Yoon argues that Seoul and Tokyo must leave the past behind to improve their relations

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo. – -/Yna/Dpa

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said Tuesday that Seoul and Tokyo must »leave the past behind» in order to improve the troubled relations between the two countries.

»Korea-Japan relations must go beyond the past, (…) they can and should be a win-win relationship, working together and gaining more together,» he said at a cabinet meeting, Yonhap news agency reported.

The South Korean leader has criticized the previous government, led by Moon Jae In, for failing to act in favor of »deeply stuck relations» with the archipelago.

»It could also have chosen the comfortable path for immediate political gains and left the worst Korea-Japan relations as they are,» said Yoon, who expressed confidence that his cabinet »is moving in the right direction.»

He also added that he believes he »would be in breach» of his »duties as president if he provoked hostile nationalism and anti-Japanese sentiment in domestic politics.»

Yoon’s remarks come in the wake of criticism from the main opposition Democratic Party after the South Korean government decided to compensate victims of forced labor by Japanese companies during the war through donations.

In addition, the opposition has questioned whether the president has made unannounced concessions to the neighboring country, as Japanese media have reported that the two leaders have discussed other complicated issues in South Korea-Japan relations, such as sexual slavery of Japanese troops or the Liancourt islets, known as Takeshima in Tokyo and Dokdo in Seoul.

In this sense, Yoon regretted that »there are still forces that shout exclusive nationalism, shout anti-Japanese and make political gains».