A joint tribute for a better future

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A joint tribute for a better future

On Sunday, President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida paid tribute together at the memorial for the Korean victims of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima. After being invited to the Group of Seven (G7) summit in the city, President Yoon also had summits with the G7 leaders, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, to strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation with members of the advanced economies.

President Yoon also had his third Korea-U.S.-Japan summit on Sunday, the last day of the G7 event, following his summit with Kishida. U.S. President Joe Biden’s invitation of Yoon and Kishida to Washington as soon as possible set the foundation to consolidate the tripartite cooperation on security and economic issues. President Yoon also had his first summit with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who visited the G7 summit to request support from the West.

What attracted our attention most in President Yoon’s tight diplomatic schedules for three days in Japan was the joint tribute to the Korean victims of the atomic bombing by Yoon and Kishida. The two leaders visited the peace park in Hiroshima to console the soul of the sad victims. Their visit to the memorial represents their consensus to heal the scars of the past once and for all.

In their earlier summit in Seoul, both leaders had agreed to make efforts to strengthen bilateral cooperation on security and economic fronts for a better future after pledging to restore the “shuttle diplomacy” that came to a halt 12 years ago. At the meeting, Kishida proposed to pay respects to the Korean victims after expressing his sad feelings about the Korean forced laborers who had to work under terrible environments across Japan seven decades ago. Nevertheless, many Koreans criticized the Japanese prime minister for stopping short of making a sincere apology about the past.

The two leaders took a meaningful step to address the historical issues by visiting the memorial in Hiroshima. If cooperation between Korea and Japan can lead to the resumption of the Korea-China-Japan summit, it will most likely contribute to peace and prosperity of Northeast Asia.

Their concerted tribute to the memorial of the victims marks the beginning of healing the past wounds, not the last step. The deep-rooted animosity over Japan’s belligerent past can explode at any time in the future. That demands a sincere — and farsighted —apology from the Japanese prime minister, instead of a personal apology. If Japanese companies involved can join in funding and operating the two countries’ partnership fund to be launched, a healthy and bright future will arrive earlier than expected.
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