[FOUNTAIN]Get together to strengthen Asian powerKorea, China and Japan are the three major countries in East Asia. From ancient times until the present, the three countries have shared much. Historically, the three countries maintained unchallenged political, economic and cultural importance in the region. But the three countries have never met together to discuss and plan the future of East Asia. Most recently, Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo sat down together at meetings of multilateral cooperative bodies such as ASEAN and the United Nations. But the bilateral or trilateral meetings took place at a third party’s initiative, and the three countries have never prepared a meeting for themselves.
The combined gross domestic product of Korea, Japan and China makes up more than 20 percent of the world’s sum. The combined population of the three countries is equivalent to four times the population of the European Union. In the three countries, more than 50 cities have populations of over 1 million and have the potential to grow as strategic metropolitan areas if they are not already. Moreover, the size of the human and material exchanges and trade among the three countries is one of the biggest in the world.
Why is there is no direct conference among the three countries? The biggest reasons would be the Japanese occupation and the Cold War. Especially after World War II, Seoul and Tokyo were forced to reconcile during the Cold War era without a chance to overcome the anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea. The discord between China and Japan was intensified during the Cold War.
Being the economic giant, Japan could have taken the initiative in reconciliation and cooperation if only it had apologized for the past. But instead, Tokyo was content with the relative benefits from the Cold War and economic predominance, and focused only on reinforcing its relationship with the United States.
Recently, the Japanese foreign minister proposed regular meetings of the three countries. Tokyo might finally be interested in strengthening bonds with Seoul and Beijing. The three countries have direct interests associated with North Korea’s nuclear threat. But Seoul, Washington and Tokyo discuss the matter first and then each talk to Beijing separately. If Korea, China and Japan could talk directly, they could give Asia a new role in the international community.
by Kim Seok-hwan
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.