Diplomatic Bluebook 2020

Chapter 2

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

2 Korean Peninsula

(1) North Korea (including the abductions issue)

The Government of Japan has been taking various initiatives to realize its basic policy of seeking to normalize its relations with North Korea through comprehensively resolving outstanding issues of concern, such as the abductions, nuclear and missile issues, and settling the unfortunate past in accordance with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration of September 2002.

Between the U.S. and North Korea, the second U.S.-North Korea Summit was held in Hanoi, Viet Nam in February 2019. President Trump and Chairman of State Affairs Commission Kim Jong-un met in Panmunjom in June, and U.S.-North Korea working-level talks took place in Stockholm, Sweden in October. North Korea frequently and repeatedly conducted launches of ballistic missiles, counting more than 20 from May to November 2019, and also launched ballistic missiles several times in March 2020. Under these circumstances, it is important that the international community remains united to support the process between the U.S. and North Korea toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Japan will continue to coordinate closely with the U.S. and the ROK and cooperate with the international community, including China and Russia, toward the resolution of the issues concerning North Korea.

With regard to the abductions issue, Japan continues to call on North Korea to implement the May 2014 Japan-North Korea agreement (the agreement in Stockholm11) and will continue to make utmost efforts to realize the return home of all abductees at the earliest possible date, while coordinating closely with relevant countries including the U.S.

  • 11 In May 2014, Japan-North Korea Intergovernmental Consultations were held in Stockholm, Sweden. North Korea promised to conduct a comprehensive and full-scale investigation on all Japanese nationals, including abductees.
A North Korea Nuclear and Missile Issues

North Korea has not carried out the dismantlement of all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner, in accordance with a series of relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

In his New Year Address in January 2019, Chairman Kim stated that North Korea's invariable stand was to advance toward complete denuclearization. The Chairman also stated that while he was ready to hold dialogues with the U.S., North Korea would be compelled to find a new way if the U.S. persists in imposing sanctions and pressure.

In his policy speech to the Supreme People's Assembly on April 12, Chairman Kim stated: “What I feel now is if there will be any need to keep an attachment to the summit with the U.S. just because of the issue of sanctions relief. Anyway, we will wait for a bold decision from the U.S. with patience till the end of this year.”

On May 4, North Korea launched short-range ballistic missiles in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions. This was followed by frequent and repeated launches of ballistic missiles counting more than 20 by November. In December, North Korea announced that it conducted a “crucial test” twice at the satellite launching ground in Dongchang-ri, saying it “will be applied to further bolstering up the reliable strategic nuclear deterrent” of North Korea.

A plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) was convened from December 28 to 31. Chairman Kim reportedly stated at the meeting, “The world will witness a new strategic weapon to be possessed by the DPRK in the near future,” noting it should “conduct the offensive for frontal breakthrough, not to wait for the situation to turn better.” In January 2020, a New Year Address by Chairman Kim, which had been customary since 2013, was not publicly delivered.

North Korea has repeatedly conducted missile launches, including a series of launches of short-range ballistic missiles and the launch of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in October. It is obvious that the purpose is to improve the missile technology and such launches pose a serious challenge not only to Japan but also to the international community and are totally unacceptable.

In response to North Korea's repeated ballistic missile launches, informal consultations were held at the UN Security Council in August, October, and December 2019 and in March 2020 at the request of the UK, France, and Germany. A UN Security Council briefing (public) on “Non-proliferation/DPRK” was held in December. At the meeting, many countries including Japan expressed concerns that ballistic missile launches by North Korea were in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions, urged North Korea to refrain from further provocations, demanded its return to the U.S.-North Korea process, and stated that the sanctions based on the UN Security Council resolutions should be maintained as long as North Korea does not take concrete measures toward denuclearization.

