Japanese Prime Minister (PM) Fumio Kishida visited Seoul to meet South Korean (South Korean) President Yoon Suk-yeol, Sunday (7/5/2023). Photos/Illustrations
SEOUL – Japanese Prime Minister (PM) Fumio Kishida visited Seoul to meet South Korean (South Korean) President Yoon Suk-yeol, Sunday (7/5/2023).
Kishida’s bilateral visit, the first by a Japanese leader to Seoul in 12 years, echoes Yoon’s trip to Tokyo in March, where they sought to close the chapter on the historical dispute that has dominated Japan-South relations for years.
Yoon has faced criticism at home that he has given more than he has received in his efforts to improve relations with Japan, including by proposing that South Korean businesses – not Japanese companies as ordered by the court – compensate for wartime labor casualties during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial occupation.
South Korean officials hoped Kishida would make some sort of gesture in return and offer some political support, although few observers expected further formal apologies for historical blunders. Yoon himself has hinted that he doesn’t believe it’s necessary.
Instead, the focus of the summit will likely revolve around security cooperation in the face of North Korea’s nuclear threat, said Shin-wha Lee, a professor of international relations at Seoul-based Korea University.
“Within the framework of the ‘Washington Declaration’, which outlines plans to strengthen expanded deterrence, Korea will seek ways to enhance collaborative efforts with Japan,” he added.
But historical differences between South Korea and Japan also threaten to overshadow the developing relationship between the two leaders.
Lee said the majority of South Koreans believed Japan had not apologized sufficiently for the atrocities during the 1910-1945 Japanese occupation of Korea.
“They think Prime Minister Kishida should show sincerity during his visit to South Korea, such as mentioning historical issues and offering an apology,” he added.