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Reducing Korea-Japan cooperation is not winning strategy

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By Stephen Costello

WASHINGTON ― President Moon Jae-in suggested Aug. 5 that South Korean economic growth based on expanded North-South development could help overcome new trade restrictions by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Predictably, this statement has been met with ridicule, derision and alarm by many commentators. If Moon's timing and his specific point about Japan seem impractical or naive, his frustration and his long-term strategic points are easier to understand.

The Abe administration's public reasoning for announcing the new restrictions ― that it relates to distrust of South Korea's exports of sensitive materials to North Korea ― is difficult to believe.

As multiple experts have pointed out, Abe's move is more likely political. It is generally understood to be a reaction to South Korean court rulings and Cheong Wa Dae actions asserting Japan's liability for wartime forced labor from South Koreans.

Since Abe was elected prime minister, technical arrangements for settling the sex slavery and forced labor issues with Korea have been inextricably tied up with, and inseparable from, his political and ideological drive to deny or minimize Japan's responsibility for its actions in the 1930s and 1940s. His supporters' bullying and attacking journalists, academics and artists in support of that denial has regularly made news during his term.

At the same time, the two agreements Abe refers to as settling the issue were signed by Park Chung-hee in 1965 and his daughter Park Geun-hye in 2015. The former Park led a dictatorial regime, and the later Park was impeached and is now in jail.........

© The Korea Times