It is crucial that the international community makes concerted efforts to fully implement the UN Security Council resolutions for the dismantlement of all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner by North Korea. As part of the Japan Coast Guard's patrolling activities and the Self-Defense Forces' monitoring and surveillance activities, Japan has been conducting information gathering on the activities of vessels suspected to be violating the UN Security Council resolutions. When the Government of Japan finds activities strongly suspected to be violating the UN Security Council resolutions, including ship-to-ship transfers with North Korean vessels, measures have been taken such as notification to the UN Security Council 1718 Sanctions Committee and other bodies, sharing of information with related countries, and releasing of information to the public. In 2019, Japan revealed to the public 13 activities strongly suspected to be ship-to-ship transfers, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) website and through other media. Aircraft of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and France, in addition to the U.S., based in Kadena Air Base have engaged in monitoring and surveillance activities against illicit maritime activities, including ship-to-ship transfers. Furthermore, monitoring and surveillance activities were conducted in waters surrounding Japan including the East China Sea, by naval vessels such as multiple vessels of the U.S. Navy, the British Royal Navy frigate MONTROSE, the Royal Canadian Navy frigates OTTAWA and REGINA and supply vessel ASTÉRIX, the Royal Australian Navy frigates MELBOURNE and PARRAMATTA, and the French Navy frigate VENDÉMIAIRE. From the perspective of further deepening the multinational cooperation, Japan considers it significant that Japan, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK, and France are sharing information and coordinating efforts to ensure that UN Security Council resolutions are implemented fully and effectively.

B The Abductions Issue and Japan-North Korea Relations
(A) Basic Position 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 abductees 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 its relations with North Korea is impossible without resolving the abductions issue, Japan has positioned its resolution as the most important issue. Accordingly, Japan has strongly urged North Korea to provide a full account of all the abduction cases, to hand over the perpetrators to Japan, and to ensure the safety of all abductees and their immediate return to Japan, irrespective of whether the abductees are officially identified.

(B) Initiatives by Japan

Following the nuclear test by North Korea in January 2016 and the launch of the ballistic missile in the following month which North Korea purported to be a “satellite,” Japan announced its autonomous measures against North Korea in February 2016. In response, North Korea unilaterally announced that it would completely stop the investigations on all Japanese nationals and dissolve the Special Investigation Committee. Japan lodged a serious protest against North Korea, conveyed its intention of not abandoning the agreement in Stockholm, and strongly demanded that North Korea implement the agreement and return all the abductees home at the earliest possible date.

(C) Japan-North Korea Relations

During the reception of the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony hosted by President Moon Jae-in on February 9, 2018, Prime Minister Abe brought up the abductions, nuclear and missile issues and conveyed Japan's basic position to Kim Yong-nam, President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea. Prime Minister Abe strongly urged North Korea to resolve the abductions issue, especially the return of all abductees to Japan. In September, Foreign Minister Kono held a meeting with the North Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Yong Ho at the UN headquarters.

In May 2019, Prime Minister Abe stated that he “would like to meet with Chairman Kim Jong-un without attaching any condition and talk candidly and frankly.” To this, President Trump, who visited Japan in the same month, expressed strong support saying that President Trump would support Prime Minister Abe totally and would not spare any efforts in assisting him.

(D) Cooperation with the International Community

In order to resolve the abductions issue, it is essential for Japan not only to proactively urge North Korea, but also to gain understanding and support from other countries regarding the importance of resolving the abductions issue. Japan has taken all possible diplomatic opportunities to raise the abductions issue, including at summit meetings, foreign ministers' meetings and international conferences such as the G7 Summit, the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit, the Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers' Meeting, ASEAN-related Summit Meetings, and UN meetings.

With regard to the U.S., President Trump raised the abductions issue with Chairman Kim at the U.S.-North Korea Summit in June 2018, at the request of Prime Minister Abe. In addition, the U.S. has raised the abductions issue with North Korea at other opportunities, such as Secretary of State Pompeo's visit to North Korea. At the second U.S.-North Korea Summit in February 2019, President Trump raised the abductions issue with Chairman Kim at the tête-à-tête meeting, which was held first on the first day, and clearly stated Prime Minister Abe's views regarding the abductions issue. At the small group dinner that followed, President Trump again raised the abductions issue, and a serious discussion was held between the leaders. When President Trump visited Japan in May 2019, he met with the families of the abductees as he had done during his previous visit in November 2017, listened attentively to the emotional pleas by the family members and encouraged them. At the U.S. Congress, a resolution regarding a U.S. citizen possibly abducted by North Korea was approved and passed during the regular session of the House of Representatives in September 2016 as well as during the regular session of the Senate in November 2018.

