Joint Event: The Second Seoul Forum-Asia Business Caucus and Agenda Workshop I
The Seoul Forum held its second Seoul Forum-Asia Business Caucus and Agenda Workshop I on June 9, 2014 at the Seoul Club. Since the main agenda of the joint event was examining prospects for the Korean-Japanese bilateral relationship, four experts were invited to share their views on current diplomatic and economic discourses between Seoul and Tokyo. The first session included presentations by Lee Keun-Gwan and Kim Tae-hyo on political aspects of the relationship whereas the second session led by Ahn Choong-Yong and Rhee Chong Yun focused on economic cooperation between Korea and Japan.
Suggestions on Addressing the Current Diplomatic Impasse Between Korea and Japan: An Approach from History
Lee Keun-Gwan, Professor of International Law at Seoul National University’s Law School, sought to comparatively analyze the different paths that Japan and Germany adopted with regards to dealing with their respective histories in order to shed light on how escalating diplomatic tensions with Japan could be mitigated. The main lessons that should be learned from the German case, according to Lee, as follows: (1) an objective recognition of historical facts by Japan; (2) a long-lasting and strategic policy towards Japan rather than an emotional approach; and (3) the importance of government-led initiatives, rather than ones that are led by NGOs, the media, and politicians.
Political Diplomacy and Socio-Cultural Factors
Kim Tae-hyo, Professor of International Relations at Sungkyungkwan University, reviewed the major controversial agendas between Korea and Japan, and shared his views on potential steps towards resolving key issues. Kim stressed the need for not politicizing major disputes between Korea and Japan and tackling key issues such as Japan’s recognition of responsibilities for the comfort women as dispassionately as possible. Kim argued that as critical as the historical and textbook issues are in the Korean-Japanese relationship, he also stressed the importance of security cooperation in order to cope with major security threats and challenge such as North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and capabilities. He noted that while the judiciary had provided opinions on key issues, it was more important for the government to take a more pro-active stance in striving to resolve outstanding obstacles.
Abenomics and Korea-Japan Economic Cooperation
Ahn Choong-Yong, Distinguished Professor at Chung Ang University, provided clear-cut insights into the Korean-Japanese economic relationship not simply in the bilateral context but critically, as seen from the perspective of Northeast Asia as one of the most important economic sub-regions of the world. Ahn described the consequences of the major "arrows" of Prime Minister Abe’s economic policies or widely referred to as Abenomics including proactive participation in the TPP, aggressive attraction of FDI, and opening of Japan’s agricultural and service market. He observed that all of these policies pointed to a vigorous economic policy and trade expansion. As for Korea, Ahn noted that it was in the same boat with Japan given the structural linkages between the two economies, not to mention the need to address similar socio-economic-demographic drivers in Asia’s second and fourth largest economies. Ahn emphasized the importance of a robust Korean-Japanese economic partnership even as both Korea and Japan continued to expand their trade ties with China.
Win-Win Strategy for the Korean-Japanese Economic Relations
Rhee Chong Yun, Vice Chair of the Korea-Japan Economic Association, asserted the importance of crafting a “Common Economic Space” between Korea and Japan. He laid out the many economic advantages of such an initiative including the prevention of excessive competition in third world countries, joint advance into emerging markets, and a dispersion of risks concerning production bases. According to Rhee, finalizing an FTA between Korea and Japan would serve as an effective driving force for a “Common Economic Space” but that key issues had to be overcome. He noted that it was important to begin with more easily accessible issues and to treat economic issues from an economic viewpoint rather than complicating them with outstanding historical disputes and other political issues since such moves impeded economic cooperation.