South Korea's President Moon Jae-in may be in for a tough year. Photo: AFPDiego Opatowski
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been hit hard by the China-US trade dispute. Photo: AFP / Diego Opatowski

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his opinion that tightening export controls on the Republic of Korea was in accordance with World Trade Organization rules. In this situation, the National Assembly of Korea is not coping effectively with the Japanese government’s provocation.

At the same time, the opposition Liberty Korea Party is criticizing President Moon Jae-in on a daily basis. How long have you been listening to the typical rhetoric on freedom of speech from the LKP’s leaders? It reminds people of the biased media reportage on the military dictatorship in the 1980s.

The reason South Korea has divided its governance system into three branches is to prevent the monopoly of power as in a military dictatorship and allow liberal democracy in which public opinion is reflected in reality. In this situation, when Japan is threatening the Korean semiconductor industry, which is one of the country’s major industries, it is a common wish and common sense that the National Assembly should cooperate with the Blue House to solve the problem. However, despite the fact that it an extraordinary session of the National Assembly was convened in June, the LKP is refusing even to propose a resolution to oppose the Japanese government’s export regulation. Whom is it representing?

Read: As trade war counts down, Seoul offers olive branch to Tokyo

The Japanese government’s recent decision might have been foreseen. There are plenty of issues that Abe wishes would go away, from the Tokyo-funded foundation to support Korean victims of Japanese, called the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation, to the recent Supreme Court decision against Japanese companies that used Korean forced labor during the colonial period. In 2015, Park Geun-hye’s administration concluded an agreement with the Japanese government on compensating “comfort women,” but it did not fully reflect the opinions of the victims, and Abe is embarrassed by the sudden change of Blue House’s behavior under Moon, Park’s successor.

The desire of the surviving comfort women who were victimized during Japanese colonial rule is a sincere apology and proper compensation, as everyone knows. Abe, however, kept refusing to apologize, complaining that the victims’ statements were not true, and that Park had received 1 billion yen (US$9.2 million) in compensation for the comfort women. But the fact is that even after 70 years of independence from Japan, Park’s administration failed to represent them, and it is also true that Abe is looking forward to the return of a conservative regime in Korea.

Moon’s recent response and attitude toward Japan deserve praise from Koreans. Seoul should never play the Japanese government’s political games and negotiate in the ways Tokyo prefers. Everyone should join together under the name of Korea and respond to the behavior of the Japanese government. And it will not only be the politicians who should play an important role in this situation. The role of the media is also very important.

Recently, the issue of the newspaper Chosun Ilbo’s tone has been raised. It is not easy to raise the issue of media coverage in political circles, as politicians must be careful not to do anything that appears to violate the freedom of the press. However, Ko Min-jung, a spokeswoman for Blue House, unexpectedly raised the issue of articles in the Chosun Ilbo ‘s Japanese edition publicly.

She criticized articles and columns in the Japanese editions of the Chosun Ilbo and JoongAng Ilbo dealing with the economic conflict between Korea and Japan. “I would like to ask if this really reflects the voices of our people,” Ko said during a briefing at the Blue House on Wednesday.

She said the Chosun Ilbo deleted some articles in its Japanese edition after public criticism by the Blue House. The English-language Korea JoongAng Daily, however, editorialized that Ko’s perspective was perplexing and questioned why the press must stay patriotic during times of crisis.

Chosun Ilbo’s articles are frequently cited by the foreign press when reporting on the export-control problems between South Korea and Japan. To cite an article found in a newspaper with the greatest number of subscribers in Korea is a natural judgment. But can the Chosun Ilbo claim that its reporting on this issue is worthy of its status as the No 1 newspaper in South Korea? The Chosun Ilbo should not be aiming for at pro-Japanese coverage based on an unconditional anti-Korean perspective.

It is not surprising that lawmakers are not performing their duties properly while the ruling and opposition parties are fighting each other in the National Assembly. Lawmakers need to be spending their time passing bills that lead to dramatic improvements in the people’s lives. If they keep behaving in this way, the 20th National Assembly will go down in history as failing to live up to the spirit of the people who demonstrated Korean democracy to the international community in the Candlelight Revolution.

The kind of people who brought down a corrupt regime with the Candlelight Revolution have recently decided not to buy Japanese items and have canceled trips to Japan. The internal disputes that arise from ideological differences should now be over. The Blue House, the National Assembly, the press, and the economic community all need to respond to the Abe’s actions, and take long-term measures. South Korea is in the middle of a fight from which it should never back down.

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