Diplomatic Bluebook 2015

Chapter 2

Japan’s Foreign Policy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map

1.Korean Peninsula

(1) North Korea (including the abductions issue)

Under its policy of “dialogue and pressure,” the Government of Japan has been continuing various efforts to realize its basic policy of seeking to normalize its relations with North Korea, through comprehensively resolving outstanding issues of concern with North Korea, such as the abductions, nuclear and missile issues, as well as settlement of the unfortunate past in accordance with the 2002 Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, while working closely with relevant countries, including the U.S., the ROK, China, and Russia.

A. Domestic Affairs and Economy
(a) Domestic affairs

Three years have passed since the death of Kim Jong-Il, Chairman of the National Defense Commission (NDC), in 2011. North Korea’s regime centered on Kim Jong-Un, the First Chairman of the NDC, continues despite some changes in personnel (particularly in the military).

Key personnel announcements in 2014 included the reappointment of Kim Yong-Nam as President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly and Pak Pong-Ju as Premier, as well as the appointment of former “ambassador” to Switzerland Ri Su-Yong as Foreign Minister and Kang Sok-Ju as Secretary of the Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK). In addition, it emerged that Hwang Pyong-So had replaced Choe Ryong-Hae as Director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army (KPA).

At a plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the WPK held in 2013, a “byungjin policy” which simultaneously pursues economic construction and the build-up of nuclear armed forces was adopted and First Chairman of the NDC Kim Jong-Un referred to the accomplishment of this policy in his New Year Address on January 1, 2014.

(b) Economy

North Korea is said to be undergoing intense economic hardship, and the rebuilding of its economy is regarded as an issue of the utmost importance. The Economic Development Zone Law was enacted in 2013 and the decision was taken to establish economic development zones in each of North Korea’s provinces. A new Ministry of External Economic Affairs was established in June 2014 and North Korea has embarked on efforts to attract foreign investment. First Chairman of the NDC Kim Jong-Un has mobilized the KPA to undertake a number of large-scale construction projects, including the development of the Masikryong Ski Resort.

North Korea’s economic growth rate in 2013 was 1.1% (Bank of Korea estimate), and it appears that it still faces structural problems across all industries, including lack of money and energy, antiquated production equipment, and outdated technologies. Despite an overall rise, cereal production output is still thought to be low, and North Korea’s food situation is still considered to be in a difficult situation.

North Korea’s economic relations with China continue to grow, demonstrating a marked economic reliance on China. In 2013, the value of North Korea’s trade with China rose to approximately 6.54 billion US dollars (Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) estimate), accounting for almost 75% of North Korea’s entire external trade.

B. Security Issues
(a) Recent developments

Although Japan and other members of the international community strongly demanded self-restraint, North Korea twice went ahead with the launch of a missile purported to be a “satellite,” in April and December 2012, and is still continuing nuclear and missile development, conducting the third nuclear test in February 2013 (see (b) below). In addition, North Korea has repeatedly engaged in provocative actions in response to routine U.S.-ROK joint military exercises. In March 2014, North Korea conducted maritime firing drills in the waters to the north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL). Some of the shells fell in the waters on the ROK side, south of the NLL, and the ROK fired back.

(b)The current status of nuclear and missile development

In 2014, North Korea repeatedly referred to the possibility of conducting nuclear tests, issuing a statement in March that suggested it might conduct another nuclear test1. Moreover, North Korea launched ballistic missiles in March, June, and July; in response, in March and July, the President of the United Nations (UN) Security Council stated in agreed “elements to the press” that Council members condemned the missile launches as a violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

North Korea’s ongoing nuclear and missile development is a grave threat not only to the region, but also to the international community as a whole. Japan will continue to work closely with relevant countries, including the U.S., the ROK, China, and Russia, strongly urging North Korea to refrain from any acts of provocation and to take concrete steps toward denuclearization, in accordance with the Six-Party Talks Joint Statement and successive UN Security Council resolutions.

  • 1 Statement by the Foreign Ministry (March 30, 2014). Criticizing the joint military exercises involving the U.S. and the ROK, it said, “We would not rule out a new form of nuclear test for bolstering up our nuclear deterrence.”
C. Japan-North Korea Relations
(a) Japan-North Korea consultations

In 2014, taking the opportunity of the two rounds of Japan-North Korea Red Cross Talks held in March, the Governments of Japan and North Korea held an exchange of views at the director level, at which the participants agreed to coordinate the resumption of talks between the two sides. Subsequently, on March 30 and 31, Japan-North Korea Government-level Consultations took place for the first time in approximately 16 months. At that meeting, both sides exchanged views in a sincere and candid manner concerning a wide range of outstanding issues of interest, and agreed to continue consultations.

