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Briefing Room

President Yoon urges 'future-oriented ties' with Japan in televised speech


President Yoon Suk Yeol on March 21 said, "Korea-Japan ties can and must be a win-win relationship in which more is gained through joint efforts."


In his 12th Cabinet meeting at the presidential office in Seoul, he said in his opening speech, "Korea-Japan ties are not a zero-sum relationship in which one side gains as much as the other loses."


The president began his 23-minute speech, which was aired live on TV, by quoting a line from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill: "If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future."


"We must face and remember the past," he said. "But we should not get caught up in the past."


"Korea-Japan relations must now move beyond their past," he added, mentioning reconciliation between Germany and France, which fought each other in World War I and II but are now the closest neighbors in Europe.


"Japan has already expressed regret and apologies about historical issues dozens of times," he said, citing the joint Kim Dae-jung–Obuchi Declaration in 1998 and a statement in 2010 from then Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.


"In the latest bilateral summit, the Japanese government made it clear that it will inherit the overall standpoint of previous administrations on awareness of history, including the joint Kim Dae-jung–Obuchi Declaration."


On his administration's decision to use a third-party compensation plan for Korean victims of forced labour during Japanese colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, President Yoon said, "We decided to promote the third-party compromise plan as a compromise that satisfies both the 1965 agreement that normalized diplomatic relations and the (Korean) Supreme Court ruling of 2018 (in favor of the victims)."


"The government will do its best to heal the pain of the victims and their bereaved families."


Turning to the future of ties, President Yoon said, "Now the governments of Korea and Japan must look back on themselves and make their own efforts to remove obstacles that hinder the normalization and development of bilateral relations."


"(The two leaders) will further accelerate efforts to boost cooperation in a range of sectors like national security, economy and culture in line with public consensus on the need to jointly prepare for the future."


On the results of his Japan visit, the president said, "I believe our government is headed toward the right direction."


He mentioned Japan's removal of export restrictions on three key materials for semiconductor production; Korea's retraction of its 2019 withdrawal from the bilateral General Security of Military Information Agreement to lay the groundwork for raising cooperation in military intelligence among Korea, the U.S. and Japan; resumption of "shuttle diplomacy" between the leaders of Korea and Japan; and joint efforts to reopen a trilateral summit among Korea, Japan and China.


"Now we are at a new turning point in history," the president said. "Normalization of Korea-Japan relations will produce a new sense of pride to our people in the end and reward our people and companies with big benefits."