President Yoon Suk Yeol called for Seoul and Tokyo to overcome the past and improve bilateral relations amid increasing tensions in the region and around the world.
Presiding over a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Yoon quoted the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who said, "If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future."
The president said he felt that neglecting the grave state of international affairs in favor of inciting hostile nationalism and anti-Japan sentiment for domestic political gain would be abandoning his presidential duties.
He emphasized the importance of cooperation with Tokyo in the face of the escalating Sino-U.S. rivalry, global supply chain disruptions and North Korea's advancing nuclear and missile threats.
Yoon went on to stress that Seoul's relationship with Tokyo is not a zero-sum game in which a win for one side constitutes a loss for the other, but instead can be a win-win for both countries.
Referring to past bilateral agreements in 1965 and in 1998 aimed at normalizing two-way ties, Yoon said this wasn't the first time that the two sides have tried to overcome past pain and to bring about a new future.
The president said Tokyo has expressed regret and apologized before over its colonial-era atrocities, including the 1998 Joint Declaration, and clearly stated its resolve to uphold past agreements during his summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last Thursday.