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Yoon, Kishida agree on close communication over Naver's Line app row

By Yonhap

Published : May 27, 2024 - 09:28

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President Yoon Suk Yeol (3rd from Left) and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (Right) hold a summit meeting at the presidential office in Seoul on May 26. (The presidential office) President Yoon Suk Yeol (3rd from Left) and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (Right) hold a summit meeting at the presidential office in Seoul on May 26. (The presidential office)

President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida discussed a recent row surrounding Naver Corp.'s Line app in their talks Sunday and agreed to closely communicate to prevent it from hampering bilateral ties, a senior presidential official said.

The feud surrounds Japan's LY Corp., the operator of the popular Line messaging app in Japan, which is a 50-50 joint venture between South Korea's top portal Naver and Japan's SoftBank Corp.

The Japanese government has directed LY to "review its capital relationship" with Naver after a massive data leak of user information, a move seen by Korean business and political circles as implicit pressure on the company to sell down its stake to reduce Naver's control over LY.

"I understand that this is not a demand for Naver to sell its shares, and I recognize it as a matter separate from bilateral diplomatic relations," the presidential official quoted Yoon as saying during the meeting with Kishida.

Yoon underscored efforts to manage the issue so that it does not get in the way of bilateral ties going forward, according to the official.

Kishida explained the Tokyo government issued the administrative guidance on Line to review the security governance following the data leaks and vowed to remain in close coordination over the issue, the official told reporters on the background.

During the talks, Yoon and Kishida discussed ways to expand practical cooperation in fields such as energy, technology and supply chains, and agreed to launch high-level dialogues on hydrogen and resources next month.

They also vowed to strengthen trilateral security cooperation with the United States to deter threats from North Korea's nuclear program and step up cooperation on regional and international issues on the global stage.

Kishida was on a two-day visit to South Korea for separate meetings with Yoon and Chinese Premier Li Qiang, with their tripartite session slated for Monday.

It marks Kishida's first visit to South Korea in a year since their bilateral summit held in Seoul, which has led to a dramatic warming of bilateral relations and the resumption of "shuttle diplomacy" between the leaders. Over the past year, the two leaders have held nine in-person meetings on bilateral and multilateral platforms.

Yoon said he wants to build on the positive momentum to further develop relations with Tokyo.

"Based on these achievements, I hope we can work together to prepare for a historic leap forward in our bilateral relations when the two countries mark the 60th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations next year, " Yoon said in his opening remarks.

Kishida expressed his hope for continued collaboration between Japan and South Korea to tackle global challenges.

"At this historical turning point for the international community, I hope that Korea and Japan can further strengthen our cooperation to effectively address global challenges while maintaining and reinforcing a free and open Indo-Pacific," Kishida said through a translator.

Bilateral ties have improved significantly under Yoon, following his administration's decision last year to compensate Korean victims of Japanese wartime forced labor without seeking contributions from the Japanese companies involved.

In June 2023, the business lobbies of South Korea and Japan each created a fund to support various cooperation projects as part of a resolution to the row over Japan's wartime forced labor. The Federation of Korean Industries raised 1 billion won ($731,000) and the Japan Business Federation invested 100 million yen ($637,000).

Last week, the Japanese foundation invested an additional 200 million yen in the fund, Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Tae-hyo said, noting the FKI will also increase the fund to promote youth exchanges between the two nations.

Building on the thaw in diplomatic relations, the leaders of the United States, South Korea and Japan held their first standalone summit at Camp David in August 2023, where they agreed to step up security cooperation against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.

It is their first meeting in six months after they met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco. (Yonhap)