National

Concerned citizens slam Tokyo over downward spiral in ties with South Korea

Kyodo

As ties between Japan and South Korea spiral downward, a group of 75 mostly Japanese citizens worried about the situation criticized the government Friday for being “hostile and counterproductive” and treating South Korea “almost like an enemy.”

The online petition, which calls for taking a cool-headed approach to easing tensions and holding dialogue, enlisted support from scholars, lawyers and other citizens including writer Satoshi Kamata, economic analyst Katsuto Uchihashi, and Akira Kawasaki, a member of the steering committee for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Japan and South Korea have been at loggerheads over Tokyo’s recent decision to tighten rules on exports of high-tech materials used by South Korean chipmakers. The two nations are also in dispute over compensation for wartime labor during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

“This clearly hostile action can be a lethal blow to the South Korean economy,” the statement said regarding the export controls. The group called for the “immediate withdrawal” of the measure, noting it might be “counterproductive” because it could trigger tit-for-tat action.

The citizens also said Japan’s colonial past necessitates “an extremely cautious approach” to dealing with South Korea.
“If there are differences of opinions, why not continue the discussion while holding hands?” they asked, referring to the growing cultural and people-to-people exchanges shared by the countries in recent years.

“Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe, please refrain from cutting ties between Japanese and South Korean people and embroiling them in a dispute,” the petition said.

As a step to further tighten export controls, Japan will decide next Friday to remove South Korea from a list of countries allowed under preferential arrangements to buy products that can be diverted for military use, sources familiar with the plan said Friday.