President Yoon Seok-yeol’s ‘preemptive concession’ diplomacy towards Japan received a failing grade in the first test on the 28th. Japan reaffirmed the trend of acknowledging the historical past by passing the inspection of textbooks with reinforced distortions of history. After President Yoon dropped the issue of compensation for compensation due to forced labor (conscription), he said, ‘I expect a response,’ but there was no echo. As a result of the one-sided diplomacy with Japan, President Yoon’s political burden is expected to intensify.
The results of the Japanese history textbook exam, published at the end of March each year, have been seen as the first test of bilateral relations since the Korea-Japan summit. President Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held hands in Tokyo, Japan on the 16th and talked about improving bilateral relations, but many evaluated that Japan’s visible response was postponed to a later task. It was also seen as a barometer as it was an opportunity for the Japanese government’s official recognition of the past to be revealed after Korea’s decision to resolve the issue of compensation for victims of forced labor, which was the most pending issue through the South. Korea’s ‘self-reparations’.
As a result, the direction of Japan’s response seemed to be ‘reverse driving’. Elementary school social studies textbooks approved by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology that day contained a number of contents that weakened the coercive nature of forced labor and described Dokdo as its own territory. In forced movement, “enforcement” was deleted and the phrase “support” appeared as well as “mobilization” and “conscription.” Allegations that Korea is illegally occupying Dokdo have also become stronger.
The government’s stance of waiting for a favorable response from Japan after making pre-emptive concessions has become colourless. President Yoon emphasized the legitimacy of South Korea’s own compensation plan for forced labor in his opening remarks at the cabinet meeting on the 12th, saying, “If Korea preemptively removes obstacles, Japan will surely respond.” Despite the lack of a specific apology from Prime Minister Kishida, “Japan has already expressed regret and apology to us for past history issues dozens of times,” and opposes public opinion as “forces seeking political gain through anti- Japan” defined as
The government protested against Japan through a statement from the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that day, but it seems inevitable that it would be noted as ‘self-deprecating’. This month, when Korea-Japan relations were a key topic, from March 1st to the Korea-Japan summit and subsequent messages to the public, there was no occasion when President Yoon sent a message encouraging Japan to recognize and reflect on its past . history. In the commemorative speeches of the March 1st Movement, successive government presidents, both progressive and conservative, spoke directly or indirectly about the distortion of Japanese history and encouraged reflection. However, President Yoon’s speech commemorating the 104th anniversary of March 1st Independence Movement Day did not contain such content, only a paragraph describing Japan as a “partner for cooperation” was included. Even in the statement from the joint press conference at the summit and all the comments at the cabinet meeting on the 12th, which were in the nature of a ‘discussion for the people’, there was no content encourage Japan to recognize history correctly. It is difficult to avoid criticism that the government has neglected and condoned the trend of Japan recognizing its historical past.
The president’s office did not take a separate position on the revision of the Japanese history distortion textbook. A key official in the presidency’s office met with reporters ahead of the announcement in Japan and said, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will respond appropriately.”
The ruling party took a separate response, saying that the issue of distorting Japanese history is not directly related to the Korea-Japan summit, but it is unclear whether it will be effective. Coupled with public criticism that the summit was a unilateral concession, the political burden on President Yoon is likely to increase.