National / Politics

Japan and South Korea foreign ministers likely to meet this month in Paris

Kyodo

Japan and South Korea are arranging for their foreign ministers to meet later this month on the sidelines of a gathering of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, government sources said Monday.

Taro Kono of Japan and Kang Kyung-wha of South Korea are expected to discuss the issue of compensation for laborers made to work during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula through the end of World War II, as well as recent developments concerning North Korea.

The talks, slated to coincide with an OECD ministerial council meeting to be held in Paris from May 22 to 23, would be their first since they met in mid-February in Munich, where they were attending a security forum.

On that occasion, the two remained at odds over the wartime labor issue. Last year, South Korea’s top court ordered Japanese companies to compensate Korean laborers for forced labor, a decision Tokyo has protested as contrary to a 1965 accord it says settled the issue “finally and completely.”

The issue escalated further this month after lawyers for the laborers requested to a South Korean court that the companies’ seized assets be liquidated.

In the upcoming talks, Kono is expected to repeat calls for Seoul to step in.

On North Korea, the two ministers are expected to discuss Pyongyang’s recent launches of short-range ballistic missiles and agree to work with mutual ally the United States toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Kono is also likely to push for South Korea to lift a ban on seafood from Fukushima and seven other prefectures, despite the World Trade Organization last month ruling in favor of the restrictions imposed in the wake of the 2011 nuclear disaster.

On Monday, South Korea’s new ambassador to Japan said he hopes to work on a “future-oriented” approach to bilateral relations.

“I feel a great sense of responsibility assuming this position at a crucial time for ties between our countries,” Nam Gwan-pyo told Kono during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo.

“During my tenure as ambassador, I hope to work toward the improvement and future-oriented development of ties,” he said.

Nam, who previously worked at the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo between 1992 and 1995 and has served as ambassador to Hungary and Sweden, has taken the job at a time when the neighboring countries are having trouble seeing eye-to-eye on a range of issues.

During the meeting, Kono welcomed Nam and said he looks forward to working with him.

“Our peoples are interacting very actively, as evidenced by the more than 10 million people that come and go between our countries annually. Taking their lead, and with your help, I hope that we can resolve the difficult situation between our governments,” Kono said.