Shinzo Abe's Underhanded Trade War Against South Korea

Ki-jung Kim
Reuters

Ki-jung Kim

Security, Asia

The Japanese prime minister's strategy regarding the Korean Peninsula is highly reminiscent of parochial “divide and conquer” tactics.

Shinzo Abe's Underhanded Trade War Against South Korea

The trade restrictions carried out by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has further exacerbated the discord between Korea and Japan. This is an event that transcends economic friction or diplomatic conflict. It is a strategic war being played against the backdrop of the Northeast Asian regional order and the beginning of a war on history. 

Abe instigated this war, to be sure. It was a plot that was formulated from the early stages of his administration. The South Korean government of Moon Jae-in, having prioritized the progress of peace on the peninsula, managed to keep Japan from impeding the course toward peace. However, Abe’s plans are now in motion, under the guise of a protest against our Supreme Court decision to compensate forced labor conscripts. 

The root of the current trade dispute lies in a Korean Supreme Court decision made in 2018 that called for Japanese companies to make financial reparations to the Korean victims of conscripted labor, which occurred during Japan’s colonization of Korea.  To be clear, the decision did not hold the Japanese government accountable. Government-to-government compensation was achieved through “The Claims Settlement Agreement of 1965 between Korea and Japan,” and the Korean government has consistently acknowledged this fact. The irony is not lost on Korea, however, that Japan has never acknowledged the illegal nature of their forcible annexation of the peninsula in 1910. At any rate, individual reparations were always treated as a separate matter outside of the 1965 agreement. Issues regarding comfort women and Korean victims of atomic bombings amongst others were raised, and the two governments agreed to work out solutions. As a result, Korea-Japan relations slowly evolved from the 1965 framework.

Read the full article.