[Editorial] Can the DP attack the proposal?

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[Editorial] Can the DP attack the proposal?

The Democratic Party (DP) has started to vehemently oppose the government-proposed solution to solve the thorny wartime forced labor issue through a third-party compensation. DP Chair Lee Jae-myung defined the proposal as a repeat of the shameful surrender of Korea’s sovereignty to Japan over a century ago. As the DP’s rhetoric became tougher, the supermajority opposition holding 169 seats in the 300-member legislature staged a well-choreographed rally in the National Assembly on Tuesday to denounce the proposal.

Certainly, the government’s solution based on compensation through a separate foundation is not perfect. It gives the impression that Korea suffers more losses from the proposal in a rush to find a breakthrough in the diplomatic stalemate. But the proposal is just a part of the deal. As Foreign Minister Park Jin said, the deal could gain more traction if the two leaders meet for a summit later this month. “I look forward to a cup of water now more than half-full to be filled to the top as Japan takes corresponding actions,” said the minister.

The coarse rhetoric by the DP to incite the public does not help the cup to be filled. The party’s extremism raises strong suspicion over its apparent motive: to protect its off-track boss mired in a plethora of judicial risks, including his indictments for corruption.

Given the deterioration of the bilateral relations during the five years of Moon Jae-in’s presidency, the DP can hardly raise its voice. What the liberal administration did shortly after its launch in 2017 was to scrap the hard-fought comfort women deal the previous administration struck with Japan in 2015. After the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2018 in favor of direct compensation by Japanese companies for the wartime forced labor, the bilateral relations stayed the worst until Moon stepped out of the Blue House last year. The problem was hard-line politicians in Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet, but the Moon administration’s emotional reactions perfectly exemplified by the “Bamboo spear song” only worsened the situation.

A novel proposal by a former National Assembly speaker to compensate forced labor victims with voluntary contributions from companies of the two countries and Korean people was abandoned by the Moon administration. Before slandering the government’s effort to improve the relations, the DP must first reflect on what it did over the past five years. The Yoon administration must roll up its sleeves to convince the public and the DP of the justification for the proposal. Without public support, a presidential determination will lead nowhere.
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