Japan - Korea
Chronology from Jan 2023 to May 2023
: Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reports that Prime Minister Kishida will likely visit Seoul either May 7 or 8 for another summit with South Korean President Yoon.
: Japan begins domestic procedures to relist South Korea back to its “white list” of trusted trading partners.
: South Korea reinstates Japan back to its “white list” of trusted trading partners, allowing South Korean companies to fast-track export of strategic items to Japan.
: South Korean foreign ministry expresses “deep disappointment and regret” after Prime Minister Kishida sent a ritual offering of a “masakaki” tree stand to Yasukuni Shrine.
: South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries announce a two-month inspection with the Coast Guard into the marking of origin for imported seafood products over safety concerns.
: South Korea and Japan hold a 2+2 meeting of director-general level foreign ministry and defense ministry officials in Seoul to discuss the North Korean threat and trilateral security cooperation.
: US, South Korea, and Japan hold the 13th Defense Trilateral Talks, a director-general level talk in Washington, D.C. to discuss the North Korean threat and ways to deepen trilateral security cooperation.
: South Korea and Japan agree to boost tourism during South Korean Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Park Bo-gyoon’s visit to Tokyo.
: US Special Representative for the DPRK Sung Kim, South Korea’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Kim Gunn, and Japan’s Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Takehiro Funakoshi hold phone calls to discuss North Korea’s latest missile tests.
: According to the South Korean Foreign Ministry, 10 of the 15 bereaved families of the forced labor victims have agreed to receive compensation from the Foundation for Victims of Forced Mobilization.
: South Korean Foreign Ministry lodges a protest with the Japanese embassy in Seoul for the inclusion of Dokdo/Takeshima in the 2023 Diplomatic Bluebook.
: President and CEO of Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) Yu Jeoung-yeol speaks about opportunities to expand business cooperation with Japan, including in “digital transformation, carbon neutrality and components” and working together in third countries.
: Four lawmakers from the South Korean opposition party finish their three-day trip to Japan to look into the wastewater discharge plan from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
: Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) hold working-level meeting in Seoul, the first time in six years.
: US Special Representative for the DPRK Sung Kim, South Korea’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Kim Gunn, and Japan’s Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Takehiro Funakoshi meet trilaterally in Seoul to discuss recent North Korean missile tests and human rights situation.
: Japan’s Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Takehiro Funakoshi also meets with Korean counterpart Seo Min-jung in Seoul to discuss follow-up measures to the Yoon government’s compensation plan for the forced labor issue.
: Daejeon District Court seizes four additional Korean-based patent rights of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries at the request of a few forced labor victim. This is part of the seizure and debt collection process for the compensation suit that was upheld by an appeals court and pending at the Supreme Court.
: South Korea, Japan, and the US begin a two-day trilateral anti-submarine and search-and-rescue exercise involving the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier.
: South Korea’s Office of the President announces that Korea will not resume imports of seafood from the Fukushima region.
: South Korea and Japan hold a trade meeting of over 100 government officials in Seoul to discuss improving bilateral business and trade cooperation.
: Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology approves 149 textbooks, with some using language that waters down language on wartime conscription of South Koreans and on Dokdo/Takeshima.
: South Korean Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho says restoring Korea-Japan bilateral relations will “give a significant positive spillover” to the South Korean economy.
: South Korean PM Han Duck-soo says a “new horizon” has opened in the bilateral relations between Korea and Japan as a result of the Yoon-Kishida summit on March 16.
: South Korea completes procedures to withdraw its WTO complaint on export controls against Japan and begin domestic procedures to reinstate Japan to its “white list” of trusted trade partner.
: Speaker of South Korea’s National Assembly and member of the opposition Democratic Party Kim Jin-pyo says President Yoon made a “’big decision’” with the forced labor issue, and also urged Japan to make a concession and an apology from Prime Minister Kishida.
: South Korean Unification Minister Kwon Young-se begins a four-day trip to Japan, the first in 18 years, and meets top Japanese officials to discuss North Korea and the abductee issue.
: South Korea and Japan fully restore the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which has been put on hold since 2019.
: Japan’s Kyodo News reports that Prime Minister Kishida has invited President Yoon to the G-7 summit in Hiroshima in May.
: South Korean opposition leader Lee Jae-myung and about 3,000 people demonstrate in front of Seoul City Hall against Yoon’s recent summit with Kishida.
: President Yoon meets members of the Japan-Korea Parliamentarians’ Union and the Japan-Korea Cooperation Committee, including former Prime Ministers Aso Taro and Suga Yoshihide. He also meets leaders of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party and Komeito, the junior coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
: President Yoon meets business leaders from South Korean and Japanese business groups, the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) and the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren).
: South Korean opposition leader Lee Jae-myung criticizes the Yoon-Kishida summit and calls it the “most humiliating and dreadful moment in the history of our diplomacy.”
: North Korea test-fires an ICBM hours before the Yoon-Kishida summit in Tokyo.
