Korea-Japan relations must not be shaken

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Korea-Japan relations must not be shaken

Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated on Friday by a gunman on a campaign trail for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). We are shocked at the assassination of a political bigwig in Japan. A suspect, a former member of Japan’s Maritime Self-defense Force, reportedly killed the prime minister as he thought Abe was closely related to a religious sect his mother fell into.

Regardless of the motivation for the murder, an act of terror cannot be explained away. We denounce the suspect for his insane act and deliver deep consolations to the Japanese people heartbroken for the tragic death of Abe.

As the longest-serving prime minister in Japan, Abe represented the right wing of the country for eight years and nine months. He championed a revision of the Peace Constitution and a drastic increase in defense spending while having conflict with neighboring countries over compensation for former wartime sex slaves and forced laborers. But domestically, he was acclaimed for revitalizing the Japanese economy through Abenomics and elevating the international status of Japan. Even after stepping down in September 2020, he wielded enormous power by leading the largest faction in the LDP.

Amid deepening security concerns among the Japanese after Russia’s war on Ukraine, Abe’s death will likely help Japan turn even further to the right. The hardliners in the LDP are expected to push for a constitutional amendment to enable the country to attack other countries if needed and an acceleration of more defense spending. After the incident, we cannot rule out the possibility that the Yoon Suk-yeol administration will have trouble normalizing Seoul’s relations with Tokyo after the end of the upper house elections in Japan.

Yoon met current Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida four times in Madrid on the sidelines of the NATO Summit to help find a breakthrough in a diplomatic stalemate. His administration must not give up on efforts to improve bilateral relations. If it sends high-level envoys to Tokyo to pay tribute to Abe, it could help relieve the Japanese of their pain and pave the way for dialogue.

It was appropriate for the Democratic Party (DP) to issue a statement on Sunday condemning the terrorist act and praying the former prime minister rests in peace. Political circles in Korea must stop using Japan as a means for their divisive ideology-based politics. Instead, they must establish a consensus on diplomacy for the country’s sake. The two countries are allies who share critical values such as democracy and a market economy. We hope Tokyo addresses the tragedy and both sides improve their relations as soon as possible.
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