S. Korean, Japanese biz leaders call for patching up frayed diplomatic relations

SEOUL-- Business leaders from South Korea and Japan on Wednesday voiced concerns over an escalating trade feud between the two neighbors, calling for their governments to resolve the issue through dialogue.

Some 300 business leaders from the two nations gathered in Seoul for the annual conference of the Korea-Japan Economic Association to discuss ways to ease trade tensions and normalize the bilateral economic relations that recently sank to their lowest point in decades.

"The political and diplomatic relations between South Korea and Japan have recently been going through tough times with no exit in sight," the association said in a joint statement. "Britain's exit from the European Union, trade frictions between the United States and China, and geopolitical risk in the Middle East are also posing big threats to energy imports by South Korea and Japan."

The participants said the frayed economic ties are also creating tension in cultural and sports exchanges between the two neighbors, urging their governments to find ways to normalize their relations.

"We have shared consensus that the political and diplomatic ties should normalize to develop reciprocal economic relations between South Korea and Japan," the statement said. "We strongly urge the two nations' governments to normalize relations via dialogue and open a new chapter in the relations."

Their call came as relations between Seoul and Tokyo have been sharply deteriorating in recent months amid the escalating trade tussle.

In July, Tokyo adopted stricter export regulations on key materials to South Korea, which was widely seen as retaliation against Seoul's handling of wartime forced labor issues.

The two countries then removed each other from their respective lists of trusted trade partners granted preferential treatment in export procedures, adding woes to Korean companies already grappling with uncertainties from the prolonged U.S.-China trade war and geopolitical tension in the Middle East.

Earlier this month, South Korea filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over Japan's export curbs. Japan recently accepted South Korea's offer to hold a bilateral consultation over Seoul's WTO complaint.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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