Prime Minister Abe and President Trump meet with the families of abductees (May 27, Tokyo; Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office)Prime Minister Abe and President Trump meet with the families of abductees
(May 27, Tokyo; Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office)

With regard to China, at the Japan-China Summit Meeting in June 2019, President Xi Jinping stated that he had conveyed Japan's position on Japan-North Korea relations and Prime Minister Abe's views to Chairman Kim during the China-North Korea Summit held in the same month. Prime Minister Abe also gained the strong support of President Xi for the improvement of Japan-North Korea relations, including the abductions issue.

The ROK has raised the abductions issue with North Korea at multiple opportunities, including the Inter-Korean Summit in April 2018. At the Japan-ROK Summit Meeting in December 2019, President Moon Jae-in of the ROK expressed his understanding for Japan's position regarding the importance of the abductions issue and stated that the ROK had repeatedly raised the abductions issue with North Korea. At the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting in December 2019, Prime Minister Abe sought the support and cooperation of President Moon Jae-in and Premier of the State Council of China Li Keqiang for the early resolution of the abductions issue and obtained their understanding on Japan's position. The abductions issue was included in the Summit Meeting's outcome document.

Furthermore, at the Japan-Russia Summit Meeting in September 2018, Prime Minister Abe called on Russia's cooperation in resolving the abductions issue and obtained President Putin's understanding.

Japan will continue to closely coordinate and cooperate with relevant countries, including the U.S., toward the early resolution of the abductions issue.

C North Korea's External Relations, etc.
(A) U.S.-North Korea Relations

On January 18, 2019, President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo held a meeting with Kim Yong-chol, Deputy Chairman of the WPK, in Washington D.C. The U.S. Government announced that the second U.S.-North Korea Summit would be held around the end of February.

From February 27 to 28, President Trump and Chairman Kim held the second U.S.-North Korea Summit in Hanoi, Viet Nam. However, the summit ended without reaching any agreement.

On April 12, Chairman Kim delivered a policy speech to the Supreme People's Assembly in which he noted, “If the U.S. comes forward for the third DPRK-U.S. summit...we can think of holding one more talks,” adding, “We will wait for a bold decision from the U.S. with patience till the end of this year.”

On June 30, President Trump and Chairman Kim met in Panmunjom. On October 5, U.S.-North Korea working-level talks took place in Stockholm, Sweden.

A plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the WPK was convened from December 28 to 31. Regarding U.S.-North Korea relations, Chairman Kim reportedly stated in his speech, “If the U.S. persists in its hostile policy towards the DPRK, there will never be the denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.”

In March, June, July, August, and September 2019 and January and March 2020, the U.S. newly designated individuals, entities, and ships which are subject to sanctions based on the autonomous measures of the U.S. against North Korea for reasons such as providing illegal support to North Korea. The sanctions target entities and individuals in North Korea, as well as those in third countries, including Russia and China.

(B) Inter-Korean Relations

There was no significant progress in inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation programs in 2019, compared to 2018 which saw considerable strides in inter-Korean relations including the holding of three Inter-Korean Summits.

In June 2019, the Government of the ROK, based on its position of extending humanitarian assistance to North Korea regardless of the political situation, announced its intention to promote humanitarian and food assistance, including the contribution of 8 million US dollars and the provision of 50,000 tons of rice produced in the ROK through international organizations. However, the food assistance has yet to be implemented.

In October, Chairman Kim visited the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region where ROK companies and others participated in the development, and reportedly instructed the removal of ROK facilities from the region upon the ROK's agreement. Subsequently, North Korea has been requesting to the ROK for the removal of its facilities.

