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Yoon Urges Koreans to Leave Japanese Colonial Past Behind

Written: 2023-03-21 15:25:15Updated: 2023-03-22 09:52:51

Yoon Urges Koreans to Leave Japanese Colonial Past Behind

Photo : YONHAP News

Anchor: President Yoon Suk Yeol issued a public message during a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, declaring that South Korea and Japan must leave the past behind and move forward. This comes as he faces political backlash at home over his decision to spend South Korean money to compensate the Korean victims of Japanese forced labor during World War II, which led to thawing Seoul-Tokyo relations. 
Kim Bum-soo has more.

Report: President Yoon Suk Yeol says it's time now for Seoul and Tokyo to overcome their past and walk towards the future. 

In an unusual, 23-minute opening statement at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, Yoon addressed the domestic political backlash over his push to improve relations with Japan.

[Sound bite: President Yoon Suk Yeol (Korean-English)]
"'If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.' This is a quote by Winston Churchill, who led Britain to victory in World War II with his dauntless leadership and passion for liberty. We must squarely face the past and remember it but we must not be bogged down by it." 

In a bid to salvage strained bilateral relations with Japan, Yoon decided not to enforce the 2018 South Korean Supreme Court ruling that ordered Japanese corporations to pay reparations to the Korean victims of forced labor during World War II. 

The move led to the first South Korea-Japan summit in Tokyo in 12 years last week, during which the two sides sought to normalize ties.

[Sound bite: President Yoon Suk Yeol (Korean-English)]
"The 2018 Supreme Court ruling on forced labor led to Japan's export restrictions on materials needed in the production of semiconductors and other economic retaliations, including its removal of South Korea from the trade whitelist. South Korea in turn filed a complaint with the WTO and removed Japan from its own whitelist. The conflict over history expanded to the economy." 

The president accused former President Moon Jae-in of inciting hostile nationalism and anti-Japan sentiment for political gains at home. 

[Sound bite: President Yoon Suk Yeol (Korean-English)]  
"South Korea-Japan relations are not a zero-sum game, in which one gains and the other loses by that much. South Korea-Japan ties must become a win-win relationship, where the two sides can gain more by working together. But the previous government neglected the strained relations."

Opposition parties argue that Yoon was unnecessarily submissive to Japan when he decided to ignore the top court ruling and sought to revive ties with the country that colonized the Korean Peninsula for 35 years.  

Yoon emphasized the importance of cooperation with Tokyo in the face of the escalating Sino-U.S. rivalry, global supply chain disruptions and North Korea's advancing nuclear and missile threats. 
Kim Bum-soo, KBS World Radio News.

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