Seoul, Tokyo still remain far apart over historical issues

20-Sep-2021 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Korea and Japan have once again found that they remain “parallel” over historical issues during senior-level talks held Thursday. With Japan scheduled to pick a new prime minister on September 29, questions are rampant over whether the new leader can resolve the diplomatic disputes between Seoul and Tokyo.

During a meeting between Lee Sang-ryol, the foreign ministry’s director general for Asian and Pacific affairs, and his Japanese counterpart Takehiro Funakoshi, the two discussed thorny historical issues including wartime forced labour and sexual slavery under Japanese colonial rule on the peninsula, along with other items related to security and economic cooperation. The talks were the first in three months.

However, Lee and Funakoshi reaffirmed the stance of each government on the historical issues. Seoul is demanding Tokyo’s apology and compensation for surviving victims of forced labour and sexual slavery, while the latter is claiming that the issues were settled through the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations between the two countries.

Many Korean victims of forced labour and sexual slavery have claimed that their voices were not reflected in previous agreements between the governments and thus they lack legitimacy.

Diplomatic experts said the conflicts between the neighbouring countries will not be resolved in the near future, especially under the current governments of President Moon Jae-in and Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga, but the two might be able to find a breakthrough after both Korea and Japan select their new leaders.

In Korea, the next presidential election is slated for March next year; while in Japan, following Suga’s announcement earlier this month that he would not run for re-election as party leader this month, the next leader of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), who will be the next prime minister, will be selected on September 29, about a month before Suga’s tenure ends, October 24.

Among strong candidates for the presidency of Korea are Gyeonggi Provincial Governor Lee Jae-myung and former leader of ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) Lee Nak-yon, both members of the party, and former Prosecutor general Yoon Seok-youl and Rep. Hong Joon-pyo, who belong to the main opposition People Power Party (PPP). In Japan, Regulatory Reform and Vaccine minister Taro Kono has been topping recent polls for the next LDP leader, among other candidates including former Foreign minister Fumio Kishida.

Park Cheol-hee, a Japanese politics professor at Seoul National University’s Graduate School of International Studies, said it was almost impossible to break the hardline view of Korea in Japan under Suga as he was too strongly tied with former prime minister Shinzo Abe whose support base was based among the country’s right wing groups.

“However, if a new prime minister of Japan is elected, there will be some hope for a normalisation of Korea-Japan relations as well as a renewed diplomatic atmosphere,” Park said. “But at the same time, we should not expect major changes to automatically happen. What we can expect is that the current Korea-Japan relations are not likely to further worsen after the leadership change.”


Category: Japan, Korea

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