From May 26 to 28, Japan-North Korea Government-level Consultations were held in Stockholm, with both sides engaging in an intensive, earnest and candid discussion concerning a wide range of outstanding issues of interests, informed by the previous round of consultations in March. As a result of these consultations, North Korea made a commitment to conducting comprehensive and full-scale investigations on all Japanese nationals, including the abductees, while Japan decided that it would lift part of its unilateral measures against North Korea at the point of time when North Korea establishes its Special Investigation Committee and begins its investigations. Moreover, Japan urged North Korea to refrain from the nuclear and missile development and from provocative acts liable to increase tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the region, and called on North Korea to comply with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and the Six-Party Talks Joint Statement.

At the Japan-North Korea Government-level Consultations (in Beijing) on July 1, North Korea explained the details of the Special Investigation Committee, including its organization, structure, and key members, while Japan questioned North Korea thoroughly to ascertain whether the Committee had been granted appropriate authority to investigate all institutions. In addition, Japan strongly urged North Korea to respond sincerely to the requests of the international community concerning the missile issue. On July 4, North Korea announced the launch of investigations on all Japanese nationals, including the abductees, and Japan lifted part of its unilateral measures against North Korea2.

On September 29, a Meeting between the Diplomatic Authorities of Japan and North Korea was held (in Shenyang), in order to receive an explanation from North Korea concerning the current status of the investigations. North Korea explained the implementation of its commitment at the Japan-North Korea Government-level Consultations in May and described the investigation being conducted by the Special Investigation Committee. As well as asking questions, Japan strongly urged North Korea to expeditiously conduct the investigations and to swiftly notify Japan of the result. Japan also conveyed its intense concern about the nuclear and missile issues.

Representatives of the Japanese government were dispatched to Pyongyang in order to clearly convey in person to the key members of the Special Investigation Committee from October 28 to 29 the Japanese Government’s position that the abductions issue is the most important, and to receive a direct explanation from the Special Investigation Committee concerning the current status of the investigations. During the talks with the Special Investigation Committee, the North Korean side explained that it intended to pursue more in-depth investigations from new angles, without dwelling on the outcomes of past investigations, while the Japanese side repeatedly stressed that the abductions issue is the most important, urging the Committee to expedite the investigations and report on its findings without delay.

  • 2 (1)Lifted restrictions on travel between Japan and North Korea (a. Lifted the general prohibition on the entry of North Korean nationals, the general prohibition on reentry by employees of North Korean authorities in Japan after visiting North Korea, and the advice to Japanese nationals to refrain from visiting North Korea. b. North Korean nationals that apply to enter Japan to be screened appropriately and in detail on a case by case basis. (Persons designated as subject to the travel ban imposed by UN Security Council resolutions will still not be permitted to enter Japan.))
    (2)Lifted restrictions on the amount of money requiring notification of the export of means of payments and report on the money transfer (a. The sum (lower limit) for which a report must be made in the event of payments to natural persons with an address or residence in North Korea or corporations or other groups with their main office there to be restored to ¥30 million from the current ¥3 million. b. The sum (lower limit) for which notification must be made regarding the export of means of payment to North Korea to be restored to ¥1 million from the current ¥100,000.)
    (3)Entry into Japanese ports of North Korea flagged ships for humanitarian purposes (a. Cabinet decision that, in the event that North Korea flagged ships enter Japanese ports for the purpose of transporting humanitarian supplies, it will be recognized as falling under special circumstances and be viewed as an exception to measures prohibiting the entry of specified ships into port prescribed in Article 6 (1) of the Act on Special Measures concerning Prohibition of Entry of Specified Ships into Ports. b. Only humanitarian supplies (food, medical supplies, clothing, etc.) to be used by individuals in North Korea to be permitted to be loaded onto vessels entering Japanese ports. (The total ban on exports still stands.) c. Even if entry into a Japanese port is permitted, activities other than the loading of humanitarian supplies approved in advance (embarkation/disembarkation of passengers, unloading of supplies, etc.) will not be permitted. The Cargo Inspections Act and laws and procedures relating to the entry of vessels into ports will still be applied as normal.)
    Measures including the embargo on exports to North Korea, the embargo on imports from North Korea, and the ban on chartered flights to/from North Korea remain in place, and Japan continues to steadily implement various measures based on UN Security Council resolutions, in partnership with other relevant countries.
(b) Initiatives focused on the abductions issue

To date, the Government of Japan has identified 12 separate incidents, involving a total of 17 Japanese abductees, 12 of whom have not yet returned home. North Korea claims that 8 of these 12 have died and that it is unable to confirm that the other 4 ever entered its territory, but as no convincing explanation of this claim has been provided, Japan continues to work toward the resolution of this issue on the assumption that all of the abductees whose whereabouts are unknown are still alive. As well as being a critical issue concerning the sovereignty of Japan and the lives and safety of Japanese citizens, abduction by North Korea constitutes a universal issue among the international community as a violation of basic human rights. Based on the basic recognition that the normalization of diplomatic relations with North Korea is impossible without a solution to the abductions issue, Japan has positioned its resolution as one of its most important foreign policy issues. Accordingly, it strongly urges North Korea to ensure the safety of all abductees and their immediate return, to provide a full account of all the abduction cases, and to hand over the perpetrators (for details of Japan-North Korea consultations, see section (a) above).

