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EDITORIAL | Caution In South Korea as Smear Tactics Prevail in Election

The opposition in South Korea won the election by attacking the ruling party as "pro-Japanese." Despots in China, Russia, and North Korea would welcome that.



South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol shakes hands with US Secretary of State Blinken at the Democracy Summit on March 18. (©Yonhap/Kyodo)

President Yoon Suk-yeol's conservative ruling People Power Party a suffered a severe drubbing in the April 10 South Korean election. Clearly, it will be difficult for Yoon to advance his political agenda in South Korea during his remaining three years in office. 

Nonetheless, we hope President Yoon will steadfastly stick to his security policies. They center on cooperation among Japan, the United States, and South Korea.

The Yoon administration has squarely faced the threat from North Korea. Yoon has also promoted joint training between Japan's Self-Defense Forces and the US and South Korean militaries. His administration also normalized the bilateral General Security of Military Information Agreement. GSOMIA had ceased to operate under the previous Moon Jae In administration. 

Disregarding pressure from China regarding the Taiwan situation, Yoon has also expressed his conviction that "peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait are important."  His stance is praiseworthy. 

Lee Jae-myung (center), representative of the opposition Democratic Party of Korea, speaks on April 11. His party won more parliamentary seats in the general election. (© Kyodo News)

Opposition Making Japan a Scapegoat

There was no deep discussion of Yoon's security policies during the election. 

The left-wing Democratic Party of Korea, the main opposition party, won its landslide victory by harping on the wartime labor issue and other differences with Japan, and attacking the Yoon administration and ruling party as "pro-Japan." They also accused the ruling party of being willing to make concessions to Japan. It is extremely regrettable that such anti-Japan smear tactics still have viability in South Korean society. 

On top of that, during the election campaign the current leader of the Democratic Party, Lee Jae-myung said, "Whatever happens in the Taiwan Strait has nothing to do with us." Lee seems oblivious to the risks of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan accompanied by a possible North Korean attack on South Korea. 

Lee Myung-bak, a conservative who became president in 2008, was the first South Korean leader to advocate future-oriented Japan-South Korea relations. However, his popular support plummeted due to a financial scandal involving his brother and close aides. Then in 2012 near the end of his term, he ordered the illegal occupation of Takeshima Island in Shimane Prefecture. 


He also made an extremely disrespectful statement demanding that the then-Emperor of Japan apologize regarding "historical issues."  Such outrageous actions and abusive language have etched negative memories deep in the consciousness of many Japanese. 

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol. (© Yonhap via Kyodo)

Yoon's Continued Rise Above His Predecessors

The President is expected to take the lead in diplomatic and security matters. Hopefully, President Yoon will not succumb to pressure from the North Korea-friendly opposition. Dictators in despotic regimes like China, Russia, and North Korea would welcome any weakening of Japan-South Korea ties and Japan-US-South Korea security arrangements. 

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi addressed the issue at a press conference on April 11. He said that Japan would continue to communicate closely with the South Korean government to experience sustained improvement in bilateral relations. 

Nevertheless, Japan's concerns about the radar lock-on incident and wartime labor court cases remain unresolved. We must maintain a determined stance regarding such issues. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun