Japan and South Korea have never been easy partners. Although both have long been well-consolidated democracies, historical and territorial disputes have consistently marred bilateral relations. But today, their relationship may be at its lowest point since diplomatic ties were established in 1965.

The situation began to deteriorate in July, when Japan's trade ministry introduced new licensing requirements on exports of three chemicals that South Korea needs to manufacture high-tech products like semiconductors and display panels.

Japanese officials claimed that the move was necessary to prevent sensitive materials from being shipped illegally to North Korea for military use. South Korea called the justification groundless and consumers launched a boycott of Japanese goods, from beer to clothing.