(c)Strengthening partnerships with the international community towards the resolution of the abductions issue, etc.

Japan takes all possible opportunities to raise the abductions issue and other issues involving North Korea, including at summit meetings, foreign-ministers’ meetings, and international conferences, and has succeeded in gaining the understanding and cooperation of other countries.

At the Japan-U.S. summit meeting during President Obama’s visit to Japan in April 2014, Japan and the U.S. confirmed that Japan, the U.S., and the ROK would continue to work closely on the North Korean nuclear issue. On the abductions issue, President Obama expressed his support for Japan

Furthermore, Japan, the U.S., and the ROK held a trilateral summit meeting in Hague in March, followed by a foreign ministers’ meeting in Naypyidaw, Myanmar in August, at which all three countries affirmed the importance of even closer cooperation on issues involving North Korea.

Via such means as the joint statements issued at the time of the Japan-UK Summit Meeting in May and the Japan-Australia Summit Meeting in July, other countries have also affirmed their willingness to call on North Korea to address, without delay, the humanitarian concerns of the international community, including the abductions issue.

Furthermore, the Summit Declaration issued at the G7 Summit in Brussels in June strongly condemned North Korea’s continued development of nuclear and missile programs and urged it to address human rights violations, including the abductions issue. In addition, at the Asia-Europe Meeting in October, the abductions issue was mentioned in the Chair’s Statement for the first time, and it was also referred to in the Chairman’s Statements of the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN+3 Summit, which took place in November. At the UN, the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK (COI)3 released its final report in February, comprehensively detailing gross violations of human rights in North Korea in multiple areas, including the abductions issue4. In March, the Human Rights Council adopted the Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK that was tabled by Japan and the EU (for the seventh time in seven consecutive years). This resolution is stronger than resolutions adopted in past years, reflecting the content of the COI report. In December, the Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK was adopted by majority vote at the UN General Assembly (for the tenth time in ten consecutive years) with 62 co-sponsors, the largest number ever5. In response, on December 22 (New York time), the UN Security Council decided to add “the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” to the list of issues of which the Security Council is seized for the first time, conducting comprehensive discussions about the North Korean situation, including the human rights situation.

Working closely with relevant countries, Japan is implementing measures against North Korea based on UN Security Council resolutions6, and continues to call on North Korea to fully implement relevant UN Security Council resolutions. (For details of UN initiatives, see Chapter 3, Section 1. 8 Human Rights, A. Initiatives within the UN.)

  • 3 Established in March 2013 by a resolution of the UN Human Rights Council in order to investigate human rights violations, including the abductions issue in North Korea. It was established for a period of a year.
  • 4 This report found that North Korea’s human rights violations constitute “crimes against humanity” and recommended that North Korea take concrete actions, as well as requested further action by the international community and the UN. It recorded the facts of the abductions issue and acknowledged the abductions and the situation in which abductees were placed as crimes against humanity that are still ongoing. In addition, it recommended that North Korea provide information about the abductees and allow them and their descendants to return to their countries of origin.
  • 5 Condemning North Korea’s systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights, and describing specific human rights violations, as well as acknowledging the COI report’s finding that “crimes against humanity” are being committed in North Korea, the resolution strongly urges North Korea to end all human rights violations, including the abductions issue. Moreover, it encourages the Security Council to consider the recommendations of the COI and to take appropriate action, including through consideration of referral of the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and consideration of the scope for effective targeted sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible for acts that the COI has said may constitute crimes against humanity.
  • 6 Based on the UN Security Council resolution 2087, which was adopted in response to the December 2012 missile launch, Japan has had measures in place since February 6, 2013, including a freeze on the assets of four individuals and six entities designated in the resolution. In addition, further measures have been in place since April 5, based on UN Security Council resolution 2094, which was adopted in response to the February nuclear test. These include (1) a freeze on the assets of another three individuals and two entities; (2) a requirement for Japanese financial institutions, etc. to refrain from establishing correspondent relationships with North Korean financial institutions; (3) the denial of permission for North Korean financial institutions to establish branches in Japan and for Japanese financial institutions to establish branches in North Korea; and (4) the denial of permission for aircraft suspected of carrying prohibited items to take off from, land in, or overfly Japanese territory. In July 2014, in response to the naming by the UN Security Council of one additional entity subject to asset freezing and other measures, Japan imposed asset freezing, etc. on that entity.
D. Initiatives by Other Countries

Regarding the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea, the latter opposes routine U.S.-ROK joint military exercises; when Ulchi-Freedom Guardian7 was held in August, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry issued a statement (dated August 18) emphasizing that “[a]s long as the nuclear war maneuvers go on to stifle [North Korea] by force, it will put its self-defensive counteraction on an annual and regular basis.” On the other hand, in 2014, North Korea released three U.S. citizens that it had been detaining.

