See More on Facebook

Diplomacy, Economics

Korea-Japan rift likely to be protracted

Korean ruling party chief says Tokyo undermining Moon administration.

Written by

Updated: July 23, 2019

The latest rocky patch in South Korea-Japan relations appears likely to continue for some time, with neither side willing to make concessions.

The Seoul-Tokyo relations have hit a new low following Tokyo’s decision to apply standard conditions on exporting key industrial materials to South Korea, thereby increasing the import process to up to 90 days.

Japan claims that the changes, which slow the importing of materials such as fluorinated polyimides, were made in in response to Seoul’s failure to ensure that potentially dangerous materials do not flow into North Korea.

However, South Korea considers the changes to be retribution for a Supreme Court ruling that found in favor of those forced into labor for Japanese firms between 1938 and 1945.

While some in Korea had interpreted Japan’s move as a ploy to consolidate conservative support ahead of Sunday’s elections, Abe does not appear likely to soften his stance despite the election win.

On Sunday, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner Komeito took 71 of the available 124 seats in the upper house election.

“Unless Korea brings a proper answer to responses that violate the Claims Settlement Agreement, constructive discussions will not be possible,” Abe said in an interview with Asahi TV on Sunday.

Abe was referring to the 1965 Korea-Japan agreement under which Japan provided financial and material aid to South Korea in compensation for its occupation of the peninsula in the first half of the 20th century. The South Korean Supreme Court, however, has ruled in recent years that the agreement does not nullify an individual’s rights to seek reparations for wrongs suffered under Japanese occupation.

Abe also reiterated that the trade measures are not retributive, and that Japan is only managing “security related trade.” The Japanese prime minister also claimed that Seoul has been rejecting Tokyo’s calls for related negotiations for three years.

He added that Tokyo will respond to Seoul once a “proper relationship of trust” is established, implying that Korea has broken the trust between the two.

Seoul’s presidential office on Monday hit back at the comments, questioning the Japanese government’s reasoning behind its measures.

“(The South Korean government) has continuously suggested taking a two-track approach, separating the past and the future in Korea-Japan relations,” Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Ko Min-jung said Monday. She said that Seoul has responded to Japan’s claims regarding industrial materials imported from Japan leaking into North Korea, as well as to issues Tokyo has raised over the Supreme Court’s rulings on forced labor cases.

“(Japan) has raised security issues, and then historical issues, and the security issue again. Today, (Abe) again referred to historical issues, but I think (Japan) should observe the line (in diplomatic relations),” Ko said, adding that the two countries working together is in the best interests of the Korean and Japanese people.

Ko’s comment echoes those from deputy national security adviser Kim Hyun-chong’s statement Friday, in which he said that Japan switching back and forth between the two issues makes it “very difficult to figure out exactly what Japan’s position is.”

South Korean officials including President Moon Jae-in have raised a number of possibilities behind Japan’s actions.

Speaking at a meeting with his aides on July 15, Moon raised the possibility of the actions being aimed at hampering South Korea’s economic growth. Saying the measures are aimed at the country’s semiconductors industry, Moon said they are “tantamount to blocking our economy’s growth.”

As Korea and Japan continue to draw a parallel, the possibility of Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon taking a bigger role in the issue has been gaining some attention.

The idea of Lee being sent to Japan as a special envoy was raised in the political arena, including from veteran lawmaker Rep. Park Jie-won of the minor opposition Party for Democracy and Peace. Just hours after returning to Korea from an overseas trip Monday, Lee met with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and chief of the staff for policy Kim Sang-jo to discuss related issues, further fueling speculations he will play a more direct role. Cheong Wa Dae, however, repeated that while it is open to all measures, including sending a special envoy to Japan, any steps will be carefully considered.

South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party of Korea is taking a harder line, branding Japan’s actions as an “economic invasion,” and going as far to say that Japan could be seeking a change of government in South Korea.

“(Japan’s) economic invasion of Korea will begin in earnest,” Democratic Party Chairman Rep. Lee Hae-chan said Monday, citing Sunday’s Japan’s election results.

“The government, the party and the people must have extraordinary determination in responding to Japan’s tyranny that is destabilizing even (regional) security order,” he said, saying that Japan is expected to take further measures in late July or early August.

On Friday, Lee claimed that Japan’s moves can only be interpreted as an attempt at undermining the Moon administration, citing a report by the Asahi Shimbun daily.

The article had quoted a Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry official as saying that trade curbing measures will stay in place as long as the Moon Jae-in administration remains in power.

