Japan forced labor dispute: Korea should freeze liquidation process, says ex-ambassador
September 16, 2022
SEOUL – A former South Korean ambassador to Japan says Korea should “freeze” the process of liquidating Japanese companies accused of using forced labor in the early 20th century to restore ties with Japan, as the The nation’s highest court continues to deliberate on a critical decision in the case.
Seoul should also legislate any final settlement reached on the matter with Japan to end the dispute once and for all, said Shin Kak-soo, who served as ambassador to Japan from 2011 to 2013 under the Lee Myung-bak administration. . a forum held in Jeju on Thursday.
Speaking at the session titled “Korea-Japan Relations in Transition: Are the Setbacks of History Surmountable?” Korea-Japan relations experts backed Shin’s idea, saying the two countries should pursue a forward-looking approach to restoring fractured bilateral relations.
The session, organized by the East Asia Foundation, was part of the 17th Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity, which was held in Jeju.
Bilateral relations between Korea and Japan are at an all-time low, after South Korea’s Supreme Court issued a ruling ordering Japanese companies to sell their South Korean-based assets to compensate the Koreans they forced to leave. work during the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945.
As the date for the liquidation process approaches, Seoul is seeking a solution that would avoid severing ties with Tokyo.
For the two countries to reset their relationship, they need to think outside the box and take a step back from caring about each other to understand their roles in the world, said University professor Nobukatsu Kanehara. Doshisha in Japan. He attended the session remotely.
“Both countries should understand that their bilateral relationship affects the overall order of Asia and the world,” Kanehara said.
Pointing out that South Korea’s diplomatic policies are largely focused on North Korea and the Korean Peninsula, Kanehara said its bilateral relations with Japan could be readjusted when looking at the bigger picture of geopolitical dynamics.
“If a war should break out in South Korea or Taiwan, the Japanese government is committed to supporting them, as a rear base. South Korea is often absorbed in North Korea’s problems and looks north, but it should look south and know that Japan and the United States support them,” Kanehara said, adding that Korea should really think about the role she will play. play in the region beyond the Korean Peninsula.
Speakers urged both countries to recognize how the strategic environment surrounding this region requires Korea and Japan to work together.
North Korea is making progress with its nuclear weapons and has announced a new nuclear doctrine, China is stepping up economic coercion to get what it wants, and these circumstantial factors are the main reasons why Seoul and Tokyo are readjusting their relations, they said. they stated.
The Yoon Suk-yeol administration, which took office in May, has worked to improve relations with Japan. But the Japanese government has been relatively passive, and at times lukewarm towards Korea’s efforts, amid creeping skepticism that the Korean government might change its position as the regime changes every five years.
“The Japanese government is aware of the change in position of the current Korean government (on relations with Japan) and its efforts to improve. But even if (the Japanese government) holds the hands of the Yoon administration, they wonder what would happen after five years,” said Junya Nishino, a professor at Keio University in Japan.
Acknowledging Japan’s concerns, former Ambassador Shin said it was very important that any settlement reached with Japan be legislated so that the political parties opposite could accept the final deal from the two governments.
At the same time, Japan should also do its part to normalize bilateral relations, Nishino said, and that the leader’s “resolute decisions” can make it happen.
According to the professor, Japan believes it has already apologized for its war misdeeds, and it may be difficult for the Japanese government and companies to take responsibility and admit their wrongdoing directly to the victims.
Still, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida should be determined enough to remind Korea of Japan’s past efforts in his own words to resolve current differences and move forward, Nishino said.
Speakers agreed that a forward-looking approach is crucial to ending decades-old disputes.
“Because Korea and Japan are neighboring countries, friction should occur. But they pay a large amount of opportunity cost of great potential because they are obsessed with each other,” Shin said.
“The two countries should change their outlook to a global perspective, cooperate with each other and build trust, which will give them the opportunity to resolve their bilateral disputes.”
Although both governments have expressed their desire to restore relations, there remains a divide in public opinion between Korea and Japan over whether the two sides should patch things up.
According to a joint survey conducted by Korea’s East Asia Institute and Genron NPO, a Japanese non-profit organization, 81.1 percent of 1,028 Koreans said it was necessary to reconnect. Among the 1,000 Japanese respondents, only 53.4% of them said that Japan should improve its relations with Korea.