[EDITORIALS]Koizumi Visit and Public Opinion

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[EDITORIALS]Koizumi Visit and Public Opinion

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who has a reputation for "doing a lot of talking" and "creating a lot of problems," arrives in Seoul on Monday. The public is definitely not comfortable with the visit because of the chilly relationship between Korea and Japan since Mr. Koizumi became prime minister. On top of the history textbook issue and his controversial visit to the Yasukuni shrine, the ban on saury fishing in waters around the Southern Kuril Islands has exacerbated negative public opinion about him.

An image of Mr. Koizumi has been ingrained in the minds of the Korean people as a leader distant from the framework and principle of neighborly friendship between the two countries that was settled, after crossing many hurdles, since the normalization of relations in 1965. In addition, public opinion has been critical of the government's sudden reversal, after originally being opposed to the visit. Thus, Mr. Koizumi's appearance in Seoul stands on shaky ground.

The Grand National Party is taking issue with Mr. Koizumi's planned visit to the National Assembly while in Seoul. Some representatives of the opposition party have pledged they would "do something" to block him from entering the assembly hall if he does not apologize for distortions in history textbooks and concede to negotiate saury fishing. Such a drive among lawmakers could be said to be expressions of reflecting the public opinion faithfully. A diplomatic "demonstration" by lawmakers is necessary to complement government negotiations with Japan, which lack swiftness and have been unable to provide long-term strategies.

However, such a collective move by lawmakers could leave an impression that political circles rely on public sentiment and emotions to decide their attitude toward Japan. If the role of politics is to devise effective measures after having analyzed and digested public opinion, lawmakers could be blamed for doing the opposite - taking advantage of public opinion. When it comes to relations with Japan that involve sensitive issues, we have learned from long diplomatic experience that adequate management and effective distribution of public sentiment is necessary.
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