SEOUL – South Korean President Moon Jae-in has expressed his gratitude to Emperor Akihito for his contributions to the development of the two countries’ relations, a South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday.
While on the throne, Emperor Akihito has underscored the importance of maintaining peace and has greatly helped South Korea and Japan promote their ties, Moon said in a letter sent to the emperor, according to the spokesman.
Moon added that he hopes Emperor Akihito, 85, will continue to work for the further advancement of the bilateral relationship after his abdication on Tuesday, the spokesman said.
In a Facebook post, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon voiced appreciation to the emperor for placing importance on South Korea-Japan relations.
Lee also thanked Crown Prince Naruhito for his inspiring words when they met at the World Water Forum in Brasilia in March last year. The Crown Prince is set to accede to the throne at midnight Tuesday.
Lee stressed that he hopes South Korea and Japan will build a new, friendly and cooperative relationship to prepare for a future together during Japan’s forthcoming Reiwa Era, set to begin on Wednesday.
Lee’s comments are said to indicate Seoul’s desire to improve, in the new era, the bilateral relationship, which has deteriorated partly due to a series of rulings by South Korean courts, including the Supreme Court, that ordered Japanese companies to pay compensation to South Koreans requisitioned to work for them during World War II.
In the editorials of their Tuesday editions, South Korean newspapers said the imperial succession and the start of the new era should be catalysts for improving bilateral ties.
The Dong-A Ilbo daily said Moon and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit set to be held in Osaka in late June, in order to mend ties between Seoul and Tokyo.
The Chosun Ilbo daily expressed hopes for a visit to South Korea by Emperor Akihito after his retirement or by Japan’s new emperor.
Such a visit would be a milestone for an improvement in ties, the paper said.