Japan & South Korea must work to settle their differences

I agonise over the deteriorating economic relationship between South Korean and Japan, prompted by the Korean Supreme Court’s judgement late last year upholding the Korean victims’ entitlement to damages for forced labour during WWII.

In July, Japan responded by imposing export restrictions on the material used in producing semiconductors and displays that are destined for Korea. In August, Japan removed Korea from the favoured nation list for trading dual-use materials. Japan’s unilateral actions have caused serious disturbance not only the economic relationship between Kora and Japan but also to the global value chain for the electronics industries.

Korea has requested a consultant under the WTO agreement hoping to invite Japan into proper dialogue to settle the differences.

Give the intricate interdependence between our two nations, conflicting issues of economic interest arise frequently and sometimes become politicised. In the past, Korea and Japan wisely handled such issues through constructive dialogue. It is alarming that such a constructive dialogue is not taking place at the moment between two important Asian nations.

Korea will make every good faith effort to reach mutually beneficial solution at the requested consultation. I sincerely urge Japan to act reciprocally. Otherwise, Korea’s legal expertise will not be spared in defending our interests.

Kim Seung-ho

Deputy Trade Minister for Multilateral and Legal Affairs

Sejong City, Republic of Korea

Hong Kong’s evolving narrative

As protests in Hong Kong continue, the narrative has begun to change. This is not only because the protests have evolved. The recent decision by Ofcom, the UK’s media regulator, to investigate Chinese state-run news network CGTN is the latest in a string of actions against what is an ongoing attempt by Beijing to misrepresent the situation. It is therefore worth stressing a few key points:

Firstly, the protest may have begun in opposition to a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed anyone in Hong Kong to be extradited to Mainland China, but this was very much the straw that broke the camels back. For over two decades Hong Kong people have attempted to raise the issue of political reform, a condition of the transfer of sovereignty in 1997 to the Peoples Republic of China, with Beijing to no avail. Since 2014 popularly elected legislators have been disqualified, people barred from running and a political party declared illegal; pro-democratic and pro-Hong Kong voices have been routinely threatened; and journalists, both local and international, have been faced an increasingly hostile environment. In June, when the protest came, what surprised most observers, including myself, was not people had reason to protest in the numbers and ferocity that they have, but that so many people still had the spirit to resist.

Secondly, what began with a protest has become a protest movement. There are tens if not hundreds of different groups, the overwhelming majority of whom continue to protest peacefully. That a small minority, many of whom scarred by past experience with a police force that is both indiscriminate and refuses to be accountable in it’s actions, have chosen to escalate through violence should not be taken as representative. Polls indicate that the significant majority of Hong Kong people either support or are sympathetic towards the protests, including a surprising high level of support for the more radical action. Trust in Beijing, the Chief executive and the police are at a record low.

Thirdly, the protests were and remain a political issue. Economic and social issues, whilst certainly an important secondary factor in understanding why people feel the need to protest, should not be overstated. That China’s state-run media does so, and accuses the US and UK of being “black hands” behind the protest, is merely Beijing playing by their standard playbook. In a state that does not allow any challenge to political authority, all problems are only ever social and economic.


Evan Fowler

Co-Founder and Director, Hong Kong Free Press 

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