Ice has been broken
Most of the Japanese media reporting the Korea-Japan summit meeting on November 2 focused on the facial expressions and attitude of President Park Geun-hye.
They compared three videos. The first was Park’s March 1, 2013 address in which she said that the positions of victim and transgressor will not change even after 1,000 years. The second was the Korea-U.S.-Japan summit in the Hague last March.
There, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe greeted Park in Korean but she ignored him. The last was Park receiving Abe in the Blue House and posing for a photo together.
A broadcaster analyzed that Park looked at Abe four times and Li Keqiang once in the news conference after the trilateral summit on November 1.
The Japanese media reports highlighted that Park’s attitude towards Japan became softer.
These days, video cameras are more powerful than pens. Diplomacy begins with winning the hearts of the people of another country. When friendly feelings accumulate, mutual trust will replace discord and suspicions. When the public sentiment toward another country is at its worst point, a summit meeting is the best possible public diplomacy.
Exchanges and cooperation will gain traction when relations at the highest level - among leaders - are smoother. This is especially true in Japan, where Abe is a leader of unusual power. Japanese bureaucrats and businessmen look up to Abe. The more summit meetings we have, the better relations will be.
Korea and Japan have taken the first step in resolving the comfort women issue.
A few controversies after the summit meetings are the inevitable consequence of three years of a diplomatic vacuum. It is only the beginning. The summit meeting, which is preceded by lots of fine-tuning, is a consultative means with the lowest risk of failure.
In order to make the best out of this rare opportunity, meticulous management is essential. Korean and Japanese leaders need to use powerful language.
They need to use carefully chosen rhetoric like “directly facing the past while pursuing the future.” Unnecessary arguments should be shelved. In the age of digital communication, each and every word can be overanalyzed, and no seed of distrust should be planted. They cannot demand the public to be insensitive.
New visions for the Korea-Japan relationship need to be sought. The two countries increasingly look at each other through the prism of their alliances with the United States and relationships with China.
This makes the bilateral relationship narrower and complicated. Seoul and Tokyo need to talk about the rise of China and reunification of the Korean Peninsula. Reunification can be born from a network of diplomacies.
At the same time, they may want to look at the issues directly related to the lives of their citizens. A green alliance between Korea and Japan through cooperation in clean energy can be a new model in Asia.
Korea and Japan share problems of shrinking and aging populations and extinction of localities. There has to be room for cooperation and sharing of experiences.
The starting point of breaking the status quo is imagination and vision.
The author is the Tokyo bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 7, Page 30
by OH YOUNG-HWAN
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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