Our seniors roll up their sleeves

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Our seniors roll up their sleeves

South Korea and Japan have been mired in a nerve-racking deadlock for three years now. It’s the first time bilateral ties have remained chilly for so long since the two normalized their diplomatic relationship a half century ago. Both nations will arrive at this year’s 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties in a state of crisis. With the way Korea and Japan have been barking and railing at each other, it’s as if there’s no future. All relationship troubles need guidance and mediation from experts. So it’s a relief that veteran statesmen from each nation have stepped up to play as go-betweens.

Veteran political and economic leaders from Korea and Japan agreed to form a consultative body, and the Korean team of doyens will fly to Tokyo for the first two-day meeting on March 22 with their Japanese counterparts. Former Prime Minister Lee Hong-koo will lead the Korean group that also includes former speaker of the National Assembly Kim Soo-han, former Deputy Prime Minister Lee Seung-yun, as well as former Foreign Ministers Gong Ro-myung and Yu Myung-hwan, who are all experts on Japanese affairs.

The Japanese side is led by former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and also includes Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Takeo Kawamura, secretary-general of the Japan-Korea Parliamentarians’ Union and Mikio Sasaki, chairman of the Japan-Korea Economic Association and senior adviser of Mitsubishi Corporation

Former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda also may join.

Veteran statesmen from both countries will hold a second meeting in Seoul in May and adopt a joint statement. They plan to address all pending issues weighing on Korea and Japan and draw up a set of agreed recommendations to propose to their respective leaders, Park Geun-hye and Shinzo Abe.

We hope these seasoned veterans will use their wisdom and experience to find a breakthrough in our bilateral relationship where incumbent officials have failed. We must respect each other’s differences and at the same time focus on our commonalities to improve our relationship. Most of all, our leaders must not let the efforts and wisdom of our elders go to waste. Otherwise, there may never be hope for the future.

JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 13, Page 30

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