A rather turbulent relationship

South Korea's relationship with Japan has seen numerous ups and downs since they signed a treaty in 1965 to normalise ties in return for US$800 million compensation from Japan for World War II and its colonisation of South Korea.

Japan maintains that all issues related to the war, including forced labour and sexual slavery, are covered by the treaty. But South Korea says war victims have the right to seek redress.

In 1991, a group of 35 Korean sex slaves or comfort women sued the Japanese government in a landmark case that led Japan to apologise for war atrocities in 1992 and 1993.

In 2015, the countries signed a "final and irreversible" deal to settle the comfort women issue. Japan promised to pay compensation. But the pact was nullified in 2017 by South Korean president Moon Jae-in's government. His administration angered Japan further by refusing to intervene in the South Korean Supreme Court's 2018 ruling that Japanese companies should compensate victims of forced labour.

Tensions rose again in 2019, when Japan curbed the export of raw materials needed by South Korea's semiconductor industry. South Koreans, in turn, boycotted Japanese products.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2022, with the headline A rather turbulent relationship. Subscribe