point.

During the cultural event, Yun and Bessho watched a traditional stage performance together.

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