Normalize relationsFumio Kishida is to become the next prime minister of Japan after winning a race to lead the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Kishida, a former foreign minister and chairman of the Policy Research Council of the LDP, will be appointed as prime minister in a provisional session of the Diet on Oct. 4. We hope the change of hands offers an opportunity to recover the frozen relations between Korea and Japan. His predecessor Yoshihide Suga was negative about dialogue with Seoul and a summit with President Moon Jae-in. As Kishida had signed an agreement on the thorny wartime sexual slavery issues, we hope he helps improve relations.
First of all, Kishida should accept a summit with Moon after taking office. Both sides must understand and respect each other, rather than taking an emotional and hostile approach. Regarding disputes over the past, Tokyo must sincerely appreciate the excruciating pain of Korean victims — whether they be sex slaves or forced laborers — during the Pacific War instead of expressing apology or regret in rhetoric. The endless battle over the sincerity of apology must stop if the two countries really want to move forward.
Korea and Japan face a plethora of challenges as champions of free democracy and market economy. They must first remove unnecessary inconveniences in economic activities between the two. For instance, the two countries still enforce a two-week isolation on each other’s traders amid the Covid-19 pandemic. They must end the red tape, as the measure hampers smooth economic exchanges.
As such a court decision seriously impairs the Korea-Japan relations despite the plight of the victim, the Moon administration must take a prudent action. For example, it can purchase the assets of Mitsubishi first and return it to the company later. In the New Year’s press conference, Moon said it is not desirable to liquidate assets owned by Japanese companies in Korea.
The two countries’ cooperation is very important in dealing with China’s muscle flexing in Northeast Asia and North Korea’s ever-growing nuclear capabilities. In that context, Seoul and Tokyo must normalize the bilateral General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia). In a positive sign, animosity toward one another is ebbing in both countries. In a joint survey, more than half their people (54.8 percent in Japan and 84.7 percent in Korea) pointed to the need to improve ties.
Over the past 2,500 years, Korea and Japan have enjoyed peace except occasional interruptions. We hope they remind themselves of the 1998 Kim Dae-jung-Obuchi Declaration for rapprochement and build a mature partnership for a better future.