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Time for cooperation

July 20,2019
President Moon Jae-in and leaders of five political parties are united in dealing with the unprecedented trade restrictions by Japan, one of the country’s biggest trade partners and the source of materials for its key export items. They agreed to launch a nonpartisan council to devote undivided political and administrative resources to weathering any challenges the Korean economy faces as a result of the actions taken by the neighboring country. In a rare joint statement from spokespeople from the Blue House and five parties, the government and legislature vowed “communication and unity to overcome a crisis resulting from Japan’s economic retaliation” and “joint endeavors to strengthen Korea’s self-sufficiency in the IT supply chain.”

A silver lining is possible as a reawakening has been achieved in the face of the Japanese measures, which have exposed the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the trade-reliant Korean economy. Strong rhetoric, however, does not change the reality — punitive trade measures from Japan that could cut off the supply of more than 1,000 exports from the country if Korea loses its preferential treatment status. As Japan has thoroughly prepared its attack, businesses and the public are worried about the repercussions from the worst-ever diplomatic row between Seoul and Tokyo. Options are few and the crisis may drag on with no clear and easy solution in sight. But the show of a united political front in the face of the crisis itself is a relief for the people of Korea.

But the rhetoric must translate into action. President Moon had met with opposition leaders several times, but none of the meetings have yielded anything substantial.

Politicians have ignored the hardship of the people and continued with their self-serving wrangling. In the meeting on Thursday that lasted three hours, topics also included contentious issues like election law revisions, the supplementary budget bill and the opposition’s demand for replacing foreign and defense ministers. But no progress was made on such issues.

“Politics has disappointed our people,” said Moon. The leaders must end the fight to normalize and bolster the home team in the face of external challenges. The Blue House and ruling party must compromise to win cooperation from opposition parties. Only when opposition parties feel sincerity from the ruling power will they concede and do their part to root for the home team. The opposition also must present reasonable alternative solutions when they disagree — and aggressively support any ideas with which they agree. Only then can the crisis turn into a window of opportunity.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 19, Page 30