Interview with H.E. Koro Bessho, Japanese Ambassador to the Republic of Korea

Ambassador Koro Bessho, Japanese Ambassador to the Republic of Korea

Although Korea and Japan have experienced a somewhat turbulent past, this year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries following the signing of the Treaty on Basic Relations in 1965. To celebrate, over 400 cultural events have been held in both countries to boost relations and promote stronger ties for the future. At the official ceremony in Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said “Let’s build a new era for both of our countries, hand in hand reflecting on the past 50 years of friendship, history of development and looking to the coming 50 years”, while at the parallel celebration in Seoul, Korean President Park Geun-hye commented, “We should make this 50th year of normalization of ties a turning point so that South Korea and Japan can walk together toward the future of new cooperation, co-existence and co-prosperity”. The Asia Society Korea Center held its own celebration in Seoul with a “Why We Love Ramen: A Generation of Shared Taste between Korea and Japanese Food Culture” evening. Here we caught up with the Japanese Ambassador to Korea, H.E. Koro Bessho, who co-hosted and co-organized the festivity. Ambassador Bessho, having taken up the role in 2012, gave his thoughts on the 2015 celebrations and his future hopes for Japan-Korea relations.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Japan – Korea relations. How big of a milestone is this?
Three years have passed since I arrived in Seoul as the Japanese Ambassador to Korea. I cannot say that this journey has always been smooth sailing, but during these three years I have always had one eye on 2015, the year marking the 50th anniversary of relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea. I am glad to say that it has turned out to be a year to be remembered in many respects and hopefully it will act as a springboard for improved relations in the future.

How has this anniversary been celebrated in both Korea and Japan?
More than 400 cultural events have been held in Korea and Japan to commemorate the anniversary, including a most enjoyable “ramen” evening in Seoul, which the Asia Society Korea Center kindly co-hosted with the Embassy of Japan. The official Celebration Ceremony organized by the two Governments were a great success and attended by both President Park Geun-Hye in Seoul and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo. The two leaders met in a Summit meeting early in November for the first time in three and half years, and I believe that we are now in sight of a foundation on which to build a new bilateral relationship for the next fifty years and beyond.

What hopes do you have for the relationship between the two countries moving forward?
“Together, let us open a new future!” This is the joint motto agreed on by the two governments for the 50th anniversary. The spirit of this phrase should carry on beyond 2015 and have a lasting legacy. By advancing a close partnership, Japan and the Republic of Korea will not only benefit themselves, but should be able to contribute greatly to the peace and prosperity of Asia. Both countries have so much to offer each other.