EDITORIAL: Japan, S. Korea Should Proceed toward Future by Surmounting History Problems

The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), June 23, 2015 | Go to article overview

EDITORIAL: Japan, S. Korea Should Proceed toward Future by Surmounting History Problems


June 22 marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Japan-Republic of Korea Basic Relations Treaty that normalized the bilateral diplomatic ties. In light of the paths the two countries have taken during the half century, efforts should be redoubled to address the task of rebuilding the bilateral relationship that has stagnated over the past few years.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se visited Japan for the first time for talks with his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida. Regarding the so-called comfort women, no specific accord was reached except for an agreement to continue consultations between Tokyo and Seoul.

Concerning Japan's bid to gain World Cultural Heritage status for Meiji-era (1868-1912) industrial revolution sites, over which South Korea has raised objections, Kishida and Yun concurred that the two countries should go hand in hand in moving forward with Japan supporting South Korea's efforts to have historic sites from the ancient kingdom of Baekje put on UNESCO's World Heritage list.

Politicization of World Heritage registration should have been avoided, and the matter placed in the hands of experts on the cultural values of the properties in question.

Park urged to end bigotry

In the 1965 Agreement Between Japan and the Republic of Korea Concerning the Settlement of Problems in Regard to Property and Claims and Economic Cooperation, Japan pledged to provide South Korea with economic assistance worth 500 million dollars in grants and government loans. The accord also explicitly stated that all compensation issues were settled "completely and finally."

In addition to the funds available under the 1965 agreement, the subsequent investments and technological transfers from Japan to South Korea contributed greatly to South Korea's dramatic economic growth that has been referred to as the "miracle of Hangan."

The 1998 Japan-South Korea Joint Declaration by then South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi marked the advent of a new era between the two nations. While Obuchi in the landmark declaration offered a forthright apology for "damage and suffering" inflicted on the Korean people because of Japan's colonial rule, Kim expressed a desire for developing "future-oriented relationship" between the two countries.

Following the Obuchi-Kim talks, the South Korean president allowed by stages the entry of Japanese popular culture into his country. Cultural exchanges between Japan and South Korea gained momentum, later leading to the emergence in Japan of a Korean pop culture boom.

South Korea now ranks seventh in the list of the world's biggest exporting countries and is a member of the Group of 20 major economies. Joint undertakings by Japanese and South Korean enterprises have been on the rise and a relationship of interdependence has deepened between the two countries.

A trip, however, in August 2012 by then South Korean President Lee Myung Bak to the Takeshima islands, and his remarks calling for an apology by the Emperor soured bilateral ties. President Park Geun-hye, who took office in February 2013, has made the holding of a summit meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe contingent on resolving the comfort women issue, and she has stubbornly refused to meet with the prime minister.

In reference to the speech Abe delivered in the U.S. Congress in April this year, Park criticized the prime minister for "failing to take advantage of the opportunity to make a sincere apology ... and strengthen trust with neighboring countries."

Resolve 'comfort women'

Fundamentally, the compensation problem involving the comfort women has been legally resolved under the 1965 agreement. The Asian Women's Fund that was established by the Japanese government, however, made payments of "atonement money" to 61 former South Korean comfort women, accompanied by letters of apology by the then Japanese prime minister. …

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