In December, announcing that it had sufficient information to conclude that the North Korean authorities were responsible for the cyber attacks on Sony Pictures Entertainment8, which had produced a movie on the subject of the assassination of the First Chairman of the NDC Kim Jong-Un, the U.S. condemned North Korea9. In January 2015, the U.S. issued an Executive Order concerning measures against North Korea, extending the scope of sanctions.

At Dresden, Germany in March 2014, ROK President Park Geun-Hye called on North Korea to renounce its nuclear development and unveiled her vision for north-south relations, centering on humanitarian aid, infrastructure support, and the expansion of exchange10. On the other hand, in statements such as the “Crucial Proposals to the S. Korean Authorities” issued by the NDC on January 16, North Korea proposed to the ROK the halting of all acts of provoking and slandering the other side and the cessation of all military and hostile acts, including U.S.-ROK joint military exercises, in order to improve north-south relations11. In October, North Korea dispatched a team of athletes to the Asian Games in Incheon and a delegation of three high-rank officials, led by Hwang Pyong-So, Director of the General Political Bureau of the KPA, made a surprise visit to the ROK in order to attend the closing ceremony. However, North Korea subsequently reacted angrily to the air drop of propaganda leaflets criticizing the North Korean regime by a private group from the ROK, and the north-south dialogue that had been agreed upon did not take place.

Although the number of government and party level exchanges between China and North Korea has dwindled since the days of Kim Jong-Il, trade between China and North Korea is growing. In August, talks took place between the Chinese and North Korean foreign ministers, at which they discussed matters of mutual interest.

The number of visits of high-ranking government officials between Russia and North Korea are increasing; in November, Choe Ryong-Hae, Presidium member of the Political Bureau and Secretary of the Central Committee of the WPK, visited Russia as a special envoy of the First Chairman of the NDC Kim Jong-Un and handed over the personal letter from Kim Jong-Un to President Putin. In terms of economic relations, the amount of trade in 2014 was approximately 923.4 million US dollars, 11.4% down from the previous year.

  • 7 An annual joint military exercise to improve the readiness of U.S. and South Korean military forces.
  • 8 Confidential data was leaked on November 24, 2014 after Sony Pictures Entertainment suffered a cyber attack. On December 16, a group believed to have been involved in the cyber attack warned that it would launch terrorist attacks against cinemas showing “The Interview”, a U.S. movie about the assassination of First Chairman of the NDC Kim Jong-Un.
  • 9 While maintaining that the cyber attack had been committed by (North Korea’s) supporters or sympathizers, North Korea asserted in a statement issued by the NDC’s Policy Department (December 21, 2014) that “[t]he NDC of the DPRK highly estimates the righteous action taken by the ‘guardians of peace,’ though it is not aware of their residence.”
  • 10 Regarding the nuclear issue, President Park stated that if North Korea made the decision to forgo its nuclear program, South Korea would offer active support, including for its much-needed membership in international financial institutions and attracting international investment. Moreover, a “Northeast Asia Development Bank” could be created to spur economic development in North Korea and in surrounding areas. In April, North Korea (the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland) criticized this speech, stating that unification based on forcing one side to submit to the other was unacceptable.
  • 11 On June 30, the NDC published “Special Proposal to S. Korean Authorities,” in which it requested that the ROK cease slandering North Korea and engaging in hostile military acts.
E. Other Matters

Defectors who have fled from North Korea have to be kept in hiding, to avoid being rounded up by the authorities in the countries where they are staying and forcibly repatriated to North Korea. The Government of Japan is addressing the protection and support of these North Korean defectors, in light of the purpose of the North Korean Human Rights Violation Act, taking into account a comprehensive range of factors, including humanitarian considerations, the safety of those concerned, and relations with the countries in which these defectors reside. Relevant Japanese ministries and agencies are working together closely to promote measures aimed at helping those defectors accepted by Japan to become settled here.

(2) Republic of Korea

A. Situation in the Republic of Korea
(a) Domestic affairs

In 2014, entering her second year as president, Park Geun-Hye launched her Three Year Plan for Economic Innovation at her New Year press conference, announcing her vision of ushering in “an era of happiness for the people.” In addition, she announced that she would lay the foundations for opening up a time of unification on the Korean Peninsula, as a prerequisite for ushering in “an era of happiness for the people.”

