EDITORIAL: Moon shouldn’t use court ruling to evade commitment with Japan

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - It should be impermissible to use a domestic judicial judgment to evade obligations based on a state-to-state agreement. South Korean President Moon Jae-in seems to be relinquishing his responsibility to stabilize diplomacy with Japan.

It should be impermissible to use a domestic judicial judgment to evade obligations based on a state-to-state agreement. South Korean President Moon Jae-in seems to be relinquishing his responsibility to stabilize diplomacy with Japan.
 In reference to his country’s Supreme Court ruling that ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. to pay compensation to its South Korean former wartime requisitioned workers, Moon told a news conference that his government “must respect the ruling based on the separation of the three powers.”
 Expressing a view that Japanese leaders should understand this point, Moon criticized their stance, saying that it is “not a wise attitude to politicize the issue.” He stopped short of presenting concrete measures to resolve the issue, only asserting that Japan and South Korea “should exercise wisdom together.” His attitude of treating the issue as someone else’s problem is unconvincing. 
 The problem is that he emphasized that the requisitioned labor issue “was not of the South Korean government’s making” and called for Japan to “take a humble stance toward the past unfortunate history.”
 Surmounting their differing perspectives on Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, Japan and South Korea normalized their bilateral relationship by concluding the Basic Relations Treaty in 1965. Under an agreement on property and claims and on economic cooperation reached at the same time, the two countries confirmed that problems in regard to claims between the two countries had been “completely and finally settled.”
 Previous South Korean administrations acknowledged that the claims by former requisitioned workers were included in the agreement. South Korea’s top court ignored that background and ruled that the requisitioned labor issue had remained unsolved, thus bringing about political turmoil.

Cool-headed response needed
 It can be said that the problem has plunged into a more serious situation because the past efforts accumulated by the two countries have been disregarded under the Moon administration.
 Despite Japan’s calls for Seoul to take measures to prevent Japanese firms from suffering disadvantages, Seoul has not taken any steps since the ruling was handed down. The property of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. has been seized.
 The agreement on claims stipulates that if a conflict arises over such matters as interpretation of the agreement, a solution will be sought through bilateral diplomatic negotiations. Tokyo had every reason to propose holding bilateral consultative talks based on the agreement.
 If the issue is left unresolved, it is certain that orders for Japanese firms to pay compensation and seizure of their assets will happen in succession in similar lawsuits. Seoul must present measures to get things straight in bilateral talks.
 Unless the Korean side complies with Japan’s request for consultative talks, Tokyo will have no alternative but to call for the establishment of an arbitration panel or look into the possibility of filing a case with the International Court of Justice. It is imperative for Japan to deal with the matter cool-headedly and to show the international community the invalidity of South Korea’s claims.
 In connection with the incident in which a South Korean Navy destroyer allegedly used a fire-control radar on a patrol plane of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, the South Korean side has started insisting that the plane flew at a low altitude in an intimidating manner. Seoul seems to be trying to switch the focus of argument. An insincere response can only lead to a delayed solution.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 11, 2019)

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