SGRA Report in English
KIM Woonghee Report on the 19th Japan-Korea Asian Future Forum “What shall we do on the Japan-Korean Relations which are at the crossroads?”
On May 29, 2021(Saturday), the 19th Japan-Korea Asia Future Forum ended successively. This forum was supposed to be held at Tokyo in March 2020. But, due to the pandemic of COVID-19 we had the forum on Zoom Webinar (web-seminar) style. SGRA, who has been undertaking global communication proactively took an initiative to organize the forum using “ON-TACT” in COVID-19. (*ON-TACT: Korean English. External activities using ON-LINE)
As concern Japan-Korea relations, it is not so easy to find contacting point though there is a sign of improvement, such as regime changes in Japan and America or different from the precedent sentence at the Korean court. Then, what to do? What shall we do to break the status quo? What will the government do? What will the researchers of Japan-Korea relations do?
At this Forum, four specialists from both countries each exchanged their opinions “what shall we do at crossroads of the Japan-Korea relations?”
The Forum started by the opening speech by Ms. Junko Imanishi, Representative of SGRA and key-note speeches by two specialists from Japan and Korea each followed. Firstly, Mr. Masao Okonogi, Emeritus Professor of KEIO University made his speech under the title “Present stage of the Japan-Korea relations – Where are we now?”. It is not easy to improve Japan-Korea relations in short period considering the political schedule. But, in the long run, if we would consider the birth of new identity and alternation of generations, we will be able to accelerate to bury the unfortunate past. In the United States, the Biden Administration calls their allied Countries and friendly Nations for their solidarities against China as their strategic competitor. Both Japan and Korea, which exist just between America and China, shared the strategies that they would improve mutual image and take the initiative to share their broad recognitions. They emphasized the reconfirmation of the joint declaration by Kim Dae-Jung (ex-President of South Korea) and Keizo Obuchi (ex-Prime Minister).
Professor LEE Won-deog, Kookmin University reported Japan-Korea relations from Korean viewpoint. He diagnosed reversal phenomena in their relations which became remarkable through its transit their offense and defense and emphasized that it is desirable for Japan and Korea to promote their multi-layered and multi-dimensional cooperation in the circumstance that strategic competition between America and China are being intensifying. Korea must establish their foreign policy against Japan on their strategic thinking and national interest without getting swayed by emotion of masses. They must start reading Japanese properly.
As to the issue of conscripted workers, he presented four scenarios.
Scenario-1: “Leave it (Maintain the status quo)”
Scebario-2: Resolution by subrogation (establishment of foundation)
Scenario-3: Judicial Resolution (The International Judicial Court)
Scenario-4: Political Resolution (Abandonment of Reparation or Formular by KIM Young-
Among those scenarios, Professor Lee said Scenario 4 is the most suitable.
We got down to the debate. Mr. Shen Yuxian, ex-Director of Editorial Department of The Dong-a Ilbo, asked Professor Okonogi that “Is there any solutions to improve the relations between Japan and Korea by sharing their internal mind and future vision, not by external factors or the past example?” He pointed that “In order to make those solutions possible, it is necessary to think who, when and how people should do? And consciousness and persuasion, open attitude by leadership and political world and sharing international cognition would be an answer to the solutions.” Mr. Atsusi Ijyu-in, Chief Researcher of Japan Center for Economic Research, commented on the opinion by Professor LEE Won-deog that it is not easy to establish “Big Alliance against China” by the Industrialized Nations. It is realistic to organize order-made linkages depending on individual theme, such as securities, technology, supply chain and human right etc. As to the Japan-Korea relations, how about the utilize of such dealings and sharing the strategies?
Part 2 (Free discussion):
Associate Professor Jin Zhiying, Hanyang University surveyed the situation as follows:
In order to solve the complexed conflicts between Japan and Korea, the key is to solve first the issues on conscripted workers and comfort women be retrieved. It will be difficult to ask the Suga Administration (Japan) for apology or to keep flexible attitude for Korea.
Professor Susumu Kohari, University of Shizuoka emphasized as follows: It will be necessary to have a balanced “Realism and Idealism” in mutual cognition among people of both Countries. He worries about people’s recognition toward other country which were formed from their quasi-surroundings which came from “the society in their mind” (not from direct experience) under the situation “Total interruption of human exchange under COVID-19 pandemic”. We should deal with this matter by promoting ON-LINE dialogue etc.
Professor Junya Nishino, KEIO University suggested as follows: Both countries are trying to understand the other by leader’s behavior. But we should pay attention more to the fact that the other society is diverse from their own and it is quite common. It is important also to understand the recognition of the other toward international order and how they develop the strategy and policy basing on such recognition. It should be subjective to establish “new relationship”, not “restoration” under the governmental “controlling” of the relations of both Countries.
Professor Park Yon-june, ＮATIONAL ＤEFENCE UNIVERSITY, said as follow: It is a key for the improvement of the relations of the Korean Government through the consultation with the Japanese Government reconsidering of dissolution of “The Foundation for Conciliation and Healing”. In the field of diplomatic and national security which Korean Government wants, it is indispensable to achieve strategic goal for the cooperation of both countries.
Part 3 (Q and A Webinar)
Q and A on Webinar style with general public participants assisted by Eminent Professor KIM Soonbae, Chung-nam National University.
We had participants, hundred or more including from KEIO University, University of Shizuoka and Kookmin University. Due to schedule, we could not give them enough time for Q and A. But the number of participants which exceeded a hundred is the most remarkable in the history of the Japan-Korea Asia Future Forum and it was noteworthy that young generation of two countries could connect concurrently.
Lastly, Director Suh Jae Jean, Center for Future Human Resources Research Studies wrapped up the forum with his comment on his long scholarly relationship with Professor Okonogi. The forum was supposed to be ended by his closing address. But due to twenty minutes delay of opening by unexpected sound trouble (acoustic feedback), opening speech did not reach clearly, Ms. Imanishi appeared again to explain about the delay and made her final speech. Under COVID-19 pandemic, we did not reproduce “Frenzy Night” which is unique to the Japan-Korea Asia Future Forum. I think “frenzy acoustic feedback” would predict for next gathering.
We had a meeting for reviewing and got controversial discussion on the positioning of the forum and like to contrive for a format which can expedite discussions among a lot of people concerned, not limited to researchers and dialogs among not only the young in Japan and Korea but a lot of civilians also. Finally, I express my thanks to Ms. Imanishi, Representative of SGRA, ex-Chairman LEE Jin Kyu(Governor of South Hamgyong Province) and staff members who made absolutely sure for Webinar.
KIM Woohghee / Professor Inha University, SGRA Researcher
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sabina Koirala