Experts look for solutions to Korea-Japan conundrum
Experts in Korea-Japan relations urged the two nations to begin a process of reconciliation over issues of history during a book launch in Seoul.
The Korea Peace Foundation marked the publication of a book on Korea-Japan relations at the Hotel Shilla in central Seoul Monday with an event attended by some 60 former and current government officials, diplomats and economic leaders from both countries.
The Korea-Japan Vision Forum, a think tank within the foundation, convened 19 times between April 2019 and September this year, and the book is a result of heated discussions and the collective knowledge of experts attempting to tackle the difficult issues dividing the two neighbors.
The book’s title translates to, “Conflict-Ridden Korea-Japan Relations: Issues, Risks, Response,” and is the product of the series of meetings between former diplomats, economic leaders, scholars and opinion leaders to discuss strategic and substantive ways to resolve complicated bilateral relations, including the ongoing trade spat and historical disputes such as compensation of Japanese wartime forced laborers.
Shin Kak-soo, former Korea ambassador to Japan and chair of the forum, said in welcoming remarks, “Korea-Japan relations have been in a difficult situation in the past eight years because of a cumulative, complex set of issues, but when the darkness is deep, dawn will come.”
Koji Tomita, Japan's ambassador to Seoul, said, “Following the inauguration of the Yoshihide Suga government, the two countries’ leaders in their first letters stressed the importance of resolving issues through dialogue,” adding, “I believe Prime Minister Suga also has such a determination.”
However, earlier this month, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga indicated he will not visit Seoul without some sort of concessions on the wartime forced labor issue, namely a halt in the liquidation of assets owned by Japanese companies in Korea.
“The Korea-China-Japan summit slated for the end of this year is a critical moment for the improvement of Korea-Japan relations,” said Hong Seok-hyun, chairman of the Korea Peace Foundation, in a speech. “If new Prime Minister Suga does not visit Korea, it could strain the atmosphere of trying to resolve the issue within Korea.”
Hong suggested that Korea propose special legislation to resolve the forced labor compensation issue ahead of Suga’s visit to Seoul.
Hong then called for a “process of historical reconciliation” by 2025, which marks the 60th anniversary of a 1965 Korea-Japan treaty normalizing bilateral relations, adding, “there is a need to buck the trend and straighten out the past.”
He cited the example of the Élysée Treaty of friendship signed “through a political decision” by West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and French President Charles de Gaulle in Paris in 1963, urging Korea and Japan to sign their “Élysée Treaty.”
Former Korean Prime Minister Lee Hong-koo said, “An important keyword of the Korea-Japan Vision Forum is peace.”
In a congratulatory message, Korean Prime Minister Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said, “Amid the new coronavirus crisis, economic cooperation between the two countries’ businesses and people-to-people exchanges between youths is very important.”
National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug said that the “National Assembly would cooperate in a bipartisan manner” toward Korea-Japan relations.
Takeo Kawamura, a former Japanese chief cabinet secretary and current head of the Japan-Korea parliamentary group, said, “There is a need to expand exchanges between young people.”
Likewise, former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said, “I believe that Japan’s proposal for compromise should be based on the concept of infinite responsibility, in which the defeated country needs be apologetic until the victims say there is no longer a need to apologize.”
BY LEE YU-JUNG, SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]