Photo/IllutrationSouth Korean President Moon Jae-in acknowledges reporters. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

SEOUL--South Korean President Moon Jae-in indicated on May 2 that he wanted to improve relations with Japan at a time when history issues continue to cause friction between the two countries.

“We must work to develop good diplomatic ties with Japan,” Moon said at a meeting with policy experts. “We have to have good relations for our national security as well as for future development of the economy.”

He also urged the participants at the meeting to spread the word about strengthening relations.

“If any of you have the opportunity to meet with Japanese for discussions, I hope you will pass on the need for both nations to together come up with good ideas,” he said.

There had been speculation that Moon was seeking ways to improve ties with Japan because of letters sent in relation to the May 1 ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne of Emperor Naruhito after the abdication of his father, Akihito, now the emperor emeritus.

Moon sent a congratulatory message to the new emperor and a letter thanking Akihito for what he had done to improve bilateral relations.

His latest remarks may have been made with an eye on the Group of 20 summit to be held in Osaka in June.

However, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha suggested on May 2 that some of the delicate diplomatic issues lying between South Korea and Japan would not likely be resolved anytime soon.

South Korean courts are expected to order Japanese companies operating in South Korea to sell assets to pay compensation to former wartime laborers.

Despite court orders to pay the compensation, the Japanese companies have refused to enter talks with the former laborers’ lawyers. The Japanese government has also insisted that all wartime compensation claims were settled under a 1965 agreement.

“From the standpoint of procedures taken by our citizens to exercise their rights, the government will not intervene,” Kang told reporters.

She was also asked what measures Seoul was considering to deal with the various other lawsuits filed by those who say they were forced to work in Japan during its 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula.

She only said it was still too early to make an announcement about such measures.