​As Japan’s Leader Goes to Seoul, South Koreans Are All Ears

When Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan arrived in Seoul on Sunday to foster the beginning of the détente between neighboring countries, Koreans were eagerly awaiting what he had to say about the brutal colonial rule. Japanese aggression on the Korean Peninsula in the early 20th century.

After Mr. Kishida’s two-day trip a visit in march of the President of South Korea, Yoon Suk Yeol, to Tokyo. That means shuttle diplomacy between two key US allies is back on track after regular exchanges between the two countries’ leaders abruptly ended in 2011 over differences. history.

Few countries welcome the thaw as much as the United States. For many years, it was urged Tokyo and Seoul put aside past grievances and cooperate more, both to contain the nuclear threat from North Korea and to help Washington rein in China’s economic and military ambitions.

When I met Mr. Yoon in Washington Late last month, President Biden thanked the South Korean leader for his “courageous, principled diplomacy with Japan.”

In March, Mr. Yoon removed barriers in relations with Japan when he announced that South Korea would no longer require Japan to compensate victims of forced labor during World War II, but would establish their own fund. Mr. Yoon speak that Japan no longer has to “kneel over our history 100 years ago.”

The olive branch to Tokyo is part of Mr. Yoon’s broader effort to reshape South Korean foreign policy, bringing his country closer to countries with “common values”, especially especially the United States, in terms of things like supply chains and a “free and open” Indonesia. -Pacific Ocean

Mr. Yoon’s diplomatic concessions are a political interest leave Mr. Kishida at home but expensive for Mr. Yoon in his country, where the South Koreans accused him of “betrayal, humiliating diplomacy.” His domestic critics say he has given too much and received too little from Japan, which they say has never been properly apologized or redeemed — a common complaint of many. Other Asian victims, especially in China and North Korea, of the Japanese invasions during World War II.

For many Koreans, the most important thing in relation to Tokyo is how Japanese leaders view their colonial period, a time when Koreans were forced to adopt Japanese names; when schools removed Korean language and history from the curriculum; ​and as tens of thousands of Korean women​ were forced into sex slavery ​for the Imperial Japanese Army​​​​ they were likely to assess Mr. Kishida’s visit as to whether – and how directly – he will apologize for that past.

“Koreans are listening to what Kishida has to say about history,” said Lee Junghwan, an expert on Korean-Japanese relations at Seoul National University. “If he said something vague, just roundabout referring to statements made by Japanese leaders in the past, as he might have done, things might not go so well.”

Mr. Yoon’s government has tried to convince the Koreans by raising hopes that Japan will reciprocate – for example, by allowing Japanese companies that benefit from wartime forced labor to make self-contributions. Volunteer for the Korean Victims Fund. In recent weeks, Tokyo has lifted export control imposed on Korea later forced labor disputes broke out in 2018 and began the process of bringing the country back.”White list” of preferential trading partners.

But if Mr. Kishida fails to live up to South Koreans’ expectations of history, “it will cast a shadow over everything they’ve been trying to achieve in the past few months,” said Daniel Sneider, a research lecturer East Asia at East Asia University, said. Stanford University. “What’s more important is what he says about the past than whether Japanese companies end up contributing to Korea’s forced laborers fund.”

Analysts say the Seoul trip is a test of Mr. Kishida’s leadership and an opportunity to show that he can expand Mr. Yoon’s efforts towards reconciliation.

Professor Alexis Dudden at the University of Connecticut, an expert on Korea-Japan relations, said: “There was an unusual opportunity for him to show bold management and change the seemingly negative spiral. endlessly between Japan and Korea”.

For example, Mr. Kishida could make a visit to any of Seoul’s monuments to the suffering Koreans endured under Japanese occupation, Professor Dudden said, comparing a move like so with a Visit to Poland in 1970 of the German chancellor, Willy Brandt. But doing so – let alone kneeling before a monument, as Prime Minister Brandt famously did in Warsaw – may be too much to demand from Mr Kishida, given his right-wing nationalists his country is willing to “make him pay for whatever they define as weak against Korea in a muddled memory war between nations,” she said.

The last time a Japanese leader visited South Korea, relations were so bad that the prime minister, Shinzo Abestill clear sit in a standing ovation as Olympic athletes from North and South Korea marched together during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

Mr Kishida, who is traveling in a more friendly mood, said he wanted “additional impetus” to the improving relationship. But some analysts believe that the decades-long tensions will easily fade away as domestic political pressures mount on both leaders.

“More than 90% of our bilateral relationship is domestic politics,” said Kunihiko Miyake, a former Japanese diplomat. “So the Koreans cannot forgive us. They will continue to put pressure on us, and they want to maintain these relationships forever by moving the scoring columns.”

For his part, Mr. Kishida needs the support of right-wing politicians in Japan, who are among the most influential in selecting party leaders. Mr. Miyake said he would be “surprised” if Mr. Kishida “suddenly made overly conciliatory remarks towards South Korea.”

However, analysts say, Tokyo may be looking at how to navigate subtle pressure from the United States.

Junya Nishino, a law professor at Keio University in Tokyo, said Biden’s repeated praise of Yoon’s diplomacy was “a kind of message not only to President Yoon but also to Kishida”. Mr. Nishino added that Kishida’s party’s recent electoral victories in last month’s special election could also give him “more diplomatic space”.

Mr. Yoon’s determination to improve relations with Tokyo is supported in part by a shift in public opinion in South Korea. In recent surveys, China has replaced Japan is considered the least favorable country, especially by young people.

However, analysts say doubts about Japan have deeper roots among Koreans than Mr. Yoon can believe. A survey conducted in March found that 64% of Korean respondents said there was no rush to improve relations unless Japan changed its attitude towards history.

Ms. Dudden warned Seoul, Tokyo and Washington not to see “history as just a soundtrack to the present and irrelevant in how it informs immediate concerns – in this case, a steadfast stance towards North Korea.” Tien and increasingly for China as well.”

As the history of bilateral relations between Korea and Japan has repeatedly shown, a conciliatory move to a historic dispute will achieve little if another, such as over territorial rights to with a set of islets between two countries, rekindled.

Mr Sneider said: “Historical issues always have a way of coming back and biting you in the back. “These are not just temporary public opinion issues. They are issues of identity in Korea.”


News7F: Update the world's latest breaking news online of the day, breaking news, politics, society today, international mainstream news .Updated news 24/7: Entertainment, the World everyday world. Hot news, images, video clips that are updated quickly and reliably

Related Articles

Back to top button