Go to Contents Go to Navigation

(2nd LD) Yoon says S. Korea-Japan relations must leave past behind

All News 11:40 March 21, 2023

(ATTN: ADDS remarks on working hours)
By Kim Deok-hyun

SEOUL, March 21 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk Yeol said Tuesday that bilateral relations between South Korea and Japan must leave the past behind and move forward, as he faces a growing backlash at home over a recent summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

"Korea-Japan relations must move beyond the past," Yoon told a Cabinet meeting. "Korea-Japan relations can and must be a win-win relationship that works together and gains more together."

Yoon also said relations with Japan "are not a zero-sum relationship."

The main opposition Democratic Party and other critics have blasted Yoon for cozying up to Japan at the expense of South Korea's national interests, after the government decided to compensate victims of Japan's wartime forced labor on its own without asking Japan for contributions.

The DP has also raised suspicions that Yoon could have made unannounced concessions to Japan, following Japanese news reports that the two leaders also discussed the issue of South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo, Japan's wartime sexual slavery and Seoul's import ban on fisheries products from Japan's Fukushima.

Yoon said the previous Moon Jae-in government did nothing about the "deeply mired relations" with Japan.

"I also could have chosen the comfortable path for immediate political gains and left the worst-ever Korea-Japan relations as they are," Yoon said. "I thought I would be breaching my obligations as president if I provoked hostile nationalism and anti-Japanese sentiment for domestic politics."

In an apparent swipe at the main opposition party, Yoon also said there "still exist forces that shout exclusive nationalism, shout anti-Japanese and take political gains."

President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks at a Cabinet meeting on March 21, 2023. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks at a Cabinet meeting on March 21, 2023. (Yonhap)

Branding Japan as "a fateful neighborhood," Yoon stressed, "I am confident that our government is now moving in the right direction."

Yoon also sought people's understanding over the government's decision to resolve the forced labor issue.

Yoon said the decision was a "compromise plan" between the 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral ties with Japan and the 2018 ruling by South Korea's top court that ordered Japanese firms to compensate the victims of the wartime force labor.

"We will do our best to heal the pain of the victims and the bereaved families," Yoon said.

Although Kishida did not directly apologize for Japan's wartime past during the summit with Yoon, the president said, "Japan has already expressed its regret and apology to us on dozens of occasions for past history issues."

With regard to the proposed plan to raise a cap on working hours, Yoon said the government will come up with a complementary measure while carefully listening to the voices of young workers, nonunion members and workers at small and medium-sized firms.

"I have no change in my view that working more than 60 hours a week is impossible for health protection," Yoon said.

"In our society, where the dual structure of the labor market is prevalent, we must devise sure guarantee measures to prevent the vulnerable laborers from becoming anxious," Yoon said.


Send Feedback
How can we improve?
Thanks for your feedback!