"The Moon [Jae-in] government has a firm will to normalise relations between South Korea and Japan, and the president also expressed the will during a New Year's press conference. ... I plan to relay this message to the Japanese side", Kang told reporters at Incheon International Airport, as quoted by the Yonhap news agency.
Commenting on the protracted row between the countries, the diplomat said that his heart was "a little heavy."
"But I will seek to disentangle them one by one", Kang promised.
Relations between the two Asian countries have been strained since July 2019 when a South Korean court ruled that Japanese companies must pay reparations to former Korean workers who were forced into labour during World War II by Imperial Japan.
The tensions further escalated after Japan introduced limitations on the exports of chemicals widely used by South Korea’s electronics industry. Additionally, Tokyo removed Seoul from its list of trading partners with preferential rights.
In September, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga expressed hope for "forward-looking" relations with Seoul.
Seoul, on its part, said it would continue to communicate with Tokyo in pursuit of an amicable solution.