(Yomiuri: November 3, 2015 – p. 4)
On Nov. 2, a Japan-ROK summit was held for the first time in about three and a half years. The summit disclosed once again the difficulty in Japan-South Korea relations as the leaders were unable to find common ground on the focal issue of wartime comfort women. Both Japan and South Korea are engaging in parliamentarian diplomacy, but some are concerned that channels will dry up with such factors as the change of generation in South Korea.
The Liberal Democratic Party’s Takeo Kawamura, secretary-general of the [nonpartisan] Japan-Korea Parliamentarians’ Union and former chief cabinet secretary, emphasized on Nov. 2 the importance of Japan-ROK relations, saying, “[Each nation] must make efforts because we are neighbors and cannot relocate ourselves (geographically).”
In recent years, Japan-ROK parliamentarian diplomacy has been spearheaded by such veterans as Japan-South Korea Parliamentarians’ Union Chairman and former Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga and MP Kawamura. South Korea, however, is seeing a change of generation among its parliamentarians, and some say that “relations among Japanese and South Korean parliamentarians are gradually weakening.”
It has also been pointed out that the prolonged cooling in Japan-ROK relations has caused significant damage, and the number of parliamentarians in each country who are knowledgeable about the other country is decreasing. The key to parliamentarian diplomacy is the development of trust over time. MP Kawamura stresses: “We must use the bilateral summit to encourage active exchange among our young parliamentarians.”
Two statues representing comfort women – one of a Korean girl, the other of a Chinese girl – were unveiled in Seoul in late October. An LDP official said on Nov. 2, “If this situation continues, it will be hard for Japanese Diet members to take action.”