At the beginning of 2014, President Park continued to enjoy the stable approval ratings seen the previous year, but these fell after the sinking of a passenger ferry (the Sewol) in April. After the accident, President Park’s administration undertook a cabinet reshuffle and a reorganization of personnel at the presidential Blue House, due to problems associated with responsibility for the response to the accident12.

Local elections and by-elections were held in June and July. Having been forced into a harsh election battle by the backlash that followed the ferry sinking, the ruling Saenuri Party nevertheless maintained its ascendancy13 over the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy14.

However, due in part to the leaking of a confidential Blue House document15, President Park’s approval ratings began to fall once more in November.

(b) Foreign policy

Advocating diplomacy based on “trust and principle”, President Park’s priority is to gain support for the “Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative16” and the “Trust-Building Process on the Korean Peninsula17.” The theme of the country’s foreign policy in FY2014 was diplomacy to build trust in order to usher in a “new era on the Korean Peninsula” of peaceful unification, and President Park continued to engage in proactive summit diplomacy in 201418.

The Park administration’s foreign policy continued to be focused on the U.S. and China, maintaining the trend seen in the previous year. The second U.S.-ROK summit since President Park’s inauguration took place when President Obama visited the ROK in April 2014. At these talks, the U.S. and the ROK issued a joint fact sheet expressing a shared commitment to responding to issues concerning North Korea and affirming their strong alliance.

With regard to the ROK’s relationships with China, there was a period of tension as a result of the establishment of the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea by the Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China in November 2013, but six summit meetings between the two countries have taken place since President Park’s visit to China in June 2013 and they succeeded in maintaining good relations as a whole. In July 2014, President Xi Jinping made a state visit to the ROK and the two leaders issued a joint statement. Moreover, economic relations between the ROK and China are strengthening, with a substantive agreement on an ROK-China FTA being announced at the China-ROK summit held during the APEC meeting in November.

  • 12 Prime Minister Chung Hong-Won announced that he would resign to take responsibility for the response to the sinking of the passenger ferry, but he remained in his post after several nominees withdrew their candidacy. In addition, replacements for the chief of the National Directorate of Security, five Blue House senior secretaries and eight secretaries were appointed to take responsibility for dealing with the accident and promote the Three Year Plan for Economic Innovation. The Cabinet was also reorganized (from 17 ministries, 3 lower-level ministries, and 18 agencies to 17 ministries, 5 lower-level ministries, and 16 agencies), with changes including the abolition of the Korea Coast Guard and the National Emergency Management Agency, and the establishment of the Ministry of Public Safety and Security and the Ministry of Personnel Management, and the creation of a new post of Deputy Prime Minister for Education, Society and Culture.
  • 13 In the local elections, the ruling Saenuri Party won 8 of the 17 metropolitan mayoral and gubernatorial posts, including those in Gyeonggi Province, Busan, and Incheon, while in the by-elections it took 11 seats in the 15 electoral districts, securing enough seats for a majority in the National Assembly.
  • 14 The New Politics Alliance for Democracy was formed in March 2014 through the merger of the New Political Vision Party being set up by independent National Assembly member Ahn Cheol-Soo with the Democratic Party, with the goal of achieving regime change in the next presidential elections in 2017. Ahn and Kim Han-Gil, Chairman of the Democratic Party, were appointed as joint chairpersons, but they resigned to take responsibility for the party’s performance in the July by-elections.
  • 15 An incident in which reports emerged of an internal Blue House report alleging that Chung Yoon-Hoi, who was President Park’s Chief of Staff during her time as a National Assembly member, had interfered in state affairs, including matters relating to Blue House personnel. Prosecutors launched an investigation because, in the wake of the reports, Blue House insiders had instructed that the leak of the documents be investigated.
  • 16 This initiative seeks to create a framework for multilateral dialogue in Northeast Asia, starting by launching dialogue and cooperation in fields where this is possible and building up trust, with a view to extending this cooperation to other fields, including security.
  • 17 This initiative aims to develop north-south relations, establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula and laying the groundwork for Korean unification, by means of building trust between the two Koreas based on a solid foundation of security.
  • 18 In 2014, President Park continued to engage in proactive summit diplomacy, holding summit meetings during her visits to Switzerland and India in January, and the Netherlands and Germany in March. She also held summit meetings during subsequent visits to the U.S., the United Arab Emirates, Central Asian countries, and Canada.
(c) Economy

In 2014, the ROK recorded a real GDP growth rate of 3.3%, up from the previous year’s rate of 3.0%. Its exports were worth approximately 572.7 billion US dollars in total, up 2.3% compared with the previous year, while its imports totaled around 525.6 billion US dollars, up 1.9% on the previous year, giving it a trade surplus of approximately 47.2 billion US dollars.

