National / Politics

Japan and South Korea foreign ministers hold phone talks amid frayed ties

Kyodo

The foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea held phone talks Wednesday to discuss bilateral ties, which have been tested in recent rulings by South Korea’s Supreme Court ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation for wartime forced labor.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha called for a “cautious response” on the issue from Tokyo during her conversation with Foreign Minister Taro Kono, according to South Korea’s Foreign Ministry.

Japan maintains that the issue of compensation related to the period was settled under an agreement attached to a 1965 treaty that established diplomatic ties between the two countries. Tokyo argues that the recent South Korean rulings now undermine the legal foundation of bilateral ties.

The South Korean government, for its part, is considering how to respond to the court rulings.

In October, the Supreme Court in South Korea ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. to compensate four South Koreans for forced labor during Japanese colonial rule between 1910 and 1945.

The court then ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. in November to compensate two groups of South Koreans over wartime forced labor.

No summit talks have been held between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in despite both having attended regional gatherings in Singapore and Papua New Guinea in November and the Group of 20 summit in Argentina that ended Dec. 1.