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National consensus is essential for Yoon-Kishida summit

Posted November. 15, 2022 07:46,   

Updated November. 15, 2022 07:46


South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio had a summit meeting in Cambodia on Sunday and decided to continue their cooperation for the quick resolution of the issue of the victims of forced labor. This was the first official summit meeting between the two national leaders. “We agreed to work for a quick resolution of the issue of the forced labor victims,” said the Japanese prime minister in a press conference after the meeting.

The two leaders discussed the forced labor issue at an informal summit meeting in New York in September, but the Japanese government downplayed the meeting and did not put much significance on it. However, the two leaders officially expressed their determination to address the issue, which laid the foundation for working-level cooperation in the future. As the Yoon administration has been making efforts to improve bilateral relations, Japan is also reexamining its previous firm stance on the forced labor issue.

However, the Japanese government’s attitude toward the issue is unlikely to change fundamentally. The two countries are discussing a measure in which a private foundation, rather than the wrongdoing companies, such as Nippon Steel, raises funds to compensate the victims. The victims maintain that they will accept the measure if the wrongdoing companies are involved in the fundraising process and apologize for forced labor. However, the companies are even hesitant to make contributions to funds. In addition, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said on Monday that he would communicate with the South Korean government with a consistent stance of Japan regarding the forced labor issue, still shifting the responsibility of resolving the issue to South Korea.

Despite the situation, the South Korean government plans to strengthen discussions to find a resolution by the end of this year. However, it cannot be resolved by the South Korean government’s hurried actions alone. Finding a solution that can satisfy the victims and brings national consensus is the key to resolving the issue. To do so, the Japanese side should make minimal efforts at least, for example, the wrongdoers being part of the fundraising and the Japanese government lifting the export ban on semiconductor materials. The South Korean government should not overlook the importance of the process and details, not just the speed of improving bilateral relations.