In terms of domestic economic policy, President Park used her New Year press conference to announce a “Three Year Plan for Economic Innovation”, in which she set the targets of raising the potential growth rate to over 4%, achieving an employment rate of 70%, and ensuring that the annual per capita gross national income exceeds 30,000 US dollars. In the field of international trade, the ROK continues to actively promote FTAs, officially signing an FTA with Canada in September and announcing substantive agreements on FTA negotiations with New Zealand and China in November, and with Viet Nam in December19.

  • 19 In addition, its FTA with Australia entered into force in December 2014.
B. Japan-ROK Relations
(a) Bilateral relations

The ROK is Japan’s most important neighbor and good Japan-ROK relations are essential in ensuring the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. Affirming the importance of cooperation in the lead-up to 2015, which marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and the ROK, the two countries have worked in partnership on a variety of regional and global issues, including peacebuilding, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and poverty, not to mention issues involving North Korea. Although difficult issues do exist between Japan and the ROK, it is important for both sides to make steady efforts toward building future-oriented and multi-layered relations from a broader perspective.

On March 25, 2014, the Japan-U.S.-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting took place during the Nuclear Security Summit (at The Hague, the Netherlands), which marked the first time in which Prime Minister Abe had met President Park in person. At the meeting, the leaders affirmed the importance of closer collaboration among the three countries on matters concerning East Asian security, with a primary focus on issues involving North Korea.

Prime Minister Abe (right), President Obama (center), and President Park (left) at the Japan–U.S.–ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting (March 25, The Hague; Source: Cabinet Public Relations Office) Prime Minister Abe (right), President Obama (center), and President Park (left) at the Japan–U.S.–ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting (March 25, The Hague; Source: Cabinet Public Relations Office)

In addition, at talks on August 9 between the foreign ministers of Japan and the ROK during the ASEAN Foreign Ministerial Meeting and related meetings (in Naypyidaw, Myanmar), Foreign Minister Kishida and Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se engaged in a constructive exchange of opinions aimed at achieving progress in the Japan-ROK relations and agreed to continue to ensure close communication at a variety of levels. Taking the opportunity of the UN General Assembly session (in New York), further talks between the two foreign ministers were held on September 26, during which they reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and deepening high-level political dialogue between Japan and the ROK, as well as confirming once more that both sides would strive to ensure that the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and the ROK could be celebrated in 2015 amid a positive atmosphere.

Proactive communication is being built up at various levels with a view to achieving progress in relations between Japan and the ROK. Examples include the 13th Japan-ROK Vice-Ministerial Strategic Dialogue, which was held in Tokyo on October 1, as well as several rounds of director-general-level consultations that have been held to discuss a wide range of issues involving the two countries.

(b) Exchange

Mutual understanding and exchange between the people of Japan and the ROK are steadily deepening and broadening. Due in part to measures put in place by the Governments of Japan and the ROK to enhance the environment for exchange between the citizens of their countries20, the number of people traveling between the two countries each year has grown from around 10,000 at the time that diplomatic relations were normalized to approximately 5.04 million in 201421. In Japan, K-pop and Korean television series attract a wide audience of all ages, while Japanese manga, anime, novels, and other forms of Japanese culture are becoming popular in the ROK.

The Nikkan Koryu Omatsuri (Japan-Korea Festival), a cultural exchange event held annually in both Japan and the ROK, took place in 2014 for the 10th time22. The festival was held in Seoul on September 14, with the theme “10th Anniversary: The Festival that Brings Dreams to Life,” and in Tokyo on September 27 and 28, with the theme “Two Days that Bring Hearts and Minds Together as One.” Attended by approximately 50,000 and 60,000 people respectively, the events in the two cities attracted larger crowds than the previous year.

Since the end of March 2013, approximately 4,400 Japanese and South Korean young people have participated in the “JENESYS 2.0” which is a youth exchange program between Japan and the Asia-Oceania region.

The year of 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and the ROK, so the Government of Japan will take this opportunity to promote initiatives aimed at further deepening and widening exchange between Japan and the ROK, including youth and other generation-specific exchange, as well as cultural and sporting exchange.

  • 20 The Exemption of Temporary Visitors’ Visa for Nationals of the Republic of Korea in place since 2006 has been extended indefinitely. In addition, the quota for the issue of visas under the Japan-ROK working holiday scheme was increased in 2011 from 7,200 to 10,000.
  • 21 Number of visitors in 2014 Visitors from the ROK to Japan: 2.76 million (figures published by the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO)); visitors from Japan to the ROK: 2.28 million (figures published by the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO)).
  • 22 The Nikkan Koryu Omatsuri was held in Seoul between 2005 and 2008, but has been held in both Seoul and Tokyo since 2009.
(c) Takeshima dispute

Regarding a dispute between Japan and the ROK concerning the territorial sovereignty over Takeshima, Japan has consistently held the position that Takeshima is indisputably an inherent part of the territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based on international law. Japan has been mobilizing various media to keep the rest of the world informed about Japan’s position on the Takeshima dispute23. Furthermore, Japan has lodged repeated protests against the ROK over such matters as landing on the island by members of the ROK’s National Assembly and others, the ROK’s holding of military exercises, and the construction of buildings. Japan will continue its tenacious diplomatic efforts in order to settle the Takeshima dispute in a peaceful manner, in accordance with international law.

