(ATTN: RECASTS headline, paras 2-4; COMBINES story slugged ruling party-Japan prime minister; ADDS details from 6th para, byline)
By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, Sept. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in sent a letter congratulating new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Wednesday, in which he proposed joint efforts for the development of Seoul-Tokyo relations, Cheong Wa Dae said.
Moon's office reaffirmed that Seoul is ready to hold dialogue with Tokyo anytime.
Moon is looking forward to a positive response from Suga, according to Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kang Min-seok.
In the letter, Moon suggested that they make joint efforts for the development of relations between the neighboring countries, Kang added.
The president is "ready to sit down anytime with the government of Japan, which is the closest friend geographically and culturally, as well as sharing basic values and strategic interests, for dialogue and communication," the Cheong Wa Dae official said.
Kang stated that the South Korean government plans to "cooperate actively with Prime Minister Suga and the new Cabinet, thus wisely overcoming the problem related to shared history and strengthening substantive cooperation in economic, cultural and people-to-people exchange sectors in a forward-looking and mutually beneficial way."
Korea was under Japan's brutal colonial rule from 1910-45. South Koreans say Japan has yet to atone sincerely for its wrongdoings, especially forced labor and sexual enslavement of women during World War II. Seoul-Tokyo relations are at a low ebb amid disputes over whether compensation issues have been settled.
Moon sent a separate letter to Shinzo Abe, who abruptly resigned from the job, noting his efforts toward improving Seoul-Tokyo ties and wishing him a quick health recovery, Kang added.
Suga, who served as chief cabinet secretary under Abe for a long time, is widely expected to pursue Abe's policy agenda in general with no immediate shift in Tokyo's diplomatic stance.
Earlier in the day, the chairman of South Korea's ruling Democratic Party (DP) expressed hope for improved South Korea-Japan relations under Suga's leadership.
"I hope for the elevation of Japan's national destiny and an improvement in South Korea-Japan relations," Rep. Lee Nak-yon said during a party meeting.
Lee recalled his closed-door meeting with then-chief cabinet secretary Suga during a visit to Tokyo last October, saying the two agreed to work to improve bilateral ties.
"I express my wish to meet again at an appropriate time," he said.