President Moon Jae-in said during his meeting with senior aides Monday that a vicious cycle of tit for tat is not desirable for both South Korea and Japan. Stressing a need for the government to take necessary countermeasures in case of real damages to South Korean companies, Moon called on Japan to withdraw its recent export restrictions on high-tech materials and to hold sincere bilateral negotiations. This was the first time Moon made public remarks on Japan’s latest move as he himself and the presidential office had refrained from talking about the matter.
The president’s comments seemed to be based on the same stance as before. Moon said that we should respond to the matter in a “cool-headed and calm manner,” and the presidential office had emphasized that its reticence on the issue was a strategic move and did not mean lack of countermeasures. Such a calm reaction of the top office was appropriate because a bad-tempered response would have only helped the Abe administration to further politicize the issue. An emotional reaction would not be of help in the current situation where the South Korean economic structure is still dependent on Japan’s technology. Whether it is a fight or a negotiation, it would be better for us to not engage in any of these unless we have gained the upper hand.
Yet, silence should not be the only strategy. Observers say that Japan will continue to launch retaliatory actions. The Japanese government has even churned out reckless remarks that accuse South Korea of violating sanctions on North Korea. There was also a report that Tokyo will expand its retaliation if Seoul fails to give a positive response to its proposal to establish an arbitration panel. Therefore, the South Korean government now needs to make diplomatic efforts while bringing the world’s attention to Japan’s unfair acts. Multilateral communication with Japan’s various fields is also needed.
It is encouraging that South Korea’s political parties have promised to provide nonpartisan cooperation for the resolution of the issue. Hwang Kyo-ahn, chairman of the Liberty Korea Party (LKP), said that if the government presents an appropriate solution, the party will actively cooperate for the people and the country. The ruling and opposition blocs have also agreed to dispatch a delegation to Japan and to pass a resolution to urge Japan to retract its decision. Working together whenever necessary to protect national interest and not being bound by political factions is the politics people want. A united voice of the government, businesses, and the ruling and opposition politicians will create a deep resonation, which will turn into an invincible force.