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S. Korea, Japan could consider simplified entry agreement: Seoul official

By Yonhap

Published : April 26, 2024 - 20:24

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Japanese tourists shop or dried seaweed, at a discount mart in Seoul. (Yonhap) Japanese tourists shop or dried seaweed, at a discount mart in Seoul. (Yonhap)

South Korea and Japan could consider adopting a simplified entry procedure for people traveling between the two countries, as an effort to keep the momentum going in the dramatic improvement in bilateral relations, a Seoul official said Friday.

The official made the suggestion as one of the possibilities that the two neighbors could explore, likening the idea to the Schengen Agreement in Europe that allows nationals of the signatory countries and eligible members to travel freely without border checks.

Next year could serve as an occasion for such discussions, as Seoul and Tokyo are to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations, the official said in a session with reporters.

"The 60th anniversary can be another very important momentum. We should institutionalize the overall exchanges, economic cooperation in a way that they won't be damaged, while we continue to sternly address the historical issues," the official said on the condition of anonymity.

"Simplifying the entry procedure is among those, and there is a considerable shared understanding in Japan (about this). I believe we need to make various efforts to find the common ground between South Korea and Japan," the official said.

The foreign ministry said, however, no discussions are under way at the government level regarding a potential easing of entry procedures.

The official noted that South Korea and Japan now share strategic interests in many areas, such as in the Indo-Pacific region and advanced technologies, highlighting the need for follow-up steps to move the relationship forward.

The official expected that the bilateral partnership fund, established between the countries' two largest business lobbies, should see a significant increase in contributions from Japanese companies.

The Federation of Korean Industries and the Japan Business Federation launched the fund in May last year to promote private exchanges, as a follow-up to the leaders' March summit that came after Seoul's announcement that it will compensate the Korean victims of Japan's wartime forced labor on its own without involving Japanese firms.

The decision by the Yoon Suk Yeol government has led to a dramatic warming of bilateral relations, resuming the "shuttle diplomacy" between leaders and the removal of Japan's export controls on South Korean industries.