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Asia Minute: Historic visit brings different coverage in South Korea and Japan

South Korea Japan
Ahn Young-joon
People pass by a TV screen showing South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Japan, during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, March 16, 2023. Japan and South Korea agreed on steps toward resolving a trade dispute that has been one of the strains the nations' leaders aimed to resolve at a highly anticipated summit Thursday.

South Korea's president visited Tokyo on Thursday. It's the first time in 12 years that a Korean leader has been in Japan and the media in the two countries are telling the story with a slightly different emphasis.

History can be painful — and that’s definitely the case when it comes to relations between Japan and Korea.

Japan occupied Korea as a colony from 1910 to 1945.

Wartime included sex slaves and forced labor and disputes over responsibility for that have lingered long after the two countries resumed diplomatic relations in 1965.

The current leaders of South Korea and Japan are trying to move past that history.

Areas for potential cooperation include dealing with North Korea, with China, and with evolving economic ties.

Media coverage in Japan has tended to focus on security — and moving beyond disputes about history.

Many Korean outlets are focusing more on economics.

South Korea’s Joong Ang Daily led its online coverage with the headline “Yoon aims to restore economic ties during Japan trip.”

Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun highlighted a different context — quoting an interview one of its reporters did with South Korean President Yoon saying his visit itself represents “major progress in light of past bilateral relations.”

South Korea has plans to compensate victims of Japan’s forced labor with a foundation paid for by Korean companies.

Many details are still to come as the visit lasts two days — with expectations already focused on what comes next.

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