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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Dec. 29)

2017/12/29 07:29

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Faulty agreement

Reaction mixed on taskforce's activities

A taskforce under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Wednesday its findings about the procedures leading up to the controversial 2015 Korea-Japan deal on resolving the issue of the so-called comfort women.

The task force, led by a former journalist with the left-leaning Hankyoreh newspaper, was set up shortly after President Moon Jae-in took office in May. Moon had vowed to re-examine the deal during the presidential campaign, underlining that most people could not accept it.

There are mixed reactions about the taskforce's activities. A positive assessment is that it provided some explanations about some of the lingering questions that the public had about the deal, such as the inclusion of the word "irreversible" in the agreement, and whether the removal of the comfort women statue in front the Japanese Embassy in Korea was mentioned in forging the deal.

There are also some unfavorable assessments of the taskforce. First, some people are questioning exactly what the purpose of the taskforce is other than shaming the previous administration. Criticizing diplomatic negotiations under the previous administration is like spitting in our own face. Regardless of a change of power, a diplomatic deal should be respected. If there were problems, attempts to amend it should be carried out in consultation with the relevant country.

Second, the legitimacy of the taskforce is also in doubt. Some are skeptical on whether an outside taskforce formed of non-experts in diplomatic affairs has the authority to dictate the future course of a diplomatic deal. In this regard, former foreign minister Yun Byung-se made some good points during an e mail sent to the press after the taskforce's announcement. "In the 70-year history of the foreign ministry, it is unprecedented for a non governmental taskforce to disclose a bilateral deal," Yun said. He also said that it was customary for bilateral deals to contain confidential content and that a unilateral disclosure could undermine the credibility of Korea's diplomacy with the international community. It is hard to refute Yun's remarks from the perspective of pursuing mature diplomacy.

The findings of the taskforce are likely to spark a widening call for a renegotiation of the already unpopular deal.

"We found that the 2015 deal between the governments of Korea and Japan contained serious shortcomings in its process and content," President Moon said in a statement Thursday. Moon should deeply consider what is best for the future of Korea-Japan relations. Domestic unpopularity is not sufficient grounds for going back on a diplomatic agreement.

(END)

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