During a press conference on Monday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said letting one issue affect bilateral cooperation in other areas would not be wise.
“I would like to emphasize that the efforts to resolve issues from the past and to move forward the bilateral relations should be made concurrently,” said the president, suggesting that working towards greater economic cooperation and resolving various issues from the past should all be looked at individually. Japan imposed export controls after the South Korean supreme court ordered Japanese companies to compensate Koreans it used as forced labor. More recently, the court has also ordered the Japanese government to pay reparations to the so-called comfort women who were WWII sex slaves.
“It is true the latest court ruling on comfort women, which came as the two nations were working through the issues of export controls and the court ruling on forced labor, make things more difficult,” Moon admitted, alluding to his frustration with the recent court order. The South Korean government has been working to improve the relations with its neighbor as President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday. The incoming U.S. government is known to put an emphasis on the trilateral cooperation among the United States, South Korea and Japan.
“I understand the 2015 agreement was an official agreement between the two nations,” he said. “Based on the agreement, we will work together to find a solution that is also acceptable to the victims of sex slavery.”
“I would like to make it clear that the existing agreement cannot resolve the comfort women issue although I understand the weight of an official agreement,” he added. “It is fundamentally flawed in its process and content.” Japan has accused South Korea of breaking the deal and threatened to appeal the ruling on comfort women at the International Court of Justice. President Moon is suggesting that the two nations can work off of the 2015 agreement to address the issue.
Regarding the reparations to forced-labor victims, he said that forcing liquidation would not be ideal for the bilateral ties, adding that finding diplomatic solutions before it happens is a priority – a gesture to prevent a diplomatic catastrophe with the Japanese government, which said it would not let Japanese firms’ assets be liquidated. President Moon, however, said diplomatic solutions should be acceptable to the plaintiffs.
Ji-Sun Choi email@example.com