Factbox: South Korea, Japan seek reset on decades of historical disputes

·2 min read
Police officer stands guard near Japan and South Korea national flags at hotel, where South Korean embassy in Japan is holding the reception to mark the 50th anniversary of normalisation of ties between Seoul and Tokyo in Tokyo

SEOUL (Reuters) - Efforts to resolve historical disputes between South Korean and Japan have been renewed under new South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, with both countries vowing to improve ties.

- Relations between the two North Asian U.S. allies have been strained over disputes dating to Japan's 1910-1945 occupation of Korea. Koreans accuse Japan of forcing women to work in wartime brothels for the Japanese military and using forced labour, among other abuses.

- Various measures over the years have attempted to resolve the issues. Japan says the matter of any compensation for forced labour was settled under a 1965 treaty normalizing diplomatic ties and providing South Korea with economic assistance.

- In 2015, South Korea and Japan reached a settlement under which Tokyo issued an official apology to "comfort women" who say they were enslaved in wartime brothels, and provided 1 billion yen ($9.23 million) to a fund to help the victims. But then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in decided to dissolve the fund in 2018, effectively scrapping the agreement as he said it did not to do enough to consider victims' concerns.

- In 2018 South Korea's Supreme Court ordered Japan's Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to compensate some wartime forced labourers. The court is expected to make a final decision on liquidating their assets in August or September, and Tokyo has warned of serious repercussions if the orders are enforced.

- Relations deteriorated in 2019 when Japan restricted exports of high-tech material to South Korea. At the time Seoul threatened to pull out of an intelligence-sharing deal with Tokyo, but backed down at the last minute under pressure from the United States, which has pushed for its two allies to mend ties.

- Over the years some South Koreans have boycotted Japanese products and cancelled planned vacations to the country. Seoul regularly lodges complaints over the way history is recounted in some Japanese textbooks, and there have been flare-ups over the "Rising Sun" flag seen as a symbol of imperial Japan. Tokyo has accused South Korean leaders of exacerbating tensions to score political points.

- The two countries also have a territorial dispute over a cluster of windswept volcanic islets, known as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan. The islets are controlled by Seoul with a small contingent of coast guards, and are also claimed by Tokyo.

(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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