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EXCLUSIVE: South Korea pres. candidate’s aide shows softer stance on Japan

  • December 6, 2021
  • , Jiji Press , 10:01 p.m.
  • English Press

Seoul, Dec. 6 (Jiji Press)–The top diplomatic aide to Lee Jae-myung, the presidential candidate of South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party of Korea, said Seoul should not seek compensation and apologies from Japan over wartime issues.


In a recent interview with Jiji Press, Kim Joon-hyung, former head of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy and now serving as chairman of the special foreign and security policy committee in Lee’s campaign team, said the South Korean government should clarify that it will take charge of financial matters concerning Koreans requisitioned to work at Japanese firms during World War II as well as so-called comfort women.


Kim said he made the same proposal when the administration of incumbent President Moon Jae-in came into being in 2017. But this wasn’t accepted amid strong public anger over the 2015 agreement between the Japanese and South Korean governments to resolve the issue of Korean women forced to work at Japanese military brothels during the war, Kim said.


“If the Moon administration took such an approach now, the public would see it as giving in, but a new government would be able to do this,” Kim noted.


On the wartime labor problem, another thorny bilateral matter, Kim said, “If South Korea establishes the principle that it will take charge of everything, there will be various solutions.”


“(South Korea) should stop demanding apologies from Japan as a precondition,” he stressed.


Lee, former governor of Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds Seoul, has been considered a Japan hawk, displaying wariness about the neighboring country. He has asked whether Japan is a friendly country that can be trusted.


Kim pointed out that the presidential candidate has to consider persistent anti-Japan sentiment among voters until the election, set for next March, is over.


“If we take power, we can move in a far more practical way,” Kim said, adding that Lee appears to be thinking about the possibility of compromise.


“When China gets more belligerent than now, cooperation between Japan and South Korea can serve as a buffer” between China and the United States, whose rivalry has been growing, he went on to say. “Japan does not want a new Cold War, either.”


Kim also advised South Korea not be too absorbed in North Korean issues but pursue a diversified diplomacy.


The country “may need plan B, in which it joins hands with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, India and the European Union” while maintaining ties with the United States as the diplomatic foundation and leaving relations with China intact, he said.

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