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2. From Whitelist Removal to GSOMIA: Unprecedented in South Korea-Japan Ties

2019-12-31



South Korea and Japan seem to be taking a breather regarding their months-long trade row after bilateral ties hitting rock bottom.

President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held summit talks in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu on December 24, to discuss the trade row apparently sparked by colonial-era disputes. While the two leaders reconfirmed their differences, they also agreed on the need to resolve their months-long trade row through dialogue.

The South Korea-Japan summit was the first of such in 15 months since the two leaders previously met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September of last year.

The bilateral discord, triggered by the South Korean Supreme Court’s ruling last year ordering Japanese firms to compensate Korean victims of Japan’s wartime forced labor, intensified following Japan’s restrictions on exports of three key semiconductor and display materials to South Korea. On August 2, Tokyo also removed South Korea from its whitelist of trading partners who are allowed preferential treatment.

Seoul, in response, announced its decision not to renew the General Security of Military Information Agreement(GSOMIA) with Tokyo later that month. The following month, Seoul lodged a formal complaint to the World Trade Organization(WTO) over Tokyo’s trade restrictions and removed Japan from its whitelist of preferred trading partners.

Efforts were made to resolve the disputes. Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon attended a ceremony in October marking the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito, while Moon and Abe had a brief conversation on the sidelines of forums hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN) in November.

With only six hours before the scheduled November 23 expiration of GSOMIA, Seoul conditionally suspended the deal termination and withdrew its WTO complaint. Tokyo, for its part, partially eased its export curbs ahead of the December 24 summit. The Seoul-Tokyo ties, for now, seem to have restored momentum for efforts to resolve the contentious issues.

Photo : KBS News

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