Japan on Friday returned South Korea to its list of preferred trading partners after four years, as ties between the two countries continue to improve after years of acrimony over wartime issues.

With the revision to the Cabinet order, effective the same day, most exports to South Korea do not require permission. The country joined 26 other preferred nations on the list, including Britain and the United States.

The move comes after a similar step by South Korea regarding Japan's trade status.

South Korea was removed from Japan's so-called white list of countries entitled to minimum trade restrictions in August 2019 after its Supreme Court in the previous year ordered two Japanese companies to compensate Korean plaintiffs over forced labor accusations connected to Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Though widely seen as a retaliatory step, Japan at the time said it had concerns over South Korea's export system and needed to be assured that exported goods would be prevented from flowing to North Korea and other countries of concern.

Seoul later removed Japan from its white list as well.

A leadership change in South Korea, however, prompted the two countries to move quickly to mend bilateral relations, leading to a summit between Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in March.

In the same month, Japan eased export controls on three key semiconductor manufacturing materials bound for South Korea in response to Seoul retracting its complaint at the World Trade Organization over the export controls.

The next month, South Korea put Japan back on its list of countries entitled to preferential treatment, allowing strategic items to head to Japan with a shorter review period.

In July, the two governments signed a memorandum of cooperation stipulating that they will hold a regular policy dialogue on export procedures.

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is considering holding the dialogue around twice a year.