South Korea has restored Japan to its list of countries it gives preferential treatment in trade on April 24, three years after the Asian countries downgraded each other’s trade status in the midst of a diplomatic row led by historical grievances. South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy in a government gazette also said Seoul will further restrict technology and industrial exports to Russia and its ally Belarus over the war in Ukraine.
Japan and South Korea are working to repair relations, as they boost three-way security cooperation with Washington to counter the threat posed by North Korea. With the announcement, South Korea expects Tokyo to restore Seoul as a favoured trade partner as well.
In September 2019, South Korea dropped Japan from its white list of countries, which get fast-track approvals in trade. It was in response to a similar move by Japan. Tokyo had also tightened export controls on key chemicals South Korean companies use to make semiconductors and displays, a move that made South Korea file a complaint with the World Trade Organization. Earlier, South Korea had also ordered Japanese companies to offer reparations to South Koreans pushed into forced labour during Japanese rule.
Relations between the neighbours began to ease in March when South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol announced plans to use South Korean funds to compensate the forced laborers without requiring Japanese contributions. During his recent visit to Tokyo to meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the leaders vowed to rebuild the countries’ security and economic ties.