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Politic-Economic-Society-Tech

Japan, S. Korea Test Communication

By SANG-HUN CHOE
Associated Press Writer

Japan's prime minister chatted Saturday on a high-speed video link that symbolizes efforts to build closer economic ties with South Korea, a day after agreeing to study a free trade agreement.

The new $50 million link will handle the bulk of video and data traffic for the May 31-June 30 World Cup, which the countries will co-host. It connects the city of Busan on South Korea's southern coast to Fukuoka in southwestern Japan by fibre-optic cables laid on the sea floor.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who was visiting Busan, spoke live with Saburo Kawabuchi, vice chairman of the Japanese organizing committee for the World Cup, in Fukuoka.

Japan and South Korea hope to overcome historic animosities through sports, cultural and economic exchanges. Japan harshly ruled Korea as a colony from 1910 until the end of World War II.

Despite lingering sentiments, the two countries are already close economic partners, with two-way trade reaching $43.1 billion in 2001.

On Friday, Koizumi and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung signed a treaty encouraging investment. Japan is South Korea's second-largest investor after the United States, with $11.2 billion invested between 1962 and 2001. South Korea's investment in Japan amounted to $730 million for the same period.

The two leaders also agreed to a government-led study of a free trade agreement.

The study team, which includes scholars and private-sector experts, is expected to submit its blueprint within a year to launch official negotiations for a free-trade pact, South Korean officials said.

Such negotiations are vulnerable to political tension. Past efforts to open South Korea up to Japanese pop culture have stumbled over recurrent anti-Japanese animosities in South Korea.

Business organizations of the two countries have urged their governments to sign a free-trade agreement to enable them to compete more effectively against Chinese, U.S. and European companies.

Earlier Saturday, Koizumi met South Korean political party leaders. He also visited Gyongju, an ancient Korean capital north of Busan, and toured a Buddhist temple before wrapping up his three-day visit.

source: Newsday.com, 23/03/2002


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