In November, North Korean forces conducted a shelling drill on Ch'angnin Island near its border with the ROK as Chairman Kim observed. The Government of the ROK pointed out that the drill was a breach of the Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration12 in the Military Domain13 and called for North Korea's compliance with the agreement.

On January 7, 2020, President Moon Jae-in stated in his New Year's Address, “It is regrettable that we've not been able to make further progress in inter-Korean cooperation over the past year,” and called for inter-Korean dialogue, saying, “I am willing to meet time and time again and constantly engage in dialogue.”

  • 12 “Panmunjom Declaration on Peace, Prosperity and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula” signed at the Inter-Korean Summit between President Moon and Chairman Kim on April 28, 2018. Chairman Kim's intention for the denuclearization of North Korea was affirmed in this document.
  • 13 Based on this agreement, which was adopted as a result of the Inter-Korean Summit in September 2018, measures were taken that include the suspension of military exercises around the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), establishment of a no-fly zone over the MDL and withdrawal of some guard posts in the demilitarized zone.
(C) China-North Korea and Russia-North Korea Relations

The year 2019 marked the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and North Korea. In January, Chairman Kim visited China, and in June, President Xi Jinping visited North Korea for the first time since he took office. Events were also held both in China and North Korea to commemorate the anniversary.

Under such circumstances, China and North Korea have maintained close economic ties. Trade between China and North Korea continues to account for approximately 90% of North Korea's entire external trade excluding inter-Korean trade.

With regard to Russia-North Korea relations, Chairman Kim visited Vladivostok, Russia in April for the first time since he took office and held a meeting with President Putin.

(D) Other Issues

In 2019, a total of 158 drifting or wrecked wooden vessels presumed to be from North Korea were discovered (225 in 2018). The Government of Japan continues its effort to gather and analyze information, with great interest on relevant developments. In January, four and two survivors were respectively found in Okinoshima, Shimane Prefecture and off the coast of Fukaura, Aomori Prefecture. The Government of Japan has dealt appropriately with both incidents in accordance with the related laws and regulations, in close coordination among relevant ministries and agencies, including handing over the survivors to North Korea. In October, a collision incident occurred between a fishery patrol vessel of the Fisheries Agency and what appears to be a North Korean-flagged vessel in Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around Yamatotai bank in the Sea of Japan. Japan will continue to deal appropriately with these issues in close coordination among relevant ministries and agencies.

D Domestic Political Affairs and Economy
(A) Political Affairs

In North Korea, the power base of the regime centered on Chairman Kim is being enhanced. Through the revision of the party constitution at the Seventh Party Congress of the WPK held in May 2016, the post of Chairman of the Party was newly established and Kim Jong-un, First Secretary of the Party, was appointed as the Chairman of the Party, establishing a new party structure centered on Chairman Kim. Moreover, in June 2016, the Fourth Session of the 13th Supreme People's Assembly was held. The National Defense Commission (NDC) was reorganized into the State Affairs Commission, and Kim Jong-un, First Chairman of the NDC, was appointed as Chairman of the State Affairs Commission. In 2019, the Constitution of North Korea was amended twice, and as a result, the role of the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission is stipulated with greater clarity.

At the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the WPK held in April 2018, Chairman Kim declared victory of the “byungjin policy,” which was presented at the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the WPK in March 2013, and he stated that focusing all of its energies on economic construction was the strategic policy of the Party. At the four-day plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the WPK in December 2019, Chairman Kim delivered a speech in which he asserted that the key front in the offensive for frontal breakthrough was the economic front and urged self-reliance to the people.

(B) Economy

The National Five-Year Strategy for Economic Development (2016–2020) was announced at the Seventh Party Congress of the WPK in May 2016. In his New Year Address in January 2019, as North Korea entered the fourth year of the Strategy, Chairman Kim stated that impetus must be given to its implementation.