: President Yoon arrives in Tokyo for his two-day trip to meet Prime Minister Kishida, the first bilateral visit by a South Korean leader in 12 years. During their summit, they agreed to “’completely normalize’” GSOMIA, a military intelligence sharing agreement. They met later for dinner and drinks at Rengatei, a famous Japanese restaurant known as the birthplace of omurice.
: South Korean and Japanese business groups, the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) and the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) announce plans to create a separate fund to support cooperation projects, including youth exchange programs and joint research, as of the proposed resolution to the forced labor issue.
: Two forced labor victims file a lawsuit in Seoul Central District Court against a South Korean affiliate of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in order to collect compensation.
: POSCO Holdings Inc., South Korea’s leading steelmaker announces it has donated $3.1 million to the Foundation for Victims of Forced Mobilization to compensate forced labor victims.
: South Korea and Japan participate in Sea Dragon 23, a US-led multinational anti-submarine warfare exercises off Guam, a few days after North Korea conducted its first test firing of strategic cruise missiles from a submarine.
: President Yoon instructs each ministry to find new cooperation projects to build a “future-oriented” relationship with Japan.
: South Korea’s opposition Democratic Party unilaterally passes a resolution in the National Assembly urging the Yoon government to withdraw its compensation plan for wartime forced labor victims.
: South Korean opposition leader Lee Jae-myung again criticizes the compensation plan at a rally, and says there is a chance that Japanese Self-Defense Forces may enter the Korean Peninsula under a joint trilateral military drill.
: A Gallup Korea poll shows that 59% of Koreans do not approve of the Yoon government’s compensation plan because it does not involve an apology or compensation from Japanese firms.
: South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo defends the government’s compensation plan for forced labor victims, saying the proposal is “result of repeated considerations to promote future-oriented Korea-Japan relations while swiftly healing the pain that victims of forced labor have suffered for a long time.”
: New leader of the ruling People Power Party in South Korea, Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, say Korea-Japan relationship “should be rewritten for the future generation.”
: President Yoon reiterates that his government’s compensation plan for the forced labor victims was made without the direct involvement of Japanese companies in consideration of “future-oriented cooperation between South Korea and Japan” while “respecting the victims’ positions.”
: Floor leader of the South Korean opposition party Park Hong-keun asks Yoon to apologize for his compensation plan, calling it an act of “serious humiliation for victims and all our people.”
: Civic groups supporting forced labor victims criticizes the compensation plan in front of the National Assembly, saying “March 6 of 2023 will be recorded as the worst day in South Korean history and the second National Humiliation Day.”
: South Korean FM Park Jin formally announces the Yoon government’s compensation plan for the 15 forced labor victims. It will use a public foundation called the Foundation for Victims of Forced Mobilization to compensate victims, which will be funded with “voluntary” donations from the private sector.
: President Yoon says the decision to have compensation without the direct involvement of Japanese businesses was “aimed at “moving toward a future-oriented relationship between South Korea and Japan.”
: Prime Minister Kishida praises the compensation plan and says it will help restore “healthy ties” with South Korea, an “important partner.” He also says Japan will stand by its past apology to South Korea, referencing the Murayama Statement in 1995.
: South Korean opposition leader Lee Jae-myung calls the Yoon government’s forced labor compensation plan “the biggest humiliation and stain in diplomatic history.”
: Civic groups supporting forced labor victims, a coalition of 611 civic and labor organizations, oppose the compensation plan for not having direct contributions from responsible Japanese firms. A 94-year-old surviving forced labor victim said she will not accept any compensation from the foundation because it is from a third-party and also not an apology.
: South Korea drops its complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Japan’s export controls of three important semiconductor precursor materials, hydrogen fluoride, fluorinated polyamide and photoresist.
: Japan announces it will start discussions with South Korea on lifting export controls.
: South Korea and Japan create a new channel of bilateral communication to negotiate a resolution of the wartime forced labor issue. The new channel is between South Korea’s National Security Office and Japan’s National Security Secretariat. This new channel is one of a few in addition to the foreign ministry.
: In his first speech addressing the March First Independence Movement Day, President Yoon calls Japan a “partner” to work together to face global challenges.
: In a rally marking the March First Independence Movement, leader of the opposition Democratic Party Lee Jae-myung says the Yoon government is humiliating forced labor victims with their compensation plan. Other members of the opposition party also criticized President Yoon’s speech.
: US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price says the US supports President Yoon’s vision for a “more cooperative, future oriented relationship with Japan.”
: US, South Korea, and Japan hold first meeting of the newly established trilateral economic security dialogue in Honolulu, Hawaii.
: South Korean FM Park Jin meets families of victims of wartime forced labor to discuss South Korea-Japan negotiations on a resolution, and to listen to their opinions on the South Korea government proposal.
: South Korean National Assembly adopts a resolution urging Japan to withdraw its bid to list the Sado gold mine as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
: US, South Korea, and Japan carry out joint maritime drills in the sea between Korea and Japan in response to North Korea’s recent ICBM and SRBM tests. The trilateral exercises lasted about five hours and involved Aegis ships from each side and included exercises on information sharing and response procedures.
