Korea and Japan have agreed to designate 2002 as the year of exchanges between the peoples of the two countries to dramatically improve bilateral ties on the occasion of the co-hosting of World Cup soccer finals.
The agreement was reached at the second Korea-Japan ministerial meeting held on this southern resort island with 12 minister-level officials from Korea and 10 from Japan attending.
During the two-day meeting, which began Saturday afternoon, officials from the two countries launched extensive talks on political, economic, social, cultural and sports exchange issues.
Even though they succeeded in sharing understanding on some issues, there were differences over others. Korean officials called for Japan's commitment to the early settlement of various pending issues but the Obuchi administration appears unready to take initiatives in removing many obstacles to a strong partnership.
Ideas such as the creation of an industrial complex in Korea for the exclusive use of Japanese companies was put forward by Commerce-Industry-Energy Minister Chung Duck-koo as part of Korea's efforts to put an end to the chronic trade deficit with Japan. According to the minister, Korea's total accumulative trade deficit with Japan reached $143 billion since the 1965 establishment of diplomatic relations.
``We reached an agreement to designate 2002 as the year for exchanges of the peoples of Japan and Korea, when the World Cup soccer finals are hosted jointly,'' Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi said in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil Saturday night, following the meeting.
``Within the big framework, the two countries decided to push ahead with comprehensive exchanges on various levels, such as culture, sports, youth, regions, academics, industry and culture,'' he added.
Prior to the ministerial meeting, Foreign Ministers Hong Soon-young and Yohei Kono exchanged letters of understanding for the effectuation of the new Korea-Japan agreement on the avoidance of double taxation. It will take effect 30 days later to help stimulate bilateral economic activities.
The ministerial meeting between the two neighboring countries is a forum for brainstorming between high-level officials of the two countries which had maintained decades of antagonism against each other following Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.
In the wake of President Kim Dae-jung's new approach toward Japan since October last year, when he made a visit to Tokyo, the two countries are seeking to create modalities for cooperation by shedding emotional enmity toward each other. …