North Korea's economic growth rate in 2018 was -4.1% (Bank of Korea estimate), recording negative growth following on from the -3.5% in the previous year. Trade with China continues to account for the largest share of North Korea's external trade. In 2018, the total value of North Korea's external trade (excluding inter-Korean trade) was approximately 2.8 billion US dollars (Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) estimate), of which trade with China accounted for more than 90%.

E Other Issues

Defectors who have fled North Korea have to be kept in hiding to avoid being cracked down by the authorities in the countries where they are staying or to avoid being forcibly repatriated to North Korea. The Government of Japan is addressing the protection of and support for these North Korean defectors, in line with 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 ministries and agencies in Japan are working together closely to promote measures aimed at helping the settlement of defectors accepted by Japan.

(2) Republic of Korea (ROK)

A Japan-ROK Relations
(A) Bilateral Relations

The Republic of Korea (ROK) is an important neighboring country for Japan. The two countries have built a close, friendly and cooperative relationship based on the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea, the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on the Economic Co-operation between Japan and the Republic of Korea, and other relevant agreements that the two countries concluded when they normalized their relationship in 1965. In spite of the above, in 2019, following on from 2018, the relations between Japan and the ROK continued to face difficult situations amid unending negative moves by the ROK, including the ROK's continued failure to remedy its accumulated breaches of international law regarding the issue of former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula (CWKs), the notification to terminate the Agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of the Republic of Korea on the Protection of Classified Military Information (GSOMIA) (however, the ROK later suspended the effect of the notification of termination), moves to dissolve “the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation” regarding the comfort women issue, landing on Takeshima by South Koreans including the members of the National Assembly of the ROK and military exercises on Takeshima, the sailing of ROK marine research vessels in waters surrounding Takeshima, and raising unconstructive questions regarding the ALPS treated water at the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

Under these circumstances, a Japan-ROK Summit Meeting was held in December for the first time in one year and three months. The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of coordination between Japan and the ROK as well as among Japan, the ROK, and the U.S. with respect to security issues, including those regarding North Korea. In addition, Prime Minister Abe directly called upon President Moon Jae-in to propose a solution at its own responsibility to the issue of CWKs, which is the largest issue in the bilateral relations. On this basis, the two leaders shared the view that consultations between their diplomatic authorities should be continued in order to resolve this issue. As part of this intention, consultations between the diplomatic authorities were held frequently, including a total of eight Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers' Meetings and Japan-ROK Director-General-level consultations on multiple occasions.

Japan-ROK Summit Meeting with President Moon Jae-in (December 24, Chengdu, China; Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office)Japan-ROK Summit Meeting with President Moon Jae-in (December 24, Chengdu, China; Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office)
Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers' Meeting (November 23, Nagoya, Japan)Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers' Meeting (November 23, Nagoya, Japan)
(B) The Issue of Former Civilian Workers from the Korean Peninsula (CWKs)

The Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on the Economic Co-operation between Japan and the Republic of Korea, which was at the core of the normalization of their relationship in 1965, stipulates that Japan shall supply to the ROK 300 million US dollars in grants and extend loans up to 200 million US dollars (Article I). In addition, the Agreement stipulates that the “problem concerning property, rights and interests of the two Contracting Parties and their nationals (including juridical persons) and concerning claims between the Contracting Parties and their nationals [abridged] is settled completely and finally” and that “no contention shall be made” with respect to such claims (Article II).

However, in October and November 2018, the Supreme Court of the ROK gave final judgments ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation to ROK nationals who were working for the companies during the Second World War. Such judgments are extremely regrettable and totally unacceptable. They clearly violate Article II of the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on the Economic Co-operation between Japan and the Republic of Korea and inflict unjustifiable damages and costs on the Japanese companies. Above all, the judgments completely overthrow the legal foundation of the friendly and cooperative relationship that Japan and the ROK have developed since the normalization of diplomatic relations in 1965.14

In January 2019, the Government of Japan requested a diplomatic consultation with the Government of the ROK pursuant to Article III-1 in order to settle this issue in accordance with the dispute settlement procedures under the Agreement. However, the Government of the ROK failed to respond to the request.15 Therefore, the Government of Japan notified in May that it would refer to an arbitration board for a decision, pursuant to Article III-2 of the Agreement, and proceeded with the arbitration process. Nevertheless, the Government of the ROK did not fulfill its obligations within the period stipulated in the Agreement to appoint an arbitrator nor to choose a third country, the Government of which is to appoint an arbitrator for the Contracting Party. As a result, the arbitration board referred to in May could not be constituted.

