South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (C-R) shakes hands with Kim Gi-hyeon (2-L), chief of the ruling People Power Party, before he boards the presidential plane at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, South Korea, 16 March 2023. EFE/EPA/YONHAP SOUTH KOREA OUT

South Korean president arrives in Japan for first bilateral visit in 12 years

Tokyo (EFE).- South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol arrived in Japan Thursday in what is the first bilateral visit by a head of state of the two nations in 12 years.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (R), alongside his wife, Kim Keon Hee (L), boards the presidential plane at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, South Korea, 16 March 2023. EFE/EPA/YONHAP SOUTH KOREA OUT

The visit marks a rapprochement between the two countries, and comes hours after a fresh missile test by North Korea.

Protesters hold banners reading 'Stop building South Korea and Japan alliance' during a rally against South Korea-Japan summit, near the presidential office in Seoul, South Korea, 16 March 2023.  EFE/EPA/JEON HEON-KYUN

Yoon arrived around 11.30 am local time at Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport with his wife, First Lady Kim Keon-hee, on a private plane.

Yoon’s two-day visit comes less than two weeks after Seoul announced a plan to settle the two countries’ long-running dispute over compensation for Koreans forced to work for Japanese companies during Japanese colonial rule between 1910 and 1945.

According to the plan, a public foundation affiliated with the South Korean Ministry of Interior will compensate those affected with donations from domestic companies that benefited from donations made by Japan based on a bilateral compensation agreement signed in 1965.

The plan, welcomed by Tokyo, has sparked protests among several of the victims and led to rejection by many South Koreans over the lack of involvement of Japanese conglomerates.

Yoon has expressed his desire for the improvement of relations with Japan, which he considers essential to restore bilateral economic exchanges and to respond and effectively counter North Korea’s military threat.

Shortly before his departure for Tokyo, Yoon told an emergency National Security Council meeting that North Korea would pay for its reckless provocations, according to local news agency Yonhap.

Yoon’s visit to Japan is expected to mark the start of increased diplomatic exchanges between the two countries, including a possible visit by Prime Minister Kishida to South Korea in the summer and an invitation by Tokyo for Seoul to participate in May’s G7 summit as an observer, according to Japanese news agency Jiji. EFE