South Korean foreign minister plans visit to Japan after mid-June: source

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin plans to visit Japan as early as this month, a government source said Thursday, as relations between the two countries remain frayed over war issues.

Park’s visit to Japan, which would be the first by a South Korean foreign minister since November 2019, would take place after he returned from a trip to the United States from Sunday to Wednesday.

“Nothing has been decided yet, but both sides are exploring possible dates,” South Korea’s foreign ministry spokesman Choi Young Sam said, as Park’s Japanese counterpart, Yoshimasa Hayashi, requested his early visit.

When Hayashi traveled to Seoul in early May to attend the inauguration ceremony of South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol, senior diplomats agreed on the need for their countries to unfreeze relations.

South Korea’s new Foreign Minister Park Jin holds a press conference in Seoul on May 12, 2022. (Kyodo)

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Bilateral relations have hit their lowest level in decades under former South Korean President Moon Jae In, mainly due to differing views on how they should deal with issues arising from Japanese colonial rule from 1910-1945. on the Korean Peninsula.

Reflecting years of hardship, Hayashi’s visit also marked the first visit by a Japanese foreign minister to South Korea since June 2018.

Japan maintains that thorny issues with South Korea, such as Koreans being forced to work as “comfort women” in Japan’s wartime military brothels, have already been resolved, urging Seoul to stick to its past agreements.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the new South Korean leader have both expressed their strong will to prevent bilateral relations from further deteriorating.

Japanese government sources also said late last month that a meeting between foreign ministers could take place before June 22, the most likely date for the start of campaigning for the upcoming House of Councilors elections. in Japan.

The sources suggested at the time that the upcoming meeting of foreign ministers, if it materializes, could lay the groundwork for talks between Kishida and Yoon in the near future, which could take place as early as late June in Madrid in margin of a North Atlantic summit. Organization of the Treaty.