South Korean leader says Japan dishonest over wartime past

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in yesterday berated Japan for carrying out its plan to downgrade South Korea’s trade status and reiterated that Tokyo was weaponising trade to retaliate over political rows stemming from the countries’ wartime history.

Moon said in a Cabinet meeting that Japan is being dishonest by insisting that its trade curbs weren’t retaliation over historical issues, including South Korean court rulings that called for Japanese companies to offer reparations to aging South Korean plaintiffs for forced labour during World War II.

He said Japan should look “squarely at the past” and that its current actions were aggravating the pain and anger of South Koreans who suffered under Japan’s brutal colonial rule of Korea from 1910 to 1945.

“Japan has yet to even state an honest reason for its economic retaliation …. No matter what excuse it provides as justification, it is clear that the Japanese government has linked historical issues to economic matters,” Moon said.

Moon spoke hours before the countries’ diplomats held working-level meetings in Seoul to discuss the trade row and security issues related to North Korea.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said its director-general for Asian and Pacific affairs, Kim Jung-han, demanded Tokyo restore South Korea as a favoured trade partner during his meeting with Kenji Kanasugi, director-general of Asian and Oceanian affairs at Japan’s Foreign Ministry.

The ministry said Kim and Kanasugi also discussed the forced labour issue but did not elaborate.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in. PHOTO: AP