  • 23 Since October 2013, videos, flyers, and pamphlets concerning Takeshima have been published on MOFA website and are currently available in 11 languages (Japanese, English, Korean, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Chinese, and Italian). [http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/area/takeshima/index.html]
(d) Other issues

Japan has been addressing the comfort women issue in good faith. The issues of property and claims between the two countries, including the comfort women issue, have already been settled legally24. However, in order to facilitate feasible remedies to the former comfort women, the Government and people of Japan collaboratively established the Asian Women’s Fund, which provided funds for medical and welfare projects and “atonement money.” In addition, letters have been sent to the former comfort women by successive Prime Ministers, expressing “apologies and remorse”. Nevertheless, the ROK does not regard the issue as settled and continues to demand that Japan take further steps to address it. The Government of Japan believes that this matter should not be turned into a political or diplomatic issue and will continue to do its utmost to gain understanding for its position and the earnest and sincere efforts that it has made.

With regard to matters arising from the judicial decisions in the ROK concerning the ”requisitioned civilians” from the Korean Peninsula25, the problems concerning property and claims between Japan and the ROK were settled completely and finally through the Agreement on the Settlement of Problem concerning Property and Claims and on the Economic Cooperation between Japan and the Republic of Korea26, so Japan will continue to deal appropriately with these issues on that basis.

The indictment by the ROK prosecutors of the Sankei Shimbun’s former Seoul bureau chief is deplorable both from the perspective of freedom of expression and of the press and from the standpoint of relations between Japan and the ROK. Accordingly, the Government of Japan will continue to request an appropriate response to this matter on the part of the Government of the ROK.

Other than these issues, Japan is providing as much support as possible from a humanitarian perspective in a wide range of fields, including in regard to the issue of the remains of people originally from the Korean Peninsula27, support for ethnic Koreans in Sakhalin28, addressing the issue of atomic bomb survivors living in the ROK29, and helping Hansen’s disease patients admitted to sanitariums in the ROK30.

Moreover, Japan and the ROK have engaged in several rounds of discussions concerning such matters as negotiations over the demarcation of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

  • 24 Under Article II (paragraph 1) of the Agreement on the Settlement of Problem concerning Property and Claims and on the Economic Cooperation between Japan and the Republic of Korea, stipulates that “the problems concerning property, rights, and interests of the two Contracting Parties and their nationals and concerning claims between the contracting Parties and nationals,...is settled completely and finally.”
  • 25 Some civilians of the ROK said to have been subjected to “forced requisition” by predecessor companies of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. during World War II, when the Korean Peninsula was under Japanese rule, brought claims for the payment of compensation and unpaid wages against the two companies. The Seoul High Court found in favor of the plaintiffs against Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation on July 10, 2013, and the Busan High Court ruled against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. on July 30, with both courts ordering the respective defendants to compensate the plaintiffs. Other similar lawsuits have been brought in the ROK.
  • 26 As per Footnote 25.
  • 27 The issue of the return of the remains of people originally from the Korean Peninsula which were left in Japan after the end of World War II. Japan is steadily repatriating the remains whose return has been requested by the Government of the ROK and which are able to be returned.
  • 28 For various reasons, before the end of World War II, the people from the Korean Peninsula traveled to what was then known as Minami Karafuto (South Sakhalin), but were compelled to remain there for a long time after the war ended under the de facto rule of the Soviet Union, without being given the opportunity to return to the ROK. the Government of Japan is providing such people with support to enable them to return home temporarily or permanently, and also to visit Sakhalin.
  • 29 The issue of the provision of support to those who were exposed to the atomic bombs while living in Hiroshima or Nagasaki during World War II and subsequently went to live overseas. To date, Japan has provided support in the form of the Atomic Bomb Victim Health Handbook and allowances based on the Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Assistance Act.
  • 30 People who were admitted to Hansen’s disease sanatoriums built overseas by Japan before the end of the war had demanded the payment of compensation in accordance with the Act on Payment of Compensation to Inmates of Hansen’s Disease Sanatorium. The Act was revised in February 2006, allowing compensation to be paid to those formerly resident in sanatoriums overseas for the first time.
C. Japan-ROK Economic Relations

Japan and the ROK continue to maintain close economic relations. The total value of trade between Japan and the ROK in 2014 was approximately 8.99 trillion yen; Japan is the ROK’s third-largest trading partner and the ROK is Japan’s third-largest trading partner. The ROK’s trade deficit with Japan fell by approximately 4.7% compared with the previous year to around 1.92 trillion yen (Trade Statistics of Japan, Ministry of Finance). In terms of the value of investment between Japan and the ROK, Japanese direct investment in the ROK totaled approximately 2.49 billion US dollars (down 7.5% from the previous year) (figures published by the ROK Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy), making Japan the ROK’s second-largest source of foreign direct investment. Direct investment in Japan from the ROK totaled approximately 410 million US dollars (down 40.6% from the previous year) (figures published by the Export-Import Bank of Korea).

