Friday, September 13, 2019


Japan’s recently unilaterally-tightened controls on exports to South Korea is leading to the termination of “the General Security of Military Information Agreement” (GSOMIA) by the South Korean government. Its termination is an unavoidable choice for the South Korean government. Japan brought this on itself.

Recently, South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered Japanese firms to compensate its victims of forced labor during wartime. Japan was outraged. Last July, Tokyo moved to tighten controls on three semi-conductor materials exports to South Korea. The Japanese government failed to admit and apologize for the atrocities done by its troops, i.e. the invasion and annexation of the Korean peninsula, exploitations, women drafted for ‘Japanese Military Sexual Slavery,’ or forced labor. Japan, to the contrary, imposed tough economic sanctions.

In short, Japan, as the perpetrator, is rubbing salt in the wound of Koreans who still have pain from Japan’s colonial occupation. This is why Koreans have reacted furiously.

Also, last June, Japan urged the world to support fair, indiscriminate and transparent trade at the G20 summit in Osaka. But just three days later Japan took measures to reverse this without prior notice or discussion, which was not consistent.

And on August 2, Japan officially approved ejecting South Korea from its white list of countries, citing “security concerns” as the ostensible reason. However, the Japanese government declared through “the 2019 Report on Unfair Trade,” announced last June, that “controls on exports would hinder free trade and investment for security concerns.” Nonetheless, it is tightening controls on exports by citing security concerns for the South Korea. Japan is full of contradictions.

Breaking the trust and amicable relations with South Korea and then demanding “exchange of sensitive military information for security at higher levels,” especially while raising security concerns, is also self-contradictory.

What’s worse is that the Japanese government has not responded to Seoul’s diplomatic efforts since its announcement in early July of tightened export regulations. Meanwhile, the South Korean government made diplomatic efforts to the Japanese government in many ways, i.e. sending special envoys twice including the G20 summit and acceptance of a “standstill agreement“ proposed by the United States.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on August 15, South Korea’s Independence Day, that “If Japan now desires dialogue and cooperation, then South Korea will be pleased to go with and work with it.” But no matter how much effort had been made, Japan was simply non-responsive. I doubt whether Japan, together with the United States, is a real allied nation which supports endeavors to bring peace and security to the North-East Asia. And as a  result, GSOMIA has been terminated.

To South Koreans, Japan is “close yet distant country”. 

In the ancient past, people living in the Korean peninsula spread all products of civilization including letters to Japan, an island country. However, Japan invaded and looted the Korean peninsula for thousands of years. Most recently, the Korean peninsula was annexed as a colony of Japan. So many Korean women drafted for Japanese military sexual slavery during wartime are now meeting their deaths without Japan’s sincere apology.

Many Korean men and women taken to Japan and all over the world for forced labor are also dying miserably without a word of apology and contrition from Japan. Japan continues to deny their existence. What South Koreans want is Japan to sincerely admit and apologize for its atrocities, just like Germany did for the affected countries and victims due to the Nazis.

Now we hope for Japan to return to a U.S.-led international trade order, and as a global supply chain driver. That path will only allow Japan, South Korea, and the world economy to end uncertainty, build economic growth and relieve the people’s suffering.

Last but not least, I should like to offer a few words for the U.S. government. The role of the United States is needed more than ever not to repeat the history of the unfortunate wars that occurred in the Asia-Pacific nations including Northeast Asia. For any country, it starts with facing the historical facts. Those who distort or deny history are doomed to repeat the same past mistakes.

• Lim Jong Seong is a Member of the National Assembly of Republic of Korea.

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