Recognizing realityIn an address marking the 74th Liberation Day on Thursday, President Moon Jae-in expressed his willingness to join hands with Japan if it takes the path of dialogue and cooperation. He significantly toned down his hard-line position on Japan’s economic retaliations for the Supreme Court’s rulings on wartime forced labor — except for a show of a determination to “create a country no one can bully.” His moderation seems to reflect an intention to resolve the conflict with Japan diplomatically.
The speech he delivered to the nation at the peak of the trade and diplomatic discord between Seoul and Tokyo is noteworthy. He reiterated his opposition to — and defiance of — Japan’s economic retaliations over historical issues and yet expressed hopes for friendship and cooperation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics — in sharp contrast to the hawkish stances of the government and ruling party lawmakers to the extent of suggesting a boycott of next year’s Summer Olympics. Moon went on to underscore both countries’ partnership on security and economic issues in the past. His remarks translate into a demand for prudence in scrapping the General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) with Japan, the idea of which was raised by a deputy National Security Advisor at the Blue House.
Following a meeting next week in Beijing between foreign ministers of the two countries, Seoul and Tokyo will have many chances until the end of the year to kick off dialogue, including the UN General Assembly in September. We hope they find a way to put their relations back on track. It is noteworthy that Japan’s new emperor Naruhito expressed hopes of not repeating the calamities of war with a deep remorse about the past in his first address to the people since his enthronement.
Moon pinned his hopes on a so-called peace economy. He presented a very rosy future of the Korean Peninsula — including a joint Seoul-Pyongyang hosting of the 2032 Olympics and a reunification of the divided land by 2045, the centennial of our liberation from Japan’s rule. But we wonder where his optimism comes from. North Korean denuclearization is yet to be achieved while our economy is being hit hard by the Sino-U.S. trade war. Moon said nothing about North Korea’s tests of advanced missiles aiming at South Korea. Everyone wants to be a country no one can overtake. But achieving such a goal requires a cool-headed recognition of realities. Without that, overcoming Japan or bringing peace and prosperity to the peninsula is just a pipe dream.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 16, Page 30