The Government of Japan will continue to call upon the ROK to remedy its breaches of international law and will maintain communication between Japan-ROK diplomatic authorities to resolve this issue.

  • 14 See References on the issue of former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula (CWKs)
  • 15 See References on the issue of former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula (CWKs)
(C) The Issue of Comfort Women

As the issue of comfort women has been a major diplomatic issue in Japan-ROK relations since the 1990s, Japan has sincerely dealt with it. The issue concerning property and claims between Japan and the ROK was legally settled in 1965 through the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on the Economic Co-operation between Japan and the Republic of Korea. However, from the perspective of facilitating feasible remedies for the former comfort women, the people and the Government of Japan cooperated to establish the Asian Women's Fund in 1995, through which they carried out medical and welfare projects and provided “atonement money” to each former comfort woman in Asian and other countries, including the ROK. In addition, successive Prime Ministers have sent letters expressing their “apology and remorse” to former comfort women. The Government of Japan has made every effort as mentioned above.

Furthermore, as a result of great diplomatic efforts, the Governments of Japan and the ROK confirmed that the issue of comfort women was “resolved finally and irreversibly” with the agreement reached at the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers' Meeting in December 2015.16 The Japanese and ROK leaders also confirmed that they would take responsibility as leaders to implement this agreement, and that they would deal with various issues based on the spirit of this agreement. This was welcomed by the international community, including then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the U.S. Government. In accordance with the agreement, in August 2016, the Government of Japan contributed 1 billion yen to “the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation” established by the Government of the ROK. As of December 31, 2019, the fund provided financial support to 35 out of 47 former comfort women who were alive at the time of the agreement, and to the bereaved families of 64 out of 199 former comfort women who were deceased at the time. The agreement has been received positively by many former comfort women.

However, in December 2016, a comfort woman statue17 was installed on the sidewalk facing the Consulate-General of Japan in Busan by a civic group in the ROK. Later, the Moon Jae-in administration was newly inaugurated in May 2017. Based on the results of the assessment made by the Taskforce to Review the Agreement on Comfort Women Issue under the direct supervision of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the ROK, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha announced the position of the Government of the ROK on January 9, 2018, as follows: i) it will not ask for a renegotiation with Japan; and ii) the 2015 agreement, which fails to properly reflect the wishes of the victims, does not constitute a true resolution of the issue. In July 2018, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family of the ROK announced that it would arrange a reserve budget to “appropriate the full amount” of the 1 billion yen contributed by the Government of Japan and contribute this amount to “the Gender Equality Fund.” In November 2018, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family announced that it would proceed with its dissolution of “the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation” and has since moved ahead with the dissolution procedures. While the Government of the ROK, including President Moon Jae-in, repeatedly stated in public that it “will not abandon the agreement” and “will not ask for a renegotiation with Japan,” the moves to dissolve the Foundation are totally unacceptable for Japan in light of the 2015 Japan-ROK Agreement.

With regard to the trial at a Seoul district court in the ROK instituted by former comfort women and others against the Government of Japan in 2016, the Government of Japan informed the Government of the ROK in May 2019 that it will not submit to the jurisdiction of the ROK based on the principle of sovereign immunity under international law and that the trial must be dismissed. In December, the Constitutional Court of the ROK dismissed the petition by former comfort women that the 2015 Japan-ROK Agreement was unconstitutional. In any event, it remains unchanged that the Government of Japan will continue to call on the Government of the ROK to steadily implement the 2015 Japan-ROK Agreement (see page 30 and References: The Issue of Comfort Women regarding the international community's handling of the comfort women issue).

