Seoul, Tokyo to hold high-level economic talks following deal on comfort women

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (left) and his South Koren counterpart Yun Byung Se shaking hands in Seoul on Dec 28, 2015.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (left) and his South Koren counterpart Yun Byung Se shaking hands in Seoul on Dec 28, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

SEOUL (Korea Herald/Asia News Network) - South Korea and Japan are seeking to hold high-level economic talks later this month as the two sides seek to enhance bilateral ties following last month's breakthrough deal over Japan's wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women.

The 14th Korea-Japan high-level economic consultations are reportedly expected to be held in the middle of this month in Tokyo. The consultations, which have been held since 1999, have been a key venue for the two sides to discuss bilateral trade, investment and other economic issues.

Bilateral ties are at a critical juncture after the two countries struck a deal last month on reparation for as many as 200,000 Korean women forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops during World War II, euphemistically known as comfort women.

Under the agreement, Japan will pay about 1 billion yen (S$11.7 million) into a fund to help survivors and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe renewed an apology.

But Japan has declined to call the money compensation. The deal as been criticised as inadequate by many surviving comfort women as well as the Korean public.

The upcoming economic talks are expected to be led by South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Affairs Lee Tae Ho and his Japanese counterpart Yasumasa Nagamine .

The agenda for the meeting is expected to include the two countries' fisheries dispute, which has been referred to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for dispute settlement.

Seoul has banned the importation of fishery products from eight prefectures in Japan after a nuclear meltdown in Fukushima. Tokyo has called the ban inappropriate, and brought the issue to the WTO.

The two sides could also discuss the issue of forced Korean labour during Japan's colonisation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910-45. South Korean victims have filed a lawsuit against Japan, calling for Japan's compensation.