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Intractable neighbor

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By Choi Sung-jin

Since President Moon Jae-in took office 20 months ago, the relationship between Korea and Japan has been going steadily downhill.

In a way, there is nothing strange about it, given the progressive leader's slogan is to "clean up old evils." Of course, the elimination of accumulated evils mainly concerns domestic politics. If one applies the same catchphrase to foreign policy, however, no other bilateral relationship is more problematic than that between Seoul and Tokyo.

Histories of the two East Asian nations show Japan had been the unilateral assailant, and Korea the one-sided victim, since at least the 16th century.

Ancient Korea delivered Chinese culture to Japan but what this peninsula got in return from the archipelago to its east has been ceaseless pillage and invasion. Japan even colonized Korea in 1910 and occupied it through 1945. Seventy-four years have passed since then, but most Koreans still regard ― with sufficient reason ― their Japanese counterparts as least likable people in the world.

Koreans easily ― perhaps too easily ― forget and forgive foreigners' wrongdoing if only the latter "genuinely" regret and apologize. Japan has only reaffirmed it is unwilling ― or unable ― to do this many times.

Take the case of "comfort women" for example. Japan and the previous Park Geun-hye administration settled the decades-old issue, at least ostensibly, in 2015. Tokyo put forth 1 billion yen ($9 million) not as compensation but as "humanitarian........

© The Korea Times