Diplomatic breakthrough neededAs Korea-Japan ties deteriorate, there is much to be concerned about. Acceleration of the rightist moves by Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe is countered by anti-Japanese sentiment methodically orchestrated by Korean President Moon Jae-in. As the discord drags on, hatred against Korea is rapidly deepening in Japan.
Both countries must immediately stop their hostilities because they can gain nothing in such an ugly game. Yet Seoul and Tokyo provoke one another every time the need arises. Let’s squarely face the reality given our common destiny in Northeast Asia. The Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, in June offers a good chance to mend fences and move toward a better future.
The Japanese media report that Abe is leaning toward not having a summit with Moon on the sidelines of the Osaka summit. The Japanese press said Abe has decided to forget about a summit with Moon because he could not expect successful results due to Moon’s lack of will to thaw the frozen ties after Korea’s Supreme Court ruling to force Japanese companies to compensate for Korean victims of wartime forced labor, and more recently, after the World Trade Organization Appellate Body’s ruling that allows Seoul to continue its ban on seafood from eight prefectures in Japan, including Fukushima. If the Japanese media’s reporting is true, that is a dangerous development. If Moon and Abe cannot hold a summit during the G-20 meeting, distrust could reach a point of no return. In an extreme case, Tokyo could economically retaliate against Korea. Such a card only helps narrow Japan’s footing on the international stage.
Seoul must not approach the issue casually. In a meeting with Japanese business leaders last month, Moon hoped for a revitalization of bilateral economic exchanges, underscoring the need to separate economic affairs from political affairs. To achieve that goal, however, he must end his own anti-Japan campaign. If he sticks to such an emotional approach, no one knows if Tokyo might really kick off economic retaliations.
In such a hostile environment, both countries’ experts had an urgent meeting in Seoul organized by the Federation of Korean Industries. In that meeting, they all stressed the need to put relations back on track. Seoul and Tokyo must listen to such wise advice. They must reset their ties and restart. By taking advantage of the upcoming G-20 summit and the coronation next month of a new emperor in Japan, both sides must normalize their relations as early as possible.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 16, Page 30