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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 September 4 - 10  > Shii answers questions by South Korean newspaper about soured Tokyo-Seoul relationship
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2019 September 4 - 10 [JCP]

Shii answers questions by South Korean newspaper about soured Tokyo-Seoul relationship

September 7, 2019

Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo in an interview with a Korean newspaper talked about why the Japan-South Korea relationship has deteriorated, what are problems concerning Japan’s tightening of regulations on exports to South Korea, and how the Abe government lacks remorse over Japan’s colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula. The interview article appeared in the September 4 issue of the South Korean newspaper Kyungphyang Shinmun.

The following are excerpts from the Q-and-A section of the article:

Q: What caused the increased tension between Japan and South Korea?

Shii: The Abe government should be to blame. The government unjustly criticizes the South Korean supreme court’s ruling regarding Korean victims of wartime forced labor in Japan by claiming that the ruling is inconsistent with international law. Tokyo has denied its responsibility to restore the victims’ honor and dignity and went so far as to condemn Seoul. In addition, the Abe government imposed tougher regulations on Japan’s exports to South Korea apparently in connection with the forced labor issue. This is a violation of the principle of the separation of political and economic issues. Yet, the Abe government insists that it just reviewed the status of export management from the viewpoint of enhancing security. This is clearly an attempt to deceive the general public into believing it is in the public interest.

Thus, the root cause of the soared relationship between the two countries is the Abe government which refuses to reflect on Japan’s past colonial rule. In the late 1990s, the Japanese government at that time expressed remorse over Japan’s war of aggression in Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichi’s statement in 1995 and PM Obuchi Keizo’s joint declaration with South Korean President Kim Dae Jung in 1998. It was around that time when Abe emerged as a new-generation advocate of historical revisionism that justifies Japan’s past war of aggression and praises Japan’s wartime regime. In 2015, PM Abe issued a statement which reads, “The Japan-Russia War gave encouragement to many people under colonial rule from Asia to Africa.” With this dubious justification, Abe showed his approval of the war which paved the way for Japan’s annexation of the Korean Peninsula. Abe has repeatedly made revisionist remarks and maintained an attitude of neglect toward the forced labor issue as well as the so-called “comfort women” issue, which helped to bring about the current situation.

Q: What is necessary to solve the forced labor issue?

Shii: Both the Japanese and South Korean governments as well as the supreme courts of the two countries acknowledge that individual victims can exercise their right to claim for wartime damages. Taking this point seriously, the Japanese government should refrain from politicizing the civil case and take measures to restore the victims’ honor and dignity.

Q: What do you think is the cause of the anti-Korea sentiment in Japan?

Shii: The Abe government has long adopted a strategy to appeal to its right-wing support base by speaking ill of neighboring countries, and mainstream media have played their part in implementing this strategy. Politicians must not attempt to gain support by fanning racial hate, but Abe has used this tactic for years. When the House of Representatives was dissolved and the general election was called the last time in 2017, Abe called the threat from North Korea a national crisis in a bid to increase his support. With the U.S. Trump administration seeking dialogue with North Korea, Abe changed the target to South Korea. Furthermore, the recent decision to tighten exports to South Korea is damaging also to Japan. The number of South Korean tourists to Japan has already dropped, negatively affecting sections of the Japanese economy. Under this situation, more and more people in Japan are urging the government to come to its senses and exercise self-restraint.

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