Yun’s actions must reflect interestsIt is common knowledge that Korea’s relationship with Japan is as important as relationships with the United States and China for Korea’s economy and national security. However, there are no signs of improvement in the abnormal state of the Korea-Japan relationship. Needless to say, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is primarily responsible for pursuing historical revisionism that distorts the modern and contemporary history of Northeast Asia. The Abe government is to submit a report to the National Diet that undermines the spirit of the Kono Statement of 1993 apologizing for the forced mobilization of “comfort women” to military brothels. The report claims that the Kono Statement reflected the positions of both the Korean and Japanese governments, and that Japan did its part by creating the Asian Women Fund. The Abe government has actively pursued its goal of securing the right to collective self-defense, and Tokyo and Pyongyang reached an agreement over issue of abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea agents. The report on comfort women is likely to take the Korea-Japan relationship deeper into a dark tunnel.
In response to Japan’s series of provocations, Korea remains idle, aside from issuing statements. The motivation is Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se’s hardline diplomacy with Japan. The mismatch of Yun and Abe is pushing the Korea-Japan relationship to the worst cliff since President Lee Myung-bak’s visit to Dokdo and his demand for the Japanese emperor to apologize in August 2012. Korea also has to deal with the North Korean nuclear issue and is caught up in the contest for hegemony between the United States and China. We have to chase two hares, the economy and national security, so our foreign policy needs to reflect the political, economic and security environment of Northeast Asia. It has to accommodate the geopolitics of the region. And to Korea, such biased foreign policy is harmful.
Let’s look at how Yun has been acting. Since he visited the House of Sharing for former comfort women earlier this year, he has continued to make hardline moves. He has met with the Japanese foreign minister only twice, and briefly, at international conferences. One month after Akitaka Saiki, a close aide of Abe, was named Japan’s vice foreign minister, he came to Seoul and visited Minister Yun. It was the perfect opportunity to inquire about Abe’s true intentions and convey Korea’s position to Tokyo. However, Yun reportedly kept glancing at his watch throughout the meeting, showing little interest in the conversation. The meeting became widely known as “the watch incident” in the Japanese foreign ministry. And there are many cases of Yun’s intentional or fundamental indifference or discourtesy toward Japan.