Moon’s speech showed no specific steps toward mending ties with Japan

The Yomiuri ShimbunIs South Korean President Moon Jae-in serious about working to mend the deteriorating Japan-South Korea relationship? Unless the president takes specific steps, distrust on the Japanese side will not be eradicated.

Moon made a speech during a “Liberation Day” ceremony commemorating the end of Japanese rule. “If Japan chooses the path of dialogue and cooperation, we will gladly join hands,” Moon emphasized. Language suggesting that the cause of deteriorating relations lies with Japan is unacceptable.

Japan removed South Korea from a list of countries for preferential export treatment after concluding that its trade control system, and the system’s operation, are insufficient. This stricter export controls are not tantamount to export restrictions, despite claims by the South Korean side.

The situation is clear after Japan approved exports of semiconductor material to South Korea early this month. “If any country weaponizes a sector where it has a comparative advantage, the peaceful free trade order will inevitably suffer damage,” Moon said in his speech, with Japan in mind. This is irrelevant criticism.

It is only logical that the South Korean government first reviews its trade control system and makes efforts to mend relations with Japan.

Early this month, Moon criticized Japan’s trade-related measures as being “turning on us,” and agitated anti-Japan sentiment among the South Korean people by saying that South Korea is able to win against Japan. The attitude is far from exploring smooth communications with Japan. Doesn’t he lack principle?

Ignoring reality

The problem is that the South Korean government has not taken any effective remedial measures regarding lawsuits concerning South Korean former wartime requisitioned workers. Moon avoided directly mentioning the issue in his latest speech.

Last year, the South Korean Supreme Court ordered a Japanese company to pay compensation for former requisitioned workers. It is a decision that runs against the Japan-South Korea Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Cooperation, and Japan is asking South Korea to take measures so that the Japanese company does not suffer from unfair losses.

If Moon seeks to mend relations with Japan, he must respect the agreement, which is the legal foundation of bilateral relations.

In the latest speech, Moon turned away from realities over North Korea, filling the speech with naive views based on ethnic nationalism. He painted a rosy future, saying, “unification will beckon as stark reality” when economic cooperation between Seoul and Pyongyang develops to begin a “peace economy.”

North Korea persists in possessing nuclear weapons and has been hit by severe U.N. economic sanctions. It has repeatedly launched short-range ballistic missiles, increasing its sway over South Korea. Recently, it has not responded to calls for dialogue by the Moon administration.

Even under such circumstances, does South Korea still seek to realize unification by cooperation with a dictatorship that threatens neighboring counties with nuclear weapons and missiles?

Policies that the Moon administration should implement are to take North Korea’s military threats seriously and to persuade the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un of the need to reduce such threats.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 16, 2019)Speech


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