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No time for diplomatic row

Dec 29,2017
We are deeply concerned about President Moon Jae-in’s announcement that he personally does not accept the 2015 agreement between the Park Geun-hye administration and the Shinzo Abe government to close the chapter on diplomatic disputes over the thorny sex slave issue. Though he did not make clear if his government wants to scrap the deal or renegotiate it, Moon emphatically said the agreement does not solve the problem between Korea and Japan. That’s a reaction to Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono’s remarks that the agreement was a product of multi-level efforts under two democratically elected heads of state.

Seoul-Tokyo relations will be frozen depending on what additional measures the Blue House will take early next year. Kono already warned that both countries’ ties will be irreparably damaged and Abe stressed that the agreement will never be changed. Diplomatic circles lament that nothing will be achieved by both sides on the diplomatic front at least for the next two years.

Given Koreans’ high level of outrage, disputes over the “comfort women” can hardly be resolved no matter how Japan apologizes or pays the price for its exploitation. That’s why the Park Geun-hye administration tried hard to link it to a summit, but to no avail. As a result, both countries’ relations suffered an unprecedented freeze for nearly four years. At the last minute, however, both sides made concessions in the face of deepening nuclear and missile threats from North Korea. The agreement also led to the first official apology from a Japanese prime minister and the establishment of a foundation to financially help the surviving victims.

The government’s task force found fault with the agreement. However, the act of overturning an agreement citing procedural flaws and inciting public resistance by making public secret diplomatic agreements will trigger distrust from Japan. Moreover, the government was not able to clarify what was really meant by its “victim-focused standards.”

The situation in Northeast Asia is getting worse. Security cooperation among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo is more important than ever. When Beijing called on Seoul to take additional measures after their discussions on the Thaad antimissile system in October, the Moon administration criticized China for breaking a diplomatic agreement. If the Moon administration does the same with Tokyo, it will surely give room to Beijing to take advantage of it.

We urge the Moon administration to do something that really benefits Korea.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 29, Page 30