: Commander of the US Seventh Fleet Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, Commander of the ROK Fleet Vice Adm. Kim Myung-soo and Commander of Japan’s Self-Defense Fleet Vice Adm. Saito Akira meet in the US Seventh Fleet base in Yokosuka, Japan to discuss cooperation against the North Korean threat.
: Japan sends Nakano Hideyuki, vice minister in the Cabinet Office to attend an annual ceremony for Dokdo/Takeshima. South Korean Foreign Ministry’s Director-General for Asia and Pacific Affairs Seo Min-jung lodged a protest with the Japanese Embassy in Tokyo.
: South Korean FM Park Jin and Japanese FM Hayashi meet in a 35-minute bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference to discuss “major points in dispute” in the wartime forced labor issue. The Korean side asked Japan to make a “make a political decision for a sincere response.”
: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, and Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi hold a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. They condemned North Korea’s latest launch of an ICBM and committed to strengthening defense cooperation and joint deterrence.
: South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong says South Korea and Japan are narrowing differences on the wartime forced labor issue and hopes to resolve it soon.
: US Deputy of State Wendy Sherman hosts a trilateral minister meeting in Washington, DC with Korean and Japanese counterparts Cho Hyun-dong and Mori Takeo. Their joint statement reaffirms their commitment to the trilateral relationship and underscores that this is vital “not only to the security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region but also to their shared global interests.” They also vow to continue the success of their trilateral exercises on ballistic missile defense and anti-submarine warfare.
: South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong and Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Mori Takeo hold bilateral talks in Washington to find “common ground” on the wartime forced labor issue.
: South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo tells National Assembly that South Korea’s relations with Japan “should move toward the future” in response to a question on how the wartime forced labor issue should be resolved.
: South Korean Special Representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs Kim Gunn meets Japanese counterpart Funakoshi Takehiro in Seoul to discuss bilateral and trilateral (with the US) measures to deal with the North Korean threat.
: South Korean Foreign Ministry’s Director-General for Asia and Pacific Affairs Seo Min-jung meets again with Japanese counterpart Funakoshi Takehiro, this time in Seoul, to continue discussions on the wartime forced labor issue. Government sources say Japan is planning to uphold previous statements by Japanese prime ministers expressing “deep remorse” and “heartfelt apology”as part of a “sincere response” requested by South Korean officials.
: South Korean foreign minister says in an interview with SBS that it is “”desirable for Japanese companies” to voluntarily participate in the proposed compensation plan for the wartime forced labor issue.
: South Korean Foreign Ministry’s Director-General for Asia and Pacific Affairs Seo Min-jung calls in an official from the Japanese embassy in Seoul to lodge a protest over Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa’s speech in the Diet on Dokdo/Takeshima.
: South Korean Second Vice Foreign Minister Lee Do-hoon calls in an official from the Japanese embassy in Seoul to lodge a formal protest over Japan’s move the day before to resubmit a recommendation letter to list the Sado Island gold mine as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
: Both South Korean President Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio express the desire to continue improving bilateral relations, with Yoon reiterating that the two are “the closest and most important neighbors.”
: South Korean Foreign Ministry’s Director-General for Asia and Pacific Affairs Seo Min-jung meets Japanese counterpart Funakoshi Takehiro in Tokyo for discussions on the wartime forced labor issue, including on South Korea’s compensation plan proposal.
: Chairperson of South Korea’s Nuclear Safety and Security Commission Yoo Guk-hee says the safety review process for Japan’s planned release of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant has not been completed.
: South Korea’s LG Energy Solution Ltd. and Japan’s Honda Motor Co. joint US electric-vehicle battery venture, the L-H Battery Co. Inc. officially starts with plans for a facility in Jeffersonville, Ohio with an annual production capacity of 40 gigawatt hours.
: South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin and Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa speak on the phone and agree to continue close discussion on the wartime forced labor issue, a day after South Korea proposes a new compensation plan.
: South Korean foreign ministry holds a public hearing at the National Assembly on the wartime forced labor issue and confirms a plan to compensate victims through a public foundation fund instead of through funds from Japanese companies. The announcement was strongly protested by victims and supporting civic groups.
: About 30 lawmakers from the opposition Democratic Party and the Justice Party hold a press conference with a civic group to denounce the South Korean government’s compensation proposal for victims of wartime forced labor.
: In the South Korean foreign ministry’s report to President Yoon Suk Yeol on major policy tasks for 2023, First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong says Korea will continue to mend ties with Japan through “reasonable solutions” to pending issues, and also hope to resume shuttle diplomacy.
: In a joint policy briefing from the foreign and defense ministries, President Yoon says he does not take issue with Japan increasing its defense budget because of the North Korean missile threat.
: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterates that the US is working to deepen trilateral cooperation with South Korea and Japan to deter against North Korean provocations.