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Asia Minute: Leaders of South Korea and Japan hold first bilateral meeting in nearly three years

Fumio Kishida
Jason DeCrow/AP
FR103966 AP
FILE - Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol agreed to accelerate efforts to mend ties frayed over Japan’s past colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula as they held their countries' first summit talks in nearly three years on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Seoul officials said Thursday, Sept. 21, 2022 .(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File)

The leaders of two countries with a contentious relationship met briefly in the United States on Wednesday.

For the first time in nearly three years, the leaders of South Korea and Japan have held a bilateral summit meeting.

The half hour meeting Wednesday between South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida took place in New York — where the two were attending the United Nations General Assembly.

Statements from the offices of both leaders confirmed a shared desire to improve relations, but there were few other details.

That may sound like a small movement, but itʻs a noteworthy one in what has been a historically bitter relationship.

Japan colonized the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945 — and South Korea has been pursuing compensation from two Japanese companies for the use of forced labor during World War Two.

That dispute involving Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries led to a deeper split on trade.

Earlier this week, the foreign ministers of the two countries also met in New York — and agreed on the need for continued dialogue on the issue of forced wartime labor.

There is at least one area of shared interest that was discussed Wednesday: cooperation in dealing with North Korea.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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