Photo/IllutrationNam Gwan-pyo, who has been appointed as the new ambassador to Japan (Pool)

SEOUL--A close aide of South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been tapped as the new ambassador to Japan, an appointment that comes amid deteriorated ties between the two countries.

Nam Gwan-pyo, who is considered well-versed in Moon's thinking, said at a news conference in Seoul on May 8, "The current (strain in) relations with Japan differs from what Moon is thinking and what he is aiming for."

Nam, 62, also expressed his intention to improve worsened diplomacy over the legal issues of forced labor by Japanese firms during World War II and "comfort women," who were forced to provide sex to Japanese military personnel before and during the war.

Those close to Nam say that he is a sincere person and is prepared to take action toward improving relations, which are at their worst since 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea took effect.

Nam first worked at the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo from 1992 to 1995.

At that time, he chose to live in a working-class community in Tokyo's Nakano Ward, saying, "I wanted to know how ordinary people live."

When he and his family returned to his home country in 1995, his son was a junior high school student, and he said his family is forever grateful for the good-luck messages from all of his fellow students of the school when they left.

While there is more interaction among individuals of the neighboring countries, improvement of bilateral diplomacy under the Moon administration has been regarded as "heavy homework that has built up," according to a source.

Nam, who will be the second ambassador to Japan under Moon, had been working as second deputy chief of the National Security Office shaping policies on diplomatic relations with North Korea, on which Moon was focused, until recently.

Although he is not considered part of the so-called "Japan school," promising foreign affairs bureaucrats who have learned the language, a South Korean government source emphasized, "Nam is one of the aides who best grasps Moon's thinking."

During the 100th anniversary in March of the launch of a popular uprising against Japan's colonial rule from 1910 to 1945, Moon refrained from direct criticism of Japan, showing his reluctance to aggravate already-frayed ties between the two countries. Nam was closely watching Moon's attitude then.

Nam also expressed anxiety for taking on the challenges of his new post, saying, "I'm facing strong pressure, as people are placing their hope in me for improved relations."

He, however, pointed out the first achievement to a record 10 million in the annual number of travelers from either country to the other last year, saying, "This fruit will serve as a basis for improving relations between us from now on."

Nam intends to encourage both countries to smoothly collaborate on economic and cultural projects with an expansion of communication between their respective citizens at the base.

Meanwhile, Nam expressed his intention to convey South's Korea's view on historical issues with persistence, saying, "Diplomats will need to do their best to avoid chilling the entire relationship."

Knowing that enthusiasm alone cannot turn the situation around, he said he "would still like to tackle issues while respecting the other side's position through ongoing communication based on trust."

It will be put to the test whether he can exercise his abilities leveraging the closeness he has with Moon.