South Korea considers meeting between Yoon, Japan’s Kishida in NY

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South Korea is considering a meeting between President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in New York on the sidelines of an upcoming UN General Assembly, a senior South Korean government official said Monday.

Yoon has not held official bilateral talks with Kishida since his victory in the presidential election in March. Led by Yoon, who has called for a forward-looking approach to bilateral relations, there are signs of a thaw in bilateral relations.

Combined shoto shows Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (L) and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol. (TBEN)

The official said a Yoon-Kishida meeting on the sidelines of the UN meeting would likely be casual.

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The potential face-to-face meeting would come at a time when Japan and South Korea are embroiled in a long-standing dispute over wartime compensation over a 2018 South Korean Supreme Court ruling, and Seoul is seeking an alternative solution avoid diplomacy.

The leaders of Japan and South Korea last held official bilateral talks in December 2019.

In June, Yoon and Kishida first met in Madrid to attend a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as its partner countries in Asia-Pacific, but they spoke only briefly.

However, the two joined trilateral talks with the United States on the sidelines of the NATO summit.

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Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers have been cautious about summit talks between Kishida and Yoon as they pressured South Korea to offer Japan an acceptable solution to a dispute over judicial liquidations of some Japanese company assets.

South Korea’s highest court had ruled that groups of South Koreans were forced to work in Japan during the colonial rule of 1910-1945 in the Korean peninsula, and ordered two Japanese companies to pay damages.

But the firms failed to comply with the compensation order, as the Japanese government claims that all claims arising from its colonial rule were settled “fully and definitively” under a bilateral agreement signed in 1965.

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Plaintiffs in the cases then had some of the assets of the companies in South Korea seized by the courts planning to liquidate them.

Relations between Japan and South Korea have improved since they sank to their lowest point in years under the rule of Yoon’s predecessor Moon Jae In, due to wartime history.

After attending a state funeral for Queen Elizabeth II in London, Yoon flies to New York and then travels on to Canada.