The 237th "Foreign Policy Luncheon" Meeting on "Recent Situation in Korea and Japan-Korea Relations" Held

JFIR and its two sister organizations, the Global Forum of Japan and the Council on East Asian Community monthly organizes a "Foreign Policy Luncheon" meeting to provide an occasion for members of the three organizations to meet in an informal and confidential manner with senior officials of the Japanese Government and/or other experts and specialists in fields related to international relations. The 237th "Foreign Policy Luncheon" meeting on the topic of "Recent Situation in Korea and Japan-Korea Relations" was held on 27 September 2011. Amb. SHIGEIE Toshinori, former ambassador to the Republic of Korea, presented his views as follows.

Tensions between South and North have been growing since the two major incidents: Sinking of ROKS Cheonan in March 2010 and Shelling of Yeonpyeong in November 2010. The mood for integration is being lost in South Korea. A public opinion survey showed that more than half were negative toward integration. People see a greater advantage in the benefit of economic growth in comparison to the high cost of integration. In light of the large disparity in the population and income of the two, it is important to mobilize financial support from South to North as well as permit free migration. Such frameworks as the six-party talks and the ASEAN Regional Forum are expected to play a significant role.

Though Korea holds a sense of vigilance amid the uncertainty of the world economy, the country as a whole stays energetic. The pragmatic attitude of President Lee Myung-bak, which gathers people’s support, is contributing to the rise of motivation in various fields. Politically, the presidential election scheduled in December 2012 is attracting a lot of public attention since a re-election of the president is not permitted in Korea. The problems which the present administration is facing are competition wi th the opposition party, realization of a fair society, and concerns of North Korea.

Korea's diplomacy especially emphasizes North Korea, the U.S., China and Japan. As for North Korea, President Lee exhibits elements of both steadfastness and flexibility. With the U.S., Korea is in a good relationship on the basis of the personal relations between President Lee and President Obama. Korea seems enthusiastic about taking over the central role in the Pacific. Korea and China hold political concerns as a historical issue and a territorial issue. Economically, however, China is the largest export counterpart for Korea; the importance of China will be growing further. Lastly, the Japan-Korea relations remain stagnant due to the historical and territorial issues which tend to be brought up in every occasion.

(JFIR secretariat is responsible for this article)

The Japan Forum on International Relations (JFIR)