Thus, Japan and the ROK are important trade and investment partners for each other and progress is being made in forging new cooperative relationships between the two countries. For example, as well as the integration of supply chains in the manufacturing sector, Japanese and South Korean companies are undertaking joint initiatives focused on expansion into other countries.

Economic partnership between Japan and the ROK is vital in order to further strengthen these close economic relations between the two countries, as well as ensuring that both Japan and the ROK can play a leading role in regional economic integration in Asia. Based on this understanding, Japan continues to strive to achieve progress in negotiations concerning a Japan-China-ROK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

In addition, at the 13th Japan-ROK High-level Economic Consultation held in January 2015, in order to further strengthen economic relations between Japan and the ROK, the two countries exchanged opinions concerning a wide range of subjects, including the economic climate in Japan and the ROK and economic relations between them, as well as the global economic situation and cooperation within multilateral and regional frameworks.

Regarding the restrictions on imports of Japanese marine products imposed by the Government of the ROK31, Japan has taken various opportunities to request that the ROK abolish these restrictions without delay, based on scientific evidence. To this end, a committee of experts from the ROK visited Japan to conduct surveys in December 2014 and January 2015.

  • 31 (1) A ban on imports of 50 varieties of marine product from 8 prefectures, including Fukushima, has been extended to cover all marine products from those 8 prefectures. (2) If even trace amounts of cesium or iodine are detected in marine products from areas other than those 8 prefectures, an additional certificate for other radioactive material is requested.


Exchanges between Japan and the Republic of Korea through “JENESYS 2.0”: Essays by Exchange Students in Commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Japan-Korea Cultural Foundation
Students cooking bibimbap in a hands-on event (in the ROK, March 29; Source: Japan-Korea Cultural Foundation) Students cooking bibimbap in a hands-on event (in the ROK, March 29; Source: Japan-Korea Cultural Foundation)
Trip to Changdeok Palace (in the ROK, March 29; Source: Japan-Korea Cultural Foundation) Trip to Changdeok Palace (in the ROK, March 29; Source: Japan-Korea Cultural Foundation)

Naoya Nemoto, 1st Grader at Fukushima Prefectural Iwaki High School

Due to frequent exposure to news coverage on the territorial dispute between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK), many Japanese people nowadays have an unfavorable emotion towards the ROK. In fact, I myself had a somewhat biased view towards the ROK before participating in this study program in the ROK.

Once I arrived at a school in the ROK, I was able to engage in positive interactions with the local students in classes and sports despite the language barrier by using simple words and body language. To my surprise, Korean students were very kind to me and active. During the exchange program, irrespective of prevailing negative public opinions, we understood each other’s culture, history and values.

Through this program, my impression of the ROK improved. I still keep in touch with my Korean friends, and I have been passing on my experience in the ROK to as many people as possible. I think it is a good idea for young generations to gain experiences that help expand their worldview. I believe that such training is vital to foster insightful people who will eventually contribute to improving international relations.


Baeg Ha-Won, 2nd Grader at Yongin Foreign Language High School Affiliated with Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

I have been interested in Japan since my childhood, and now I am studying Japanese at high school. When I was a 1st grader, I participated in a trade planning contest in Hong Kong with high school students from around the world, and I met Japanese high school student participants. I talked to them with excitement, but they looked tense as they seemed to have the idea that Koreans were not fond of Japanese. As we started talking about each other’s culture, however, we became more open and engaged in friendly interactions. Since then, I have been exchanging emails with them, and when I think of Japan, I immediately think of them.

Many people in these two countries have bad feelings toward each other due to historical and diplomatic issues. Politics and diplomacy are like a thin thread that easily breaks and entangles. Once a thread is entangled, it is difficult to untangle it. However, you can always fix an entangled thread by simply retying it.

Similarly, when bilateral relations become hostile, it takes a lot of effort to restore a friendly relationship. In this view, efforts only by the two governments may be insufficient to achieve stable ROK-Japan relations. I believe that the most vital approach to this issue is to mend the negative perception that the people of the ROK and Japan hold toward each other by boosting civilian exchanges between the two countries.