Yoon-Kishida summit concludes with no apology or sincere response from Japan

Posted on : 2023-03-17 17:03 KST Modified on : 2023-03-17 17:03 KST
The Japanese prime minister reportedly called on Yoon to carry out a 2015 agreement on the issue of sexual slavery by the Japanese military
President Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea (left) shakes hands with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan ahead of their summit in Tokyo on March 16. (Yonhap)
President Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea (left) shakes hands with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan ahead of their summit in Tokyo on March 16. (Yonhap)

While President Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced the restoration of bilateral ties, including the restoration of “shuttle diplomacy” after a 12-year hiatus at the South Korea-Japan summit on Thursday, there was no direct apology or expression of regret from Kishida regarding Japan’s use of forced labor during its occupation of Korea.

Rather, in response to a question about possible future claims against the companies named in a lawsuit by forced labor victims, Yoon said that the Korean government “does not envision exercise of the right of redress” against the companies that committed war crimes.

At the joint press conference following the summit at the prime minister’s residence in Tokyo, Yoon stated, “Prime Minister Kishida and I have agreed that the people of both countries have been directly and indirectly harmed by the frozen relations between our two countries, and agreed to restore bilateral relations as soon as possible.”

On the issue of compensation for victims of forced mobilization, Prime Minister Kishida gave a textbook response to the Korean government’s third-party repayment solution, which was announced on March 6, saying, “The Japanese government evaluates this measure as a way to return bilateral relations, which were in a very difficult situation, to a healthy state.”

Kishida went on to confirm that “the Japanese government inherits, as a whole, the positions of previous Cabinets on historical recognition, including the Japan-South Korea Joint Declaration of 1998.”

Kishida did not issue a direct apology, but in fact, reportedly called on Yoon to carry out a 2015 agreement between the two countries on the issue of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery. The Kyodo News reported that Kishida asked Yoon for the faithful implementation of the so-called “comfort women” agreement during the meeting, citing a Japanese government official.

At the joint press conference, Kishida was asked about remaining issues such as the 2018 dispute over a Korean destroyer allegedly locking onto a Japanese military aircraft and the Japanese military’s “comfort women” system. In response, Kishida stated that he “plans to frankly talk about issues and problems, including those pointed out.”

A senior Yoon administration official avoided giving an immediate answer when asked by reporters if it was true that Kishida had demanded that the “comfort women” settlement be implemented, saying, “Today’s discussion mostly focused on ways to develop bilateral relations with Japan in the future.”

The two leaders agreed to resume “shuttle diplomacy” between the two countries, which had been suspended since December 2011. However, when asked by reporters about the timing of his next visit to South Korea, Kishida said, “We will consider the date at an appropriate time,” adding that no specific date had been set.

On the occasion of the summit, the Japanese government decided to lift export restrictions on three key semiconductor materials to South Korea and agreed to continue dialogue on another issue of concern, the exclusion of South Korean exports from Japan’s export “whitelist.” The South Korean government withdrew its World Trade Organization complaint against Japan over the restrictions.

Yoon also announced that Korea had decided to “fully normalize” the General Security of Military Information Agreement, commonly referred to as GSOMIA, which had been in a state of “conditional postponement” of termination since the preceding Moon Jae-in administration.

In the private sector, the Federation of Korean Industries and Japan’s Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) announced the establishment of a “future youth fund” to support international students.

The two countries will also strengthen cooperation in the fields of economy and security, advanced science, finance and foreign exchange, and culture.

“We have decided to restore consultative bodies that discuss the common interests of the two countries, including strategic dialogues between diplomatic and economic authorities,” Yoon stated. “We look forward to continuing communication through various consultative bodies, including the launch of the National Security Council-level “Korea-Japan Economic Security Dialogue.”

By Bae Ji-hyun, staff reporter; Kim Mi-na, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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