|Seen above is a screen capture of a Facebook posting by Cho Kuk, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs. In the message posted Monday, Cho expressed regret over Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's recent remarks that Seoul and Tokyo settled their historical compensation issues in their 1965 normalization of ties treaty. Cho said the argument contradicts a South Korean court ruling last October which ordered Japanese companies to compensate surviving victims of forced labor. Screen capture from Cho Kuk's Facebook page|
By Lee Min-hyung
|Cho Kuk, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, makes his way to attend a meeting with President Moon Jae-in and other secretaries at Cheong Wa Dae, Monday. Yonhap|
"It is not proper to advocate Japan's assertion at a time when Korea's legitimacy and judicial power are under attack by Japan, which nullified South Korea's sovereignty in the past," Cho Kuk, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, wrote in a Facebook post.
The remark came hours after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated his position that the compensation issue was settled under a 1965 treaty that normalized the bilateral relationship, after his party won the majority of seats in the upper house election, Sunday.
Japan has been angered by the South Korean court's recent rulings. In response, Tokyo imposed export restrictions on three key materials vital to South Korea's high-tech manufacturing industry. But the basic seeds of the trade friction between the neighboring countries date back to Japan's history of conquest over the entire Korean Peninsula for more than three decades.
"The core principles of a democratic society are opposition parties, media and scholars, you name it, whatever, if they want to criticize court rulings and governments, simply, they can do so. Anyone can criticize without fear of retaliation. In 2019, South Korea has a higher freedom of press index than the United States and Japan," Cho wrote.
Abe said Tokyo won't hold "constructive negotiations" with Seoul unless South Korea comes up with an "appropriate answer" regarding historical issues.
Cho was calling for the public and politicians here to stop engaging in unnecessary internal conflicts by siding with Tokyo's claims. "We have to counter Japan. This isn't a partisan issue or an issue to just express public sentiment."
"Some Korean politicians and media outlets are condemning the court decision, which doesn't make any sense, even if the rapprochement came as part of their freedom of speech," Cheong Wa Dae vice spokesperson Ko Min-jung told reporters in a regular briefing.
Cho is considered one of the top confidants of President Moon Jae-in. Cheong Wa Dae said the presidential office isn't in a position to comment on Cho's Facebook remarks as the remarks expressed are Cho's own.
At the presidential house, Cho is at the forefront in criticizing what Seoul views as "Japan's one-sided economic retaliation." Starting from last Thursday, he has uploaded a series of social media posts centered on denouncing Japan's economic retaliation.
On Sunday, he stressed the need for the public to support the Moon administration in the ongoing diplomatic battle against Japan. Cheong Wa Dae said it will bring the trade retaliation issue to the World Trade Organization (WTO) General Council which is meeting for two days from July 23.
"The best-case scenario is for the two countries to reach a swift diplomatic agreement over the issue before the WTO ruling," Cho said. "The Moon administration is also making efforts toward that end, but we also need support from the public to keep fighting (against Japan) legally and diplomatically."