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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

On strained Japan-ROK ties, Mayor of Seoul calls for restoring exchange at municipal level

  • September 29, 2019
  • , Mainichi , p. 7
  • JMH Translation

By Chiharu Shibue

 

SEOUL – Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon sat for an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun and other outlets on Sept. 27. On deteriorating Japan-ROK ties, he called for “restoring exchanges at private and municipal levels.”

 

Seoul is in a sister-city relationship with Tokyo. The Seoul municipal office was taking the stance of “giving careful consideration” to exchanges with Japanese municipalities following the August decision by the Japanese government to remove South Korea from “Group A,” a white list of countries that are granted preferential treatment in export procedures.

 

Speaking about next year’s Tokyo Olympics, Park mentioned that Seoul seeks to co-sponsor the 2032 Summer Games with Pyongyang. He noted that “to make the Olympics successful, Asian cities must work together” and stressed the need for close partnership within Asia for the Games, including the 2020 Beijing Winter Olympics.

 

On Sept. 6, the Seoul municipal assembly passed an ordinance that identifies Japanese firms as “war crime companies” if they engaged Korean people into forced labor during World War II and recommends residents not buy products made by these firms. But on Sept. 26, the Seoul municipal office requested the assembly to redo the vote. Asked why the city called for this measure, Park answered that the ordinance is “not an appropriate way” to defuse tensions between Japan and South Korea and “many people share this view.” He raised the example of Seoul’s Jung district, which raised flags to call for boycotting Japanese products on the streets and later removed them amid severe criticism. “Residents are opposed to policies adopted by Japan’s Abe government but they are not trying to exclude Japan and Japanese people. They are behaving rationally,” he said.

 

Meanwhile, he criticized Japan’s tighter export controls, saying that the action can “undermine the free trade order.” He pointed out that efforts need to be made to improve the Japan-South Korea relationship. “Japan and South Korea have built ties based on peace and harmony for many years and moves are emerging mainly from the business circles that the strained ties need to be fixed,” he said.

 

Park was elected as mayor in 2011 and is currently serving his third term. With South Korea’s next presidential election slated for 2022, he is seen as a strong candidate form the ruling “Democratic Party of Korea.”

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