South Korea’s SEOUL Yoon Suk Yeol, the president of South Korea, met with Fumio Kishida, the prime minister of Japan, over the weekend in Seoul. Following their meeting, Yoon Suk Yeol urged government officials to devise concrete actions to speed up economic cooperation and security with Japan.
At their meeting on Sunday, the leaders resolved to put the past behind them and enhance their collaboration in the countenance of a nuclear North Korea and further difficulties. Kishida expressed sorrow for the Koreans who were forced into industrial slavery during Japan’s colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
South Korea’s response to the summit, which was the 2nd meeting of the leaders in less than two months, was unresolved. Critics, such as Yoon’s liberal adversaries who hold the prevalence in the National Assembly, claimed that Kishida’s remarks fell short of a real apology and charged Yoon with absolving Japan of responsibility for prior aggressions while promoting bilateral relations.
Others viewed the summit as evidence that the two important U.S. supporters are finally cooperating more closely with Washington after years of disagreement.
Yoon claimed following the summit that talks are being held between Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington to carry out an earlier agreement on a quicker exchange of information regarding North Korea’s test missile. Yoon said that he wouldn’t rule out Japan’s potential involvement in upcoming talks between Washington and Seoul over nuclear deterrence to better counter North Korean nuclear threats.
On the fringes of the Group of Seven meetings in Hiroshima, Yoon, Kishida, and President Joe Biden are anticipated to meet in a trilateral setting later this month to talk about North Korea and the geopolitical difficulties brought on by Russia’s aggression on Ukraine and China’s powerful foreign policy. Yoon was chosen as one of eight outreach nations, even though South Korea is not a member of the G-7.
On Monday, Yoon met with his main sectaries and gave them instructions on how to carry out the bilateral security, economic, and technology cooperation as well as enhance youth and cultural interactions between the two nations that were discussed during his meeting with Kishida. Yoon’s office had no further details.
Before leaving Seoul, Kishida spoke to the media and expressed his desire to deepen his friendship with Yoon and “work together to engrave out a new era.”
Kishida emphasized the importance of facilitating people-to-people exchanges between the countries, saying that doing so would “help further foster our mutual acquaintance and give widths and thickness to our relations.” Earlier on Monday, he had separate meetings with groups of South Korean lawmakers and business leaders.
Yoon’s journey to Tokyo in the middle of March was reciprocated by Kishida’s trip to Seoul. The two country’s leaders are meeting for the first time in 12 years.
The back-to-back talks were primarily intended to settle contentious disagreements brought about by South Korean court decisions in 2018 that required two Japanese corporations to pay some of their retired Korean workers for forced labor committed before the end of World War II. These decisions infuriated Japan, which maintains that a treaty that normalized relations in 1965 resolved all compensation-related disputes.
As a result of the disputes, the two nations downgraded their economic standing with one another, and Seoul’s previous liberal administration threatened to scuttle a military intelligence-sharing agreement. The United States attempts to forge a stronger coalition to confront China’s and North Korea’s threats were hindered by their fragile relations.
After Yoon’s traditional administration in March presented a divisive internal plan to use local company funds to pay the victims of forced labor without asking for Japanese donations, relations warmed. Later that month, Yoon visited Tokyo to come up with Kishida, and the two decided to restart official meetings and additional discussions. Since then, their governments have moved to end their economic retaliation.
Since many South Koreans still hold grudges against Japan for its colonial occupation, Kishida’s journey to Seoul attracted a great deal of public attention in that country.
In an apparent effort to keep the momentum for better relations going, Kishida avoided making a formal, direct apology for the colonization but expressed sympathy for the Korean victims, saying he feels “strong pain in my heart” over their suffering.
The former South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung and the Japanese prime minister Keizo Obuchi issued a historic joint statement in 1998 in which Obuchi said: “I feel sensitive remorse and offer an apology from the bottom of my heart.” He reaffirmed that his government supports the positions of previous Japanese administrations on the colonization issue.
In addition, Kishida stated that Yoon and he would visit the Korean Atomic Bomb Victims Memorial in Hiroshima during the G-7 meetings to pay their respects. In response to South Korea’s worries about the safety of its food in the wake of Japan’s nuclear disaster in 2011, he stated that Tokyo would permit South Korean experts to check out a scheduled waiver of feted radioactive water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear energy plant.
The South Korean assessment team will be made up of experts from relevant government agencies and organizations, according to Seoul’s Foreign Ministry, which also announced that it will shortly hold negotiations with Japanese authorities to arrange their visit, which is scheduled for May 23–24.
Expert Bong Young-Shik of the Yonsei University for North Korean Studies in Seoul said that Yoon’s administration effectively managed public expectations before the meeting, which made it simpler for both governments to portray the result as significant.
Resuming “shuttle diplomacy,” or regular leader visits, is a victory for the governments of South Korea and Japan, he said.
Yoon was criticized at home for making anticipatory concessions to Tokyo without receiving anything in return, and some journalists and opposition lawmakers referred to the summit as a letdown.
According to Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-Myung, who narrowly lost to Yoon in the 2016 presidential election, “Normalizing relations between South Korea and Japan is a necessity, and I am in favor of it, but not at the expense of our national attractions, national pride, history, and justice.”
The conventional Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest newspaper by readership, admitted that Kishida’s remarks fell short of quelling South Koreans’ anger over the nation’s turbulent past but asserted that the meeting demonstrated the nations’ “desperate” need for collaboration.
In light of current occasions like Russia’s incursion of China’s and Ukraine’s maritime aggression, which puts its neighbors at risk, South Korea and Japan need to work together more closely.
More than ever, the nations must work together to counteract North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. Additionally, due to their sluggish economies and aging populations, the nations confront similar problems, the journal stated.
“You should not be dwelling on the past at this time.”