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S. Korea aims to be economic powerhouse despite Japan export controls

SEOUL — South Korean President Moon Jae In said Thursday that the country aims to become an economic powerhouse despite Japan’s tightened export controls, as he spoke at an event marking the end of Japanese colonial rule 74 years ago.


Moon, in his speech, emphasized that the normal flow of trade could be disrupted if a country uses its comparative advantage in a sector, referring to Japan’s move that requires manufacturers of semiconductor-related materials to seek approval each time before shipping to Seoul.


With concerns growing that Japan’s tighter export controls would deal a heavy blow to South Korea’s economy, he also called for cooperation with the neighbor, adding it will facilitate peace and prosperity in the East Asia region.


“Better late than never. If Japan chooses the path of dialogue and cooperation, we will gladly join hands,” Moon said.


Moon’s speech came amid thorny ties between South Korea and Japan following a series of court decisions that ruled in favor of South Korean plaintiffs who claim to have been conscripted as laborers during World War II and therefore have the right to seek compensation.


South Korea calls the recent export tightening “an economic retaliation” as Tokyo views that Seoul has failed to deal with months-long disputes over wartime labor, maintaining its stance that the compensation issue was “completely and finally” settled under a 1965 bilateral treaty.


As for inter-Korean relations, Moon also highlighted his government’s efforts to help keep a dialogue going between North Korea and the United States.


“In spite of a series of worrying actions taken by North Korea recently, the momentum for dialogue remains unshaken,” he said, adding that Seoul is committed to denuclearization and bringing about peace on the Korean Peninsula during his term as president.


North Korea has recently fired a series of short-range ballistic missiles, which it claims to be “new-type tactical guided missiles,” as a warning against South Korea-U.S. joint military drills that started on Aug. 5 and run through late this month.


U.S. President Donald Trump said last week that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed displeasure at the military exercise in a letter to him and that the two leaders would have another meeting.


With Pyongyang’s provocative actions still ongoing, Moon may be well aware of people’s concerns over forming a “peace economy” with North Korea as suggested by the South Korean president.


Moon reiterated that his government’s intention is not to give unilateral aid to North Korea, but to promote mutual benefits.


“Both Koreas will be able to reduce not only huge defense expenditures but also the invisible cost of the division, the so-called Korea Discount,” said Moon.

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