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Getting too emotional

Aug 07,2019
Hawks are gaining ground in the ruling Democratic Party (DP). Members are calling for extreme actions ranging from scrapping the General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) with Japan to boycotting the 2020 Summer Olympics. The ruling party is fueling the crisis after Japan’s removal of Korea from the so-called white list of countries getting preferential treatment in trade.

Rep. Sul Hoon, a senior lawmaker of the DP, demanded the government immediately nullify the Gsomia with Japan. He argued that Seoul must notify Tokyo of the move on Aug. 15 Liberation Day as a “symbolic message and warning” from the Korean people. It was the first time that the ruling party leadership formally suggested to scrap a military intelligence-sharing agreement with Tokyo.

DP Chairman Lee Hae-chan who had been reserved on security affairs also indicated his support for hard-line measure, saying Gsomia with Japan would be meaningless since Tokyo removed South Korean from its trusted trade partner list on commodities and technologies that can be used for military or commercial purpose. Flagging the possibility of breaking a symbolic military agreement could serve as a means to pressure Tokyo, but at the same time it can shake the longstanding tripartite alliance of Seoul, Tokyo and Washington. The move also suggests the possibility of a row over past issues extending to economic and security realms.

In a radio interview, Rep. Choi Jae-sung, who heads the DP’s special committee on economic retaliation from Japan, recommended the government broaden a travel ban on Japan beyond the areas with radioactive contamination concerns. Last month, he even called for a civilian rebellion against Japan’s “economic invasion.” He has been spearheading a campaign against Japan by suggesting a boycott of the Tokyo Summer Olympics. It is insensible for aides of the president to pose as mudslingers in stirring anti-Japanese sentiment. Vice Chair of the committee, Kim Min-seok, even likened Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Adolf Hitler.

Stock prices and the Korean won’s value have hit the lowest levels since 2016. Many agree Korea must take a stand against Japan’s unfair and bullying ways. But anti-Japanese sentiment must not guide state affairs. Instead of showing fury, the government must present feasible plans to counter Japanese export restrictions. We must demonstrate logical and prudent sternness that can earn support from citizens and the international community.