Seeking Strong Cooperation in South Korea-Japan Relations

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South Korea and Japan are two states that have faced many problems for many years in the context of bilateral relations. Many of these problems are issues arising from the Japanese colonial period; solution has been lagging. For example, the issue of forced labor compensation went through a long and volatile period until the resolution of Tokyo and Seoul on March 6, 2023. In addition, in the recent period, relations have gained a more and more warm atmosphere and gained a positive momentum. It is seen that the perception of common security is effective both in the formation of relations and in the formation of a positive atmosphere.

As it is known, the increasing cooperation and military activity of Seoul and Washington in the region triggers the threat perception of North Korea, and therefore North Korea sees South Korea-United States of America (US) cooperation as a threat to itself. With the effect of this cooperation, North Korea is increasing its nuclear activities on the Korean Peninsula Day by day. From the point of view of Japan, the development of South Korea-US cooperation is important because it creates opportunities for rapprochement between states that are allies of the USA.

Although the increased contacts of the parties due to the aforementioned reasons sometimes arouse concerns due to the conflicts that have not yet been resolved, these contacts continued without any interruption thanks to the common sense of both countries. The most striking of these problems is the Takeshima/Dokdo Island Problem. Although the aforementioned problem caused tension between the two countries from time to time, it did not cause a break in the course of relations. As a matter of fact, neither the textbook incident that centered on the Takeshima / Dokdo Island Problem, which caused the protest of South Korea on March 28, 2023[1] nor the visit of South Korean politicians to the troubled island, which caused Japan’s protest on May 3, 2023,[2] influenced the course of diplomacy.

As mentioned before, both Seoul and Tokyo were more willing to increase bilateral contacts, as the security perception triggered by North Korea’s activities put pressure on the parties. In this context, after the meeting of the heads of state on March 16, 2023, on March 21, 2023, Japanese Prime Minister Fumiyo Kishida invited his Korean counterpart, Yoon Suk Yeol, to Tokyo for the G-7 Summit.[3] On April 14, 2023, the 13th Tripartite Defense Talks were held in Washington, and the USA, South Korea and Japan condemned North Korea for its nuclear activities and the parties agreed to deepen their security relations against the nuclear threat of North Korea.[4]

On April 17, 2023, South Korea and Japan held defense talks for the first time in five years. In the talks, the threat of North Korea and the cooperation processes with the USA in the region came to the fore.[5] Despite the existing problems, the contacts with the USA and at the bilateral level reveal that Tokyo and Seoul desire to develop better relations both in terms of security, economy and politics.

After the meeting on April 17, 2023, on April 28, 2023, the Ministry of Finance of South Korea announced that its country was invited by Japan to the G7 Finance Ministers Meeting.[6] In addition, after the meeting between the Finance Ministers on May 2, 2023, after seven years, South Korea and Japan announced that they agreed on the continuation of the financial dialogue.[7]

In addition to all these developments, a meeting was held on April 13, 2023 between South Korean Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Park Bo-gyoon, and his Japanese counterpart, Saito Tetsuo, where necessary steps for the development of tourism were discussed.[8] Therefore, it can be said that a positive atmosphere has formed between the parties in the field of economy in parallel with the fields of politics and security.

Finally, a meeting took place between Japanese Prime Minister Kishida and South Korean Prime Minister Yeol on May 7, 2023.[9] Speaking after the opening ceremony, Yoon said that the cooperation and coordination to be developed between Japan and South Korea is not only for these two countries; he stated that it would be a profitable situation for the whole world. Kishida, on the other hand, expressed her sadness by pointing to the Japanese colonial period and underlined that many people are faced with a very difficult situation to bear. In addition, the two leaders announced that they agreed to send experts to the nuclear power plant on the issue of discharging the water of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which has been on the agenda for a long time.[10]

As a result, the Seoul and Tokyo governments, which have been trying to solve their problems for a long time due to the threat perception shaped around the nuclear activities of North Korea, have come a long way in this regard as of 2023. Not just in a political sense; Although the two states, which show the will to deepen their relations in the economic and military dimensions, encounter various problems from time to time, it is obvious that these disagreements do not seriously affect the relations. The relations between the two states, which are allies of the USA, are gaining a new dimension.

[1] “South Korea Lodges Protest with Japan over New Textbooks’ Descriptions”, The Japan Times,, (Date of Accession: 28.02.2023).

[2] “Japan Protests South Korean Politician’s Landing on Disputed Islands”, Kyodo News,, (Date of Accession: 03.05.2023).

[3] “Japan’s PM Invites President Yoon to Attend G7 Summit in May”, Korea.Net,, (Date of Accession: 21.03.2023).

[4] “S Korea, Japan, US to Deepen Security Ties Amid N Korea Threat”, Aljazeera,, (Date of Accession: 15.04.2023).

[5] Junnosuke Kobara, Yusuke Takeuchi, “Japan, South Korea Hold First Security Talks in 5 Years”, Nikkei Asia,, (Date of Accession: 18.04.2023).

[6] “Japan Invites S. Korea to G7 Financial Ministers’ Meeting”, Daijiworld,, (Date of Accession:28.04.2023).

[7] “Japan, S.Korea Agree to resume Financial Dialogue”, NHK World,, (Date of Accession:28.04.2023).

[8] “S. Korea, Japan Agree to Boost Tourism”, Yonhab News Agency,, (Date of Accession:15.04.2023).

[9] South Korean, Japanese Leaders Hold Talks in Seoul, CGTN,, (Date of Accession: 07.05.2023).

[10] Ibid.

Elcan TOKMAK, 2022 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü'nden mezun olmuştur. Eylül-Aralık 2022 tarihleri arasında ANKASAM bünyesinde Kariyer Staj Programı'nı tamamlayan Tokmak, Temmuz 2023 tarihinden itibaren ANKASAM Asya-Pasifik Araştırma Asistanı olarak çalışmalarını sürdürmektedir. Şu anda Hacettepe Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü'nde Yüksek Lisans eğitimine devam eden Tokmak'ın ilgi alanları Çin-Japonya-Kore ilişkileri ve Çin Dış Politikası'dır. Tokmak; profesyonel düzeyde İngilizce, orta derecede Çince ve başlangıç düzeyinde Korece bilmektedir.