The bipartisan Japan-Korea Parliamentarians’ Union (Chairperson: Former Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga) will hold a joint general meeting with the Korea-Japan Parliamentarians’ Union (Chairperson: Kang Chang-il) in the South Korean capital of Seoul on Dec.14. The visit will take place amid a series of breaches of promise and unlawful acts by South Korea, including the latest decision [by the South Korean Supreme Court] to order [Japanese companies] to compensate South Koreans who insist that they were so-called requisitioned workers. The significance of Japanese parliamentarians’ diplomacy will be tested on whether they can prompt their South Korean counterparts to take appropriate actions.
General meetings of the two unions alternate between Japan and South Korea every year. During this year’s meeting in Seoul, the unions will draw up a joint statement and unveil it at a closing ceremony. Also, the unions plan to hold a friendly get-together on Dec. 13. The Japanese union will hold a board meeting to discuss how to deal with the general meeting. But the union has been divided over the handling of the issue.
Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), who serves as secretary general of the Japan-Korea Parliamentarians’ Union, appeared on a BS Fuji TV program aired on Nov. 29. He said; “We have to enable (Japan and South Korea) to hold discussions in our capacity as a friendly parliamentary association. So we’d like to begin by closely watching South Korea’s first move,” expressing his view that Japan should respond “calmly.” The objective of the Japan-Korea Parliamentarians’ Union is to promote friendship between the two countries. So the union harbors the deep-rooted view that it should adopt conciliatory measures.
But there is a growing call within the union for rigorously responding to South Korea following a series of events. These include the [Supreme Court’s] ruling ordering Japan’s Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to compensate former requisitioned South Korean workers, the landing of a group of South Korean lawmakers on the disputed Takeshima islands (in Okinoshima Town in Shimane Prefecture), and the announcement to dissolve the “Reconciliation and Healing Foundation,” established in accord with a Japan-South Korea agreement.
Wataru Takeshita, a member of the Japanese union and former chairman of the LDP General Council, says, “I should say that the failure to keep promises between countries can only damage South Korea’s reputation in the international community. Japan’s assertions should be left in writing at the general meeting.” Some lawmakers quit the union as they felt the limits of “friendship.” The LDP’s Lower House member Minoru Kiuchi, who used to be in charge of South Korea in the Northeast Asia Division of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reported his departure from the union in a blog he posted on Nov. 27. He explained the reason for the departure by saying: “Abiding by rules and keeping promises with each other is a premise for friendship. It is currently extremely difficult to promote friendly ties with South Korea.”
Some members of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), which argues that the individual right to demand compensation has not lapsed, also belong to the bipartisan parliamentarians’ union. The coordination of opinions within the union is expected to be difficult. But there is no room for Japan to make concessions. (Abridged)