A woman walks past an advertisement featuring Japanese and South Korea's flags at a shop in Shin Okubo area in Tokyo, Aug 2, 2019. (EUGENE HOSHIKO / AP)
TOKYO – Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on Tuesday met with Yun Duk-min, the new South Korean Ambassador to Japan, for the first time, as relations between Tokyo and Seoul show some signs of improving.
"We met to make sure that we will work hard alongside each other for a better relationship," Yun said after the meeting with Hayashi held at the foreign ministry.
Yun arrived in Japan last month and the meeting follows the inauguration of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in May.
Japan and South Korea have struggled to maintain healthy political ties for a number of years during the former administrations of Japan's Shinzo Abe and South Korea's Moon Jae-In
Japan and South Korea have struggled to maintain healthy political ties for a number of years during the former administrations of Japan's Shinzo Abe and South Korea's Moon Jae-In.
The two sides had been at odds over a myriad of issues including those pertaining to wartime labor and trade disputes.
Under the leadership of President Yoon, both countries have taken steps to mend ties.
Political watchers here believe that both sides will expedite efforts to reach a resolution on outstanding issues including the potential liquidation of Japanese corporate assets in South Korea that plaintiffs in wartime forced labor lawsuits have seized.
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South Korea's Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling on the potential liquidation of assets from two Japanese companies, although Japan remains adamant that there will be serious reprisals for bilateral ties should the move go ahead.
In a previous development signaling thawing ties, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin in June intimated that his side intended to abide by a 2015 bilateral pact made with Japan to settle the issue of Korean girls and women forced to work as "comfort women" in Japanese wartime military brothels.
Seoul and Tokyo agreed in December 2015 to "finally and irreversibly" settle the issue of Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery for Imperial Japan's military brothels under the 1910-45 Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula.
The agreement was effectively scrapped under the previous South Korean administration, and the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation, to which Japan provided funds to help "comfort women" and their families under the agreement, was dissolved in 2019.
South Korea said the 2015 deal fell a long way short of the reparations due in light of the immeasurable suffering inflicted on the "comfort women" and Japan's seeming inability to truly voice its remorse as evidenced by efforts to whitewash its wartime wrongdoings.