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6. South Korea-Japan Ties Aggravate in 2018


In 2018, South Korea and Japan saw their bilateral ties go from bad to worse.

South Korea made some major decisions this year on contentious issues regarding Japan.

In late November, the government decided to disband the Japan-funded Reconciliation and Healing Foundation, which launched in July 2016 in line with an agreement South Korea and Japan signed in 2015 on addressing Japan’s wartime sex slavery issue. Japan provided one billion yen for the foundation.

The current government began reviewing the deal after it continued to spark much controversy. And in January, the government concluded that the 2015 agreement cannot be a genuine solution as it failed to reflect the opinions of the elderly victims.

Also this year, South Korea’s Supreme Court issued rulings against Japanese companies involved in World War Two-era forced labor

In separate rulings in October and November, the Supreme Court ordered two Japanese firms, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, to pay compensation to Korean victims. The court rejected Japanese claims that the plaintiffs' right to recourse was nullified by the 1965 bilateral pact that settled colonial issues.

The decision drew strong protest from Japan which stressed that the rulings cannot, by any means, be accepted. Japan, on its part, continued to renew its territorial claim over South Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo in its new high school textbook teaching guidelines and in its defense white paper for 2018. The move sparked strong protest from Seoul.

With such contentious issues standing between the two countries, it is expected to take significant time for Seoul-Tokyo ties to improve.

Photo : Yonhap News, KBS News

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