• Kyodo

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Japan and South Korea plan to reach an agreement as early as this week on the resumption of business trips between the two countries, which were halted by the two governments in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Japanese government sources.

The entry of expatriates and other long-term residents as well as travelers on short-term business trips will be allowed in both countries, provided they have tested negative for the coronavirus and turn in itineraries, the sources said.

The resumption of such trips may lead to an improvement in the two neighbors' relationship, which has sunk to historic lows over a string of South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation to Koreans for wartime labor.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who took office mid-September, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed in their first telephone talks on Sept. 24 to speed up negotiations for an early agreement on resuming business trips.

Some 5.58 million South Koreans visited Japan in 2019, the second-largest source of visitors after the around 9.59 million from China, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. Of the visitors from South Korea, some 310,000 traveled for business purposes.

Japan, which began imposing entry bans on foreign nationals in February to curb the spread of the coronavirus, has recently started to reopen its borders as part of efforts to boost the domestic economy.

From September, Japan allowed the re-entry of foreign nationals with residence status, and it recently started to allow foreign nationals to enter the country on short-term business trips and for long-term stays provided they take the relevant preventative and/or quarantine measures.

Tourists, however, are still banned from entering Japan.

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