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Politics & Security

EDITORIAL | President Moon Should Take Action, Not Just Talk

If Moon Jae In means what he says, that he wants “Japan to be South Korea’s most important partner,” he needs to take specific action and actually work toward reaching solutions.

Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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South Korean President Moon Jae In described the sale of Japanese companies’ assets in South Korea in connection with the wartime labor lawsuit as “undesirable” in a news conference on January 18.

Moon also stated that he was bewildered by the ruling ordering the Japanese government to pay compensation to former comfort women.

These statements suggest that the South Korean leader has softened his stance – but it is difficult to accept words at face value if there is no follow-up action. If there is no subsequent action, then that renders the original statements meaningless.

South Korea has adversely affected Japan-Korea relations by trampling over international law concerning the forced labor and comfort women issues. If South Korea genuinely wants to improve relations, then it should be proactive in trying to find a solution.

On the issue of forced labor, Moon has repeatedly said in the past that he would “respect judicial ruling.” He has also commented that the 2015 agreement between Japan and South Korea – which states that the comfort women issue has been “resolved finally and irreversibly” – has still not been resolved.

Yet in the recent news conference on January 18, Moon said that “Japan and South Korea should try to reach a solution before the Japanese companies’ assets in South Korea are sold.” He also stated that he acknowledges the official agreement between the two countries on the issue of comfort women.

Both statements sound gentler than ones made previously by Moon, but one does not sense he is genuinely striving toward improvement.

Moon must surely be aware of the 1965 agreement between the two countries on damage claims and economic cooperation. Japan promised to supply 300 million dollars in grants and 200 million dollars in loans to South Korea. The agreement states that the issue of damage claims “between the contracting parties and their nationals” has been “is settled completely and finally”.

Labor during the war was based on the laws of the day. It was a legitimate mobilization of labor – found in many other countries as well – with salaries being paid.

In 2005, the South Korean government made it clear that the Japanese government had proposed to directly compensate individual victims in the mid-1960s. The Roh Moo-hyun administration was in power at the time of the revelation, and Moon Jae In was a senior presidential secretary at the time.

Moon recently told the outgoing Japanese Ambassador to South Korea that he wants “Japan to be South Korea’s most important partner.” However, instead of making these empty statements, South Korea needs to take specific action and actually work toward reaching solutions.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai’s recent comment that “Japan will take all options into consideration and take a firm stand” makes sense. Japan must protect its national interest in the face of South Korea’s lawlessness.

(Read the editorial in its original Japanese at this link.

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun