S. Korean, Japanese culture ministers seek way out of worsening diplomatic ties

SEOUL-- The culture ministers of South Korea and Japan discussed bilateral cooperation on the cultural front Thursday in their meeting held amid escalating trade and diplomatic rows between their countries.

The meeting between Culture Minister Park Yang-woo and his Japanese counterpart, Masahiko Shibayama, held at a convention center in Incheon, just west of Seoul, was arranged on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the culture and tourism ministers of South Korea, Japan and China.

"The two ministers shared their understanding that the cultural exchanges among South Korea and Japan should continue and discussed various trilateral cultural exchange and cooperation projects involving them and China, as well as bilateral cooperation projects," the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said.

The projects discussed during the meeting included the regularization of a trilateral forum on cultural and art education and the arrangement of trilateral cultural programs during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and the following the Paralympics, according to the ministry.

Coming at a time when the neighboring countries are locked in one of the worst diplomatic rows, the ministers' talks were meant to find a way out of the bilateral tangle.

Since Japan imposed restrictions on its exports of essential high-tech materials to South Korea last month, ties have soured drastically.

Last week, Seoul decided to terminate the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan, a bilateral pact that allowed the two countries to share sensitive military intelligence in the face of North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.

That move was followed by Japan's official removal of South Korea from its whitelist of trusted trade partners on Wednesday, sending the bilateral relationship tumbling further.

Also on Thursday, Park sat down for talks with his Chinese counterpart, Minister of Culture Luo Shugang. The culture ministers of Japan and China also held a separate bilateral meeting of their own the same day.

The trilateral culture and tourism ministers' meeting kicked off at the convention center, Songdo Convensia, for a three-day run to discuss three-way cultural cooperation, as well as to pursue the mutual development of the neighboring countries' tourism.

The second day of the conference Friday will include two major events -- the trilateral meetings of the culture ministers and tourism ministers of the three nations.

South Korea has maintained that the cultural ties with Japan should be kept separate from the countries' diplomatic and trade tensions, calling for continued cultural cooperation and exchanges with Japan.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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