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Local gov’ts cancel Japan trips amid trade row

July 26,2019
Local governments are canceling trips to Japan amid nationwide movement to boycott Japanese goods over Tokyo’s export restrictions to Korea.

The city government of Seoul, for one, is mulling over the decision to join the Asia Junior Sports Exchange Games 2019 and other upcoming international events in Japan.

“The society in general has been critical of Japan and its actions, and the city government in this light is also internally reviewing some of its planned exchanges with Japan,” an official of the Seoul Metropolitan Government told the JoongAng Ilbo.

Seoul city government has plans to send a team to the Asia Junior Sports Exchange Games 2019, held in Tokyo from Aug. 27 to Sept. 2, as well as send a team of fire fighters to an inter-city emergency response and rescue training in Tokyo, from Aug. 28 to Sept. 2.

It also intends to send a team to the Urban Agriculture World Summit from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1.

“There are quite a number of cultural events with Japan after August,” the official said. “We will decide what to do regarding these events, hopefully around this weekend.”

Japan announced earlier this month that it would take Korea off its so-called “white list” of 27 countries given preferential treatment in export processing by amending trade regulations, citing security reasons and an “erosion of trust.”

The announcement was met with public outcry in Korea, followed by a boycott of Japanese goods.

Busan city government also announced this week its intention to reconsider going forward with its events planned with Japan.

“The [Shinzo] Abe administration is trying to expand the unfair trade restrictions on Korea, committing an act of utter disrespect toward the Korean government,” said Oh Keo-don, mayor of Busan in a written statement issued on Tuesday. “Busan has had one of the closest relations with Japan among cities in Korea and we have been one of the most active cities in working with Japan.”

“The current bilateral tension is solely due to the faulty policy of the Abe administration and will not help the people of Japan at all,” he said. “We hereby request the Japanese government to rescind the trade restrictions.”

The mayor added that in the meanwhile the city government will hold meetings to review all of its upcoming events planned with Japan, including the annual Fukuoka-Busan Forum, and decide whether to cancel them.

The city government of Suwon in Gyeonggi also canceled an event planned with Asahikawa, its sister city in Japan, to commemorate the 30th anniversary since their establishment of sister-city status.

The National Association of Mayors, which includes city mayors as well as heads of local districts and counties, also condemned the Japanese government’s trade restrictions at a press conference held at the National Assembly in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Wednesday.

“The Abe administration’s trade restrictions on Korea are an act going against the efforts among local governments in both countries to improve bilateral relations,” the association said in a statement. “Japan must act as a responsible member of the international community and lift the trade restrictions.”

The association also mentioned the victims of forced labor during Japan’s colonial rule over Korea in the early 20th century.

Korea’s Supreme Court ruled last October and November that two Japanese companies - Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries - should compensate Korean victims of forced labor during Japan’s colonial rule over Korea in the early 20th century. Tokyo maintains that a 1965 treaty normalizing bilateral ties with Seoul, which provided the Korean government with an economic cooperation fund, settled all compensation matters.

“We respect the decision of the court,” the association said in its statement. “Japan must face its history and apologize and compensate the victims.”

BY PARK HAE-LEE, CHOI MO-RAN [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]