Earlier this week, South Korea’s president described the country’s growing trade dispute with Japan as a warning to upgrade the country’s economy. He called for economic cooperation with North Korea, which could reduce the big influence of Japan’s much larger economy.
President Moon Jae-in made the comments during a meeting with top officials to discuss Japan’s new trade restrictions on South Korea. The move came as a surprise because North Korea in recent weeks has raised tensions by testing new short-range weapons that threaten South Korea.
Moon said, “The advantage Japan’s economy has over us is the size of its economy and domestic market. If the South and North could create a peace economy through economic cooperation, we can catch up with Japan’s superiority in one burst.”
But some experts disagree. They say Moon’s claim that South Korea could overcome the trade dispute with Japan by cooperating with North Korea shows that he is running out of ideas to limit Japan’s influence. Japan has a large trade surplus with South Korea.
Opposition lawmaker Lee Man-hee is the spokesman for the Liberty Korea Party. He said Moon’s comments were shocking and unrealistic.
He added, “A peace economy — where peaceful relations drive economic growth — only sounds good, and it’s not clear what it is and how things will be actually done.”
Moon has described Japan’s moves to tighten controls on exports to South Korean manufacturers as an attempt to damage his country’s export-dependent economy. He has accused Japan of using trade as a weapon over political disputes surrounding the countries’ wartime history.
Japan says measures to restrict exports are based on national security concerns. Japanese officials also have said that South Korea cannot be fully trusted to enact sanctions against North Korea. They suggested that the South might have permitted secret materials to reach the North.
North Korea has been demanding that South Korea restart inter-Korean economic projects held back by U.S.-led restrictions against the North. The U.S. has said the restrictions should stay in place until the North takes steps to give up its nuclear weapons.
Choi Kang is with the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul. He said Moon’s comments could create tension with the U.S. and send the wrong message to North Korea.
He added that it was unclear whether Moon’s suggestion that he could help end the trade dispute with Japan through inter-Korean relations was realistic.
Moon met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un three times last year. They agreed to restart economic cooperation when possible. However, the inter-Korean peace process has stopped since a meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in February failed. The leaders disagreed over how to exchange easing restrictions for ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons production.
South Korea plans new investments aimed at maintaining its supply of 100 important materials and parts used in computers, vehicles and other major export areas. Companies in the country have heavily relied on Japanese imports to produce finished products.
Last week, Japan’s cabinet approved the removal of South Korea from a list of countries with special trade standing. The move would require Japanese companies to apply for case-by-case approvals for exports to South Korea of hundreds of items.
The decision followed a July measure to strengthen controls on some technology exports to South Korean companies that depend on Japanese materials. Those materials include ones used in the production of computers, wireless phones and televisions, which are all important South Korean exports.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Kim Thong-Hyung reported this story for the Associated Press. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
advantage – n. something such as a good position or condition that helps to make someone or something better or more likely to succeed than others
domestic – adj. of, relating to, or made in your own country
burst – n. a short period of producing or doing something that begins suddenly
actually – adv. used to stress that a statement is true especially when it differs in some way from what might have been thought or expected
sanctions – n. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country, etc.
rely – v. to need someone or something for support, help, etc. to depend on someone or something