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S. Korea-Japan relations stay strained despite efforts

Posted June. 26, 2019 08:09,   

Updated June. 26, 2019 08:09


A potential summit between South Korea and Japan in light of the G20 summit to be held in Osaka, Japan from June 28 did not come to fruition. Experts say that there should be more efforts made to restore the relations between the neighboring countries through G20 as there is a growing concern over the further extension of strained bilateral relations.

“There will be no summit between Seoul and Tokyo (during G20). While we are ready to have bilateral talks, Japan does not seem to be,” said a high-level official of the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae during a meeting with reporters on Tuesday. To the question asking if there was a proposal for a summit by the Japanese government, he said “There was no proposal from the Japanese side. We told Tokyo that we were ready to meet, yet there was no response from the other end.”

Since the launch of the Moon Jae-in administration, the bilateral relations between South Korea and Japan have worsened due to the historical issues surrounding the two countries, including ‘comfort women’ and forced laborers issue during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. The Japanese rejection of South Korea’s proposal of offering compensations to the victims of forced conscription by collecting contributions from companies of the two countries seems to have affected the thwarting of the bilateral summit.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha attended the National Assembly and expressed her firm stance on the compensations for forced conscription, saying, “Japan’s retaliation will to not be tolerated by South Korea.”

“Even if the leaders of the two countries face each other, there may not be a clear breakthrough for better bilateral relations,” a South Korean government official said. In the meantime, President Moon will meet the leaders of the three out of the four major countries – the U.S., China, and Russia – before and after G20.

As the South Korea-Japan summit was thwarted while a multilateral meeting is held in no other country than Japan, some raise concerns that the hardline approach of the two countries may lead to the game of chicken. “The meeting between the two leaders could have provided a path to restore the bilateral relations. Now that the meeting failed to come to fruition, it could be a significant hurdle to finding a solution for better relations,” said Professor Park Cheol-hui of the Graduate School of International Studies at Seoul National University

Sang-Jun Han alwaysj@donga.com · Gi-Jae Han record@donga.com