By Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, Sept. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will seek to strengthen trade cooperation with Japan amid challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, and a more friendly business environment will be offered to Japanese firms here, Seoul's top trade official said Wednesday.
"The government will spare no efforts to promote the economic ties between South Korea and Japan," Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo said during a meeting with Japanese business officials based here.
"South Korea will offer an open and transparent business environment for all foreign businesses in line with the rules of the World Trade Organization," he added.
The remark came amid the prolonged trade dispute between South Korea and Japan.
In July 2019, Japan slapped export controls on chemicals vital to the South Korean chip industry in apparent retaliation against a Seoul court's ruling in 2018 that ordered Japanese firms to compensate victims of their wartime forced labor.
Following the dispute, South Korea and Japan also removed each other from their "whitelist" of trusted trade partners.
Tokyo has argued all reparation issues, stemming from its 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula, were settled under a 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral relations.
No significant progress, however, has been made so far to settle the protracted dispute so far.
Earlier this week, a Seoul court ordered the sale of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.'s assets here -- two copyrights and two patents -- to compensate two female plaintiffs as a follow-up measure for the 2018 ruling.
The ruling marked the first time a South Korean court has ordered the liquidation of Japanese corporate assets in a damages suit filed by workers mobilized to forced labor during World War II.
Amid the controversy, Yeo said it is still important for the two countries to make joint efforts to normalize the supply chain in the Asia-Pacific region and cope with the changing business environment.
The combined amount of foreign direct investment (FDI) pledges made to Asia's No. 4 economy over the first half by Japan, meanwhile, came to US$460 million, up 1.4 percent from the previous year.
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