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2014年8月17日 (日)

(社説)日本と韓国 国交半世紀に向かって

August 16, 2014
EDITORIAL: Wise decisions needed from Abe and Park to ensure good ties
(社説)日本と韓国 国交半世紀に向かって

On Aug. 15, the anniversary of the end of World War II, prayers were said across Japan for the repose of the souls of the war dead.

In neighboring South Korea, the day was commemorated as the anniversary of the country’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

In an Aug. 15 ceremony to mark “Liberation Day,” South Korean President Park Geun-hye referred to next year’s 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea and said, “Now, both South Korea and Japan have to work to develop a future-oriented, friendly and cooperative relationship.”

In particular, she stressed that resolution of the “comfort women” issue would promote the development of firmer bilateral ties. “I have high hopes for the wisdom of Japanese political leaders and expect them to make a decision,” she said.

It's about time the two countries took steps to ensure they have a brighter future together. While Japan needs to make a sincere response to the long-festering issue, Park should also boldly show “wisdom and decisions.”

There can be no solution that is rated as perfect by either country. Any proposal to resolve the issue is bound to provoke complicated reactions from both sides, comprised of both positive and negative responses.

But it is the mission of political leaders engaged in diplomacy to find a point at which both sides can compromise so as to settle the issue from a broad perspective. The relationship between the two neighboring countries must not be allowed to remain as frosty as it is now.

Earlier this month, The Asahi Shimbun ran special coverage on the issue of comfort women in which it corrected some errors in its past reporting while pointing out that this is essentially an issue of universal human rights.

At comfort stations set up with the involvement of the Japanese military, many women were forced to provide sex to soldiers. Their dignity as women was degraded. There is no denying these historical facts.

Successive Japanese governments have recognized responsibility for this dark chapter in the nation’s history. Japan has made a certain degree of effort to sort out the issue. For instance, it created the Asian Women’s Fund to provide compensation to former comfort women in the 1990s, although Seoul refused to accept the measure.

Even though the issue had grown complicated, the two governments came close to an agreement to break the diplomatic impasse two years ago. The agreement would have resulted in an apology from Japan’s ambassador to South Korea to the victims and granted them aid financed by Japan’s state budget.

But the deal fell through as Japanese politics entered a period of flux. But this shows that serious efforts by political leaders on both sides could open the door to a solution to this sticky issue.

Last week, the 22nd Korea-Japan Forum was held in Fukuoka, which brought together experts and politicians from both countries.

The participants discussed a range of issues, including the situation where the current political deadlock between the two countries is beginning to negatively affect their economies and tourism industries.

In the area of national security, cooperation between Japan and South Korea, two leading democracies and free market economies in the Western Pacific, is vital for effective international efforts to deal with North Korea and ensure stability throughout Asia.

As long as the leaders of the two countries remain unable to hold an official summit and build healthy bilateral ties, they cannot hope to lay out a convincing vision for the future of Asia.

We strongly hope that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Park will provide true political leadership to change the situation now before the landmark anniversary in the history of the bilateral relationship next year.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 16


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