It was regrettable to see South Korean President Park Geun-hye continue her position of unilaterally criticising Japan when she met Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe for talks in Seoul on Friday.
Park stressed that the deterioration in Japan-South Korean relations stemmed from the “words and acts of some politicians”, adding that it was necessary for the two nations to share a correct perception of history if they want their relationship to develop. These comments are a repetition of her pet opinion critical of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s historical perception.
Park also indicated that she would put top priority on solving the issue of so-called comfort women, which she said was “a matter related to universal human rights”.
Ahead of Masuzoe’s talks with Park, Abe asked him to convey a message to the president. The message said, “the door for dialogue is always open”, indicating his desire to hold a bilateral summit meeting. Park’s comments, however, can be taken to show her continued determination to make the settlement of the comfort women issue and other issues a precondition for meeting with Abe.
Park did hail an exchange project under consideration between Tokyo and Seoul, and supported a plan for parties concerned to cooperate in hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
But such exchanges will inevitably be limited under this abnormal situation, in which Park has been refusing to meet Abe ever since she was inaugurated nearly a year and a half ago.
“It’s regrettable that a difficult political situation seems to be alienating [Japanese and South Korean] people’s hearts from each other,” Park said during her talk with Masuzoe. We found it odd for her to speak as if she were not a party to this problem.
Her backbiting diplomacy of criticising Japan in front of foreign dignitaries has provoked ire in Japan. What does she think about her own role in this?
After the March summit among Japan, the United States and South Korea, which was mediated by US President Barack Obama, Tokyo and Seoul started talks by foreign affairs officials at the director-general level.
The South Korean officials are seeking concessions from their Japanese counterparts over the comfort women issue, while the Japanese side took up the issue of lawsuits filed by South Koreans conscripted to work in factories in Japan during World War II. No progress has been made in their talks.
Early this month, a Seoul hotel abruptly refused to provide a venue for an event commemorating the inauguration of Japan’s Self-Defence Forces, in response to the flood of protests it received after an influential South Korean newspaper blasted the event.
This was a result of Park spreading anti-Japanese sentiment throughout South Korean society.
What should not be overlooked is her stance of joining forces with China’s leadership over historical issues. During her talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Park and Xi jointly expressed alarm over recent progress in Japan-North Korean talks.
In addition to North Korean issues, there are many issues that require cooperation between Japan and South Korea, including the conclusion of a bilateral economic partnership agreement and the implementation of measures to deal with air pollution from China. We wonder if Park believes no efforts are necessary to break the impasse over bilateral relations.