Enjoyed this story? Share it.

The Korea Herald
About the Author: The Korea Herald is the nation’s largest English-language daily and the country’s sole member of the Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia

Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy, Economics

Trump urges passage of defense bill with provision against troop drawdown in S. Korea

Trump has previously asked Korea to pay its fair share to keep US troops on the peninsula. US President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged Congress to pass a defense bill containing a provision restricting the drawdown of American troops in South Korea. On Monday, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees agreed on the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, which authorizes funding for the Department of Defense. According to the accompanying conference report, the new bill restricts the use of funds for removing troops from South Korea, an issue that has drawn intense scrutiny amid contentious cost-sharing negotiations between Seoul and Washington.

By The Korea Herald
December 12, 2019

Diplomacy, Economics

Aung San Suu Kyi denies genocidal intent on Rohingya

She urges world court to let Myanmar justice system work. Denying that Myanmar had genocidal intent in its treatment of the Rohingya people, its de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday (Dec 11) urged the International Court of Justice in The Hague to let her country’s justice system run its course. “Can there be genocidal intent on the part of a state that actively investigates, prosecutes and punishes soldiers and officers who are accused of wrongdoing?” she asked at the world court, while presenting her opening statement on the second day of public hearings related to Gambia’s lawsuit alleging that Myanmar had breached the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Carefully avoiding the word “Rohingya”, Ms Suu Kyi said Gambia has given “an incomplete and misleading factual picture”. She referred in her half-

By The Straits Times
December 12, 2019

Diplomacy, Economics

Report: US officials lied about Afghanistan

Civilian, military officials misled public for nearly two decades about status of war, Washington Post review of documents finds. For nearly two decades, senior US civilian and military officials didn’t tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan, The Washington Post reported on Monday after reviewing more than 2,000 pages of government documents. The officials made pronouncements they knew to be false and hid evidence that the war had become unwinnable, the newspaper said interviews with those officials show. John Sopko, the head of the federal agency that conducted the interviews, acknowledged to the Post that the documents show “the American people have constantly been lied to”. The newspaper said that two major claims in the documents are that US officials manipulated statistics to suggest to the American public that the war was being won and that successive

By China Daily
December 11, 2019

Diplomacy, Economics

Pompeo says US is hopeful N. Korea will refrain from nuclear, long-range missile tests

Both sides are hopeful of continued talks. The United States is hopeful North Korea will continue to refrain from nuclear tests and long-range missile tests, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday, after Pyongyang said it had conducted a “very important” test over the weekend. North Korea said the test occurred at its Dongchang-ri satellite launch site on Saturday, raising tensions ahead of a year-end deadline North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has imposed for the US to show flexibility in their negotiations on dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. “Chairman Kim personally made the commitment to denuclearize, said there wouldn’t be long-range missile tests, nuclear tests,” Pompeo said at a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the State Department.

By The Korea Herald
December 11, 2019

Diplomacy, Economics

Arguments strong enough to convince judges: expert

Myanmar at The Hague for genocide. The arguments presented by the Gambia’s lawyers at the top UN court yesterday were extremely strong and should convince the judges to issue “provisional measures” against Myanmar to stop genocide against the Rohingyas, said a legal expert. If the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issues such an order, Myanmar will be under real pressure as it is a binding one, said the expert. “It was truly convincing the way the lawyers, who are very reputed in their fields, presented their arguments at the top UN court in the Hague,” Ahmed Ziauddin, a genocide researcher based in Brussels, told this correspondent yesterday. “They made it very clear that provisional measures were urgent to protect the Rohingyas, and such measures won’t affect Myanmar as a state.” The ICJ is not a criminal court that can issue an arrest order against any individual. But

By Daily Star
December 11, 2019

Diplomacy, Economics

7 of 10 Filipinos worried by presence of Chinese workers

China has increased its presence in the archipelago. The rising presence of Chinese workers in the country worry seven out of 10 adult Filipinos, according to the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, as the government recently launched a crackdown against Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos) which mostly employ Chinese nationals. The noncommissioned survey, conducted from Sept. 27 to 30, found that 31 percent “worried a great deal,” while 39 percent are “somewhat worried.” Highest in Metro Manila The proportion of those who were worried about the increasing number of Chinese workers in the country was highest in Metro Manila at 75 percent, followed by the Visayas at 71 percent, Luzon outside Metro Manila (69 percent) and Mindanao (67 percent.) About half of the respondents agree that the rising number of Chinese workers is a threat to national secur

By Philippine Daily Inquirer
December 6, 2019