President Yoon Suk-yeol has told a Japanese newspaper ahead of his bilateral summit with Japan, "Normalizing bilateral relations will not only serve the common interests of both countries but also send a very positive sign to the international community."
In an exclusive interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun published on March 15, he said, "Looking back on Korea-Japan ties so far, the visit to Japan itself is a big step forward and achievement."
"As weight-carrying nations in the international community, Korea and Japan share cooperative partnerships with many countries in tasks related to economy, national security, and science and technology," he added. "Normalizing deteriorating Korea-Japan ties is keeping a presidential election pledge I made to the people."
On fears within Japan that the issue of Korean victims of forced work during Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula could resurface given public opposition from the Korean media to his proposed solution, President Yoon said, "We devised a solution that prevents exercising of the right to indemnity later," adding, "I believe that there is no need to worry about this point."
Held at the presidential office in Seoul ahead of the president's visit to Japan, the 80-minute interview was led by Shoichi Oikawa, representative director and chairman of the Yomiuri Shimbun Holdings. In an unprecedented move, the daily provided detailed coverage of the interview spanning nine pages, including the front-page headline.
President Yoon visited Japan from March 16-17 to attend a summit meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
At a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida following their talks on March 17, President Yoon said, "This summit became the first step in overcoming the unfortunate history between the two countries and opening a new era of cooperation between South Korea and Japan."
President Yoon also said, "We agreed that the two countries' peoples bore direct and indirect damage from the frozen bilateral relationship, and shared our commitment to swiftly restoring the South Korea-Japan relationship."
Office of National Security Director Kim Sung-han on March 14 told a news briefing at the presidential office in Seoul, "This visit marks the resumption of bilateral summit visits suspended for 12 years, and will serve as an important milestone in improving Korea-Japan ties, which the Yoon Suk-yeol administration has pursued with emphasis since its inauguration."
"The announcement of strained Korea-Japan ties fully entering the normalization stage is meaningful," he added. "Because the leaders of both countries could not easily meet amid strained bilateral relations, this visit will serve as an important opportunity to break the vicious cycle of relationship stagnation and reorganize the conditions for full-fledged bilateral exchanges."