Yoon administration should present solutions to pending issues

In light of the deteriorating security environment in East Asia, it is important for Japan and South Korea to work together to address the situation. South Korea must show solutions to the problems that are hindering the improvement of bilateral relations.

The governments of Japan and South Korea have begun to explore a breakthrough in the cooled relationship. They are said to be working toward holding summit talks on the sidelines of an international conference in Southeast Asia this month.

Liberal Democratic Party Vice President Taro Aso visited South Korea and met with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol to lay the groundwork for summit talks. For neighboring countries, the move toward dialogue between the top leaders is commendable.

North Korea has been launching missiles at an unprecedented frequency. It has been said that North Korea may soon conduct a nuclear test. There has never been a more important time for Japan, the United States and South Korea to share information on North Korean military developments and enhance their ability to deal with North Korea.

However, Japan and South Korea cannot regain trust if the issue of lawsuits regarding former wartime requisitioned workers from the Korean Peninsula remains unaddressed.

The South Korean Supreme Court’s 2018 rulings ordering Japanese companies to compensate former requisitioned workers and others are unjust.

Under the 1965 Japan-South Korea Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and Economic Cooperation, the claims issue between the two countries have been “settled completely and finally.” It is unacceptable for South Korea to ignore this fact and sell off the assets of Japanese companies to pay the compensation.

The Yoon administration is considering the idea of a foundation under the South Korean government to shoulder the cost of compensation. However, the sources of the funds are reportedly expected to include donations from Japanese companies. If the donations are to be made mandatory, it does not make sense.

It is essential for South Korea to present a proposal acceptable to Japan and to put it into action.

There are signs of restoration of relations between the defense authorities of the two countries. In September, Japan, the United States and South Korea conducted joint military drills in the Sea of Japan for the first time in five years. For the first time in seven years, the South Korean military participated in the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s international fleet review on Sunday.

Meanwhile, an issue between Japan and South Korea remains unresolved over a South Korean military vessel directing its fire-control radar at an MSDF patrol plane in 2018. South Korea has not even acknowledged that it happened. The incident must be reexamined to set the facts straight.

The shaky foundation of the Yoon administration is a concerning factor for the restoration of Japan-South Korea relations. In addition to a slump in its approval ratings, criticism against the administration is mounting over the crowd surge in the Itaewon neighborhood in Seoul.

In the past, many South Korean administrations have tried to recover from domestic political predicaments by taking a hard-line stance against Japan. Japan needs to carefully assess the political situation in South Korea.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 8, 2022)