SEOUL - Featuring cosplay, pop music and dance performances, an event to boost friendship between South Korea and Japan will be held physically in Seoul for the first time in three years.
The Korea-Japan Festival, held online during the Covid-19 pandemic and amid frayed bilateral ties, is slated to draw both Koreans and foreigners keen to experience the two countries' cultures on Sunday.
Mr Kazuo Chujo, Director (Minister) of Public Information and Cultural Centre in the Embassy of Japan in South Korea, which is organising the event, said this year's theme is aptly named "Joy of Reunion" as it will finally allow Japanese and Korean participants to interact face-to-face and enjoy each other's culture.
"We hope that people in Korea who wanted to travel to Japan, but could not due to the pandemic, will come to the festival to experience Japan and inter-exchange programmes between Japan and Korea," he told The Straits Times.
The festival's return is the latest in a series of signs that indicate a warming of bilateral relations that had sunk to rock bottom due to various disputes over their history.
An annual study released earlier this month showed that South Korean favourability towards the Japanese has increased to 30.6 per cent - up from 20.5 per cent last year - while Japanese favourability towards the Koreans rose from 25.4 to 30.4 per cent in the past year.
Jointly conducted by East Asia Institute (EAI) in South Korea and Genron NPO in Japan, the survey also showed an increase in numbers for people in both countries who think that their bilateral ties are important, and who think that efforts are needed to improve ties.
Of the top three reasons given for a favourable view of the Japanese, South Korean respondents said it is "because Japanese people are kind and hardworking", "it is a developed country with a high standard of living", and "it is also a liberal democracy".
The most common reasons cited by Japanese respondents were "I am interested in Korean pop culture", "appeal of Korea's food culture and shopping", and "exchange with Korean people".
However, the two neighbours have for years struggled to resolve a territorial dispute over an island, compensation and apology for wartime forced labour and sexual slavery, a trade spat, and a stalled military intel-sharing pact.
At its worst in 2019, protesters called for a boycott of anything Japanese.
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