Seoul and Tokyo must revive tiesAn annual meeting of corporate leaders from Korea and Japan, scheduled for May, has been put off to the fourth quarter. That’s the annual forum’s first cancelation in 50 years. This year’s event should have been scaled up, as it marks the 50th anniversary of the forum’s establishment. The abrupt cancelation must have been influenced by the diplomatic standoff between the two nations.
The economy and business cannot be separated from diplomacy. A diplomatic row mostly stems from economic issues. Economic interests have triggered global wars, as well as the ongoing trade conflict between the United States and China. Economic ties will be strained if the bilateral relationship sours. Korea and Japan must remember this.
A clash is inevitable if trains from two opposing sides run head-on. Japan must work past these issues. It should not insist the 1965 basic treaty is a done deal when bitter feelings still exist as underscored by the conflict over the comfort women agreement and Supreme Court rulings on forced labor during World War II.
Seoul should also be more cool-headed for a future-oriented relationship. Tokyo has responded strongly to the news that Korean plaintiffs, who won a case over wartime forced labor against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, were seeking to seize its assets in Europe if they cannot be compensated at home. One local report said the Japanese government was pulling together a list of retaliatory actions, including tariffs and prohibition of supplies of Japanese products to Korean companies.
The two governments must return to their senses. Economic retaliation between the two economies cannot help either side at a time when they need to join forces to tackle the North Korean nuclear problem and a global economic slowdown. The business forum must be saved to serve as a venue to revive ties.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 12, Page 30
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