SEOUL, Oct. 22 (Yonhap) — A South Korean business lobby group on Thursday called on Japan to ease its restrictions on exports of key industrial products to Korea to help improve strained ties between the two countries.

Kwon Tae-shin, vice chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI), made the request at a breakfast meeting with Japanese Ambassador to Seoul Koji Tomita and local business leaders in Seoul.

“We want Ambassador Koji Tomita to make efforts to help leaders of South Korea and Japan meet to ease their strained relations (over political issues),” Kwon said.

He also demanded the Japanese government extend support to Korean companies operating in the neighboring country amid the new coronavirus outbreak.

Executives from 20 companies such as Hyundai Motor Co., Korean Air Lines Co., SK hynix Inc. and KB Kookmin Bank attended the meeting held in the FKI’s headquarters in Yeouido.

The Japanese ambassador said the two countries need to resolve the export curbs issue through political talks, which he said have been suspended.

In July 2019, Japan tightened regulations on exports to South Korea of three high-tech materials critical for the production of semiconductors and displays.

In the following month, Japan also removed South Korea from its list of countries given preferential treatment in trade procedures.

South Korea views the moves as retaliation against 2018 Supreme Court rulings here ordering Japanese firms to compensate South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Moreover, Japan’s entry restrictions on incoming passengers from Korea since March 9 amid virus fears and Seoul’s corresponding measures brought air travel between the two nations to a halt.