Time to rediscover pride

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Time to rediscover pride

The author is the Tokyo bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.

“South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were contrasting. Abe expressed concerns about the Hong Kong issue to Chinese president Xi Jinping and demanded a ‘transparent explanation’ on the Uighur human rights issue.” This quote is from an article published in the Dec. 24 edition of Japanese newspaper Nikkei.

In a meeting on the previous day, President Moon “perceived the Hong Kong and Uighur issues as China’s domestic issues,” according to Chinese media. The Blue House explained that President Moon only commented that he had heard Xi’s remarks well. However, Chinese Foreign Ministry sided with the Chinese media, claiming that Chinese media reports were correct.

As in the Nikkei’s reporting, it is a sensitive issue for Moon to be internationally disgraced as a leader not interested in human rights issue. However, the Korean government conveyed Korea’s position to the Chinese government four days after the meeting on Dec. 27. As it was a media report — not part of a briefing by the government — I cannot know what China’s exact position is.

However, Korea’s attitude toward Japan is completely different. On the discourtesy of rude Japanese officials who had Japanese reporters leave the scene even before Moon’s opening remark was over at a Korea-Japan summit on Dec. 24, the Korean government conveyed “regrets” at the scene.

After the General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) with Japan was not to be extended in August, Deputy National Security Advisor Kim Hyun-chong said, “In order to diplomatically resolve the wartime forced labor issue, the Korean government had the intention to positively consider all options, and conveyed its position to Japan. But Japan’s response was not a simple refusal but a consistent negligence that hurts Korea’s national pride.”

It is unprecedented for a high-level Blue House official to make an aggressive briefing under his name and mention “national pride” as a basis for making an important diplomatic decision. It was a diplomatic rediscovery of pride.

North Korea attacked President Moon for “presumptuously trying to serve as a mediator between North Korea and the United States.” But I haven’t heard the administration directly complaining to Pyongyang. If the pride is shaken according to who you are dealing with, it is better to not to mention it.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 31, Page 32
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