- Last year, the Supreme Court in Seoul ordered two Japanese companies to financially compensate Korean citizens they had enslaved during colonial rule.
- Tokyo's response came in July when restrictions on exports of certain products to neighboring country were activated almost without prior notice.
- The South Korean government reacted quickly by removing Japan from its "white list" of privileged business partners.
The Prime Ministers of South Korea and Japan will meet in Tokyo next Thursday in what is expected to be their first talks since relations soured in 2018. In order to improve the bad diplomatic relations that South Korea and Japan have maintained since the end of 2018, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-Yon will meet next Thursday in Tokyo with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe
Although all the details have not yet been disclosed, the meeting is likely to be brief, according to the office of the South Korean prime minister, who will take advantage of his trip to Tokyo to attend the coronation of Emperor Naruhito.
The conflict between the two countries began when the Supreme Court in Seoul ordered two Japanese companies to financially compensate Korean citizens they had enslaved during colonial rule (1910-1945). Tokyo believes they had settled the issue under a 1965 treaty that normalized ties. However, much of that money did not arrive for all victims, due to mishandling by then-dictator Park Chung-hee.
Tokyo’s response came in July when restrictions on exports of certain products to neighboring country were activated almost without prior notice. In August, Japan withdrew South Korea from its list of preferred trading partners. Tokyo’s official position was that Seoul did not apply sufficient security measures in its technology sector. The measure was approved this same day by Abe’s government.
Conversely, Seoul hastened to reply with a similar gesture. The South Korean government reacted quickly by removing Japan from its “white list” of privileged business partners. What Tokyo has done “fundamentally destroys the relations of trust and cooperation that the two countries established. For this, we express our strong protest and deep regret, and urge Tokyo to immediately withdraw its vengeful trade measures.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that this “selfish action” will cause enormous damage to the world economy by disrupting supply chains. In a statement broadcasted live, Moon urged Japan to withdraw “unilateral and unfair measures” as soon as possible and return to the dialogue.
Japan’s determination extends the limitations that Tokyo has applied since the beginning of last July to the basic chemical materials acquired by South Korean companies to manufacture screens and memory chips. Tokyo states that these restrictions are due to Seoul not being able to guarantee that such materials end up being used for military purposes by third countries. The foreign ministers of both countries tried unsuccessfully, in recent days, to find a solution to the problem. The information on the measure was confirmed by the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Hiroshige Seko.
South Korea no longer has access to simplified procedures for the purchase of materials and technology from Japan susceptible to military use, a status that it had enjoyed since 2004 with a group of 26 other countries, including States United, United Kingdom, Argentina, Germany or Australia.