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(LEAD) S. Korean, Japanese biz leaders call for restoration of relations amid trade row

All News 17:16 September 24, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS photo, more info in paras 11-13)
By Joo Kyung-don

SEOUL, Sept. 24 (Yonhap) -- Business leaders from South Korea and Japan on Tuesday voiced their hopes that the two countries can work to restore their bilateral relationship over a tit-for-tat trade dispute.

Some 300 business leaders from the two countries gathered in Seoul for the annual conference of the Korea-Japan Economic Association to discuss the economic situation surrounding the two Asian neighbors.

"Both South Korea and Japan have to deeply understand each other and should live together through cooperation and competition in good faith," Kim Yoon, who heads the Korea-Japan Economic Association, said. "Communication and cooperation are desperately needed."

Mikio Sasaki, who leads the Japanese delegation, said the two countries must expand exchanges to improve their bilateral relationship.

"Both countries need to work on restoring political, diplomatic ties," he said.

The economic relations between Seoul and Tokyo have been sharply deteriorating in recent months amid the escalating trade tussle.

In July, Tokyo abruptly announced steps to regulate exports of key materials to South Korea, which was widely seen as retaliation against Seoul's Supreme Court rulings last year ordering Japanese firms to compensate Korean victims of forced labor during Japan's brutal 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

The two countries then removed each other from their respective lists of trusted trade partners granted preferential treatment in export procedures. Earlier this month, South Korea filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over Japan's export curbs.

Yoo Myung-hee, South Korea's trade minister, said Seoul is willing to resolve the issue with dialogue. Japan recently accepted South Korea's offer to hold a bilateral consultation over Seoul's WTO complaint.

"The current situation is not right because we're seeing bilateral economic exchanges and cooperation being limited and supply chains shaking," Yoo said at the gathering. "The South Korean government will carry on diplomatic efforts to improve bilateral relations and will support economic cooperation."

Nagamine Yasumasa, Japanese Ambassador to South Korea, acknowledged that the recent economic situation is not good for both economies.

"A boycott of Japanese products in South Korea casts a cloud over Japan's economy," he said at the conference. "I hope the relationship between the two countries can be improved through this conference."

While touching on the issue of bilateral relations, the participants also urged business circles from the two countries join hands to solve social problems like the low birth rate and aging population.

The 51st edition of the Korea-Japan business conference will end Wednesday, with delegations from South Korea and Japan scheduled to make a joint statement.

Participants in the 51st Korea-Japan Business Conference pose for a photo at Lotte Hotel in central Seoul on Sept. 24, 2019. (Yonhap)

Participants in the 51st Korea-Japan Business Conference pose for a photo at Lotte Hotel in central Seoul on Sept. 24, 2019. (Yonhap)


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