South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has wished for a return to the period when his nation's relations with Tokyo were "at their best," the leader of Japan's junior ruling party Komeito said Thursday.
Following a meeting with Yoon in Seoul earlier in the day, Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi told reporters that the South Korean president expressed a strong desire to improve bilateral ties, which have been damaged significantly by wartime labor issues.
Komeito is the junior coalition partner of the Liberal Democratic Party, headed by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who took office in October 2021.
Yamaguchi said he told Yoon during their 50-minute talk that Japan will make efforts to bolster political and people-to-people exchanges with South Korea to pave the way for a thaw in relations between the two Asian nations.
He is believed to have discussed with Yoon the issue of South Korean court orders to liquidate local assets seized from two Japanese companies, which were sued over alleged forced labor during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
Yamaguchi said he and Yoon agreed that Japan and South Korea should strengthen cooperation in light of the regional security environment surrounding both countries due largely to North Korea's increased test-firing of ballistic missiles.
Under the government of Yoon's predecessor, the left-leaning Moon Jae In, ties between Tokyo and Seoul deteriorated to their worst in decades over wartime labor and territorial issues. Moon is known as an anti-Japan politician.
Japan and South Korea, however, have shown signs of attempting to improve ties since Yoon became president in May. Yoon, known for adopting a hard-line stance on North Korea, has pledged to take a future-oriented approach toward Japan.
In November, the Japanese and South Korean leaders held the first in-person formal summit in three years on the sidelines of Association of Southeast Asian Nations-related summits in Cambodia.