A welcome breakthrough

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A welcome breakthrough

Foreign ministers of Korea and Japan will meet Monday in Seoul to try to settle the long-running diplomatic battle over apologizing to and compensating victims of the Japanese military’s wartime sexual slavery. We welcome the news as the meeting could bring about a breakthrough in the stalled diplomatic relations between Korea and Japan.

Since Shinzo Abe became Japan’s prime minister, ties between two countries have been severely worsened, even undermining the so-called “Asian Paradox” in which economic cooperation can be robust even though two countries have serious political disagreements.

Disputes over the so-called comfort women issue and Japan’s history revisionism when authorizing textbooks have stirred up emotions of people in both lands.

In addition, as the Hallyu, or Korean wave of cultural exports, has waned in Japan, the number of Japanese tourists to Korea has declined rapidly and trade between two countries has also dwindled. The people’s grudges against each other must have impacted the development of Korea-Japan relation.

Japan is our closest neighboring country, which shares democratic values and a liberal market system with us. Japan is a friendly nation, upholding one pillar of the trilateral alliance of Korea, United States and Japan, confronting North Korean threats together.

It is very unfortunate for us to hate such a close neighbor.

We hope that the foreign ministers’ talks produce a forward-looking outcome.

In a diplomatic negotiation, there is no unilateral victory. If one wants to attain a demand, one should make a concession. Otherwise, diplomatic compromise can not be made. That’s why broader flexibility is needed in diplomatic negotiations.

But there is a Maginot line where Korea cannot make a concession even if it wants to be flexible. The Murayama and Kono Statements are the Maginot line. They admit that comfort women were forcibly taken into slavery by Japan. This meeting should not be used to help Abe’s history revisionism prevail.

The negotiation should reflect what comfort woman victims have demanded. It is important morally as well as practically.

We have to be cautious when dealing with the issue of statues symbolizing the comfort women. Japan wants all the statues removed. The Korean government does not have authority to remove the statues without consent of the concerned parties.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 26, Page 30

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