A woman walks past an advertisement featuring Japanese and South Korean flags at a shop in Shin Okubo area in Tokyo Friday, Aug. 2, 2019InternationalIndiaAfricaSEOUL (Sputnik) – South Korean Unification Minister Kwon Young-se will visit Japan from Wednesday to Saturday to discuss cooperation on North Korea and other issues of bilateral interest, South Korean media reported on Monday. Kwon will make the first-ever visit by a unification minister to Japan at the invitation of the latter’s government, the Yonhap news agency reported. The South Korean minister plans to inform Japanese officials on his country’s position regarding North Korea and his ministry’s unification program. The politicians also look forward to improving their partnership on various issues including those kidnapped by North Korea during the 1950-1953 Korean War.
"We expect Kwon's visit to contribute to the development of cooperative ties between South Korea and Japan related to policies on unification and North Korea to a higher level," media cited Kwon's ministry.
The relations between the two neighbors deteriorated in 2018, after South Korea accused Japan of using forced labor during its 1910-1945 colonial rule. The top court of South Korea ordered Japanese companies, including Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, to compensate the victims of forced labor. Following the ruling, Japan introduced trade sanctions against South Korea, while Seoul responded by submitting a complaint to the WTO and expressed intention to withdraw from the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). The situation started to change for the better after Yoon assumed office as South Korea’s president in May 2022 and set a course for mending ties with Tokyo in order to improve both bilateral relations and the trilateral security partnership with Washington. Kwon’s upcoming visit comes on the heels of President Yoon’s strengthening of cooperation with Tokyo and Washington amid North Korea’s frequent missile test launches. On March 16, the South Korean president discussed denuclearization of North Korea with Kishida during a summit in Tokyo, where the two leaders negotiated ways to improve bilateral relations. The parties also agreed to resume the GSOMIA, military intelligence-sharing pact between the two countries.