Business

Despite frosty ties, Japan, South Korea business lobbies agree to boost cooperation

Kyodo

Japanese and South Korean business lobbies agreed Friday on the importance of continuing dialogue and boosting cooperation for a “future-oriented” relationship despite the two Asian neighbors’ political relations sinking to their worst level in years due to wartime history and trade issues.

“Under any political or diplomatic relations, we recognize the importance to continue private-sector exchanges and further expand and deepen the two countries’ economic and industrial cooperative ties through dialogue,” the Japan Business Federation, also known as Keidanren, and the Federation of Korean Industries said in a joint statement following a meeting in Tokyo.

“We have renewed the determination to contribute to the future-oriented development in Japanese-South Korean relationship,” the statement said.

Ten members of the Japanese federation, headed by Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi, and 13 from its South Korean counterpart, led by Chairman Chang Soo-huh, chairman of GS Holdings Corp., took part in the meeting , which was held for the first time since 2017.

Bilateral ties have rapidly soured since South Korea’s top court last October ordered a Japanese steelmaker to pay compensation for wartime labor during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 through the end of World War II in 1945.

Japan’s imposition of tighter controls on exports to South Korea in July, citing security concerns, led to a campaign to boycott Japanese goods.

Sales of companies including sportswear maker Descente Ltd., Fast Retailing Co., operator of the Uniqlo casual clothing chain, and cosmetics maker Shiseido Co., have been hit by the campaign.

Nakanishi, who is also the chairman of Hitachi Ltd., told the meeting, “Japan and South Korea are fully embedded in one supply chain. South Korea is an indispensable partner.”

The participants included Nomura Holdings Inc. Chairman Nobuyuki Koga and Sumitomo Chemical Co. Chairman Masakazu Tokura. From South Korea, Yoon Kim, chairman of foods maker Samyang Holdings Corp., was among the attendees but representatives from major conglomerates such as Hyundai Group Co. did not take part in the meeting, the first of which took place in 1983.

The leaders agreed to hold the next session in Seoul next year.