  • 16 See References on the comfort women issue
  • 17 For the sake of practical convenience, they are referred to as “comfort woman statues.” However, the use of this term is not a reflection of the recognition that these statues correctly embody the reality of those women at that time.
(D) Takeshima Dispute

Regarding the dispute between Japan and the ROK concerning the territorial sovereignty over Takeshima, Takeshima is indisputably an inherent part of the territory of Japan in light of historical facts and based on international law. The ROK has continued its illegal occupation of Takeshima with no legal basis in international law, including stationing permanent security personnel. Japan has been keeping the world informed about Japan's position on the issue through various media,18 and has repeatedly lodged strong protests against the ROK over matters such as landing on the island by South Koreans including members of the ROK's National Assembly, and the ROK's military exercises and marine researches.19 In particular, in 2019, the members of the ROK's National Assembly landed on Takeshima in August, and military exercises and maritime surveys were also conducted on the island or its vicinity. The Government of Japan considers them unacceptable in view of Japan's position and lodged strong protests.

For a peaceful settlement of the Takeshima dispute, Japan proposed to the ROK that the issue be referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1954, 1962, and 2012. However, the ROK rejected the proposal in all instances. Japan is determined to continue to engage in appropriate diplomatic efforts to settle the Takeshima dispute in a peaceful manner in accordance with international law.

  • 18 In February 2008, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a pamphlet entitled “Takeshima: 10 points to understand the Takeshima Dispute.” Currently, it is available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' website in 11 languages: Japanese, English, Korean, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Chinese, and Italian. Furthermore, since October 2013, videos and flyers about Takeshima have been available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' website, and they are currently available in the above 11 languages. In addition, Japan has taken initiatives such as distributing a smartphone app that aims to increase awareness of the Takeshima issue. Further details are available on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here: https://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/takeshima/index.html
    the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • 19 A delegation of six ROK National Assembly members led by Sul Hoon, a member of the Minjoo Party of Korea, landed on Takeshima in August 2019. In addition, the ROK Armed Forces conducted Takeshima defense training in August and December 2019. Following each of these instances, the Government of Japan immediately conveyed to the Government of the ROK that such an act was unacceptable and extremely regrettable in light of Japan's position on sovereignty over Takeshima, and strongly protested against the act.

The Governments of Japan and the ROK concluded Agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of the Republic of Korea on the Protection of Classified Military Information (GSOMIA) in November 2016 in order to strengthen cooperation and coordination between the two countries in the field of security and contribute to regional peace and stability. The agreement was automatically extended in 2017 and 2018. However, the Government of the ROK announced on August 22, 2019, its decision to terminate the GSOMIA in connection with Japan's update of licensing policies and procedures on exports (see (F) below) and notified the termination on the following day, August 23. In response, on August 22, then Foreign Minister Kono summoned ROK Ambassador to Japan Nam Gwan-pyo and stated that the decision by the Government of the ROK to terminate the GSOMIA reflected its total misapprehension of the current regional security environment and was extremely regrettable. On November 22, the Government of the ROK announced that it would suspend the effect of the notification of termination of August 23. The Government of Japan deems that the Government of the ROK made this decision in view of the current regional security environment.

(F) Update of Licensing Policies and Procedures on Exports of Controlled Items to the ROK

In order to properly manage trade in goods and technologies which could potentially be put to military use, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced the following updates on July 1, 2019: (1) the amendment of the Export Trade Control Order of the ROK (note: a revised Cabinet ordinance excluding the ROK from “Group A” entered into force on August 28) and (2) switching from bulk licenses to individual export licenses for Fluorinated polyimide, Resist, and Hydrogen fluoride.

The ROK responded with measures such as stricter export controls on Japan (note: an updated export control system that removes Japan from the list of countries receiving preferential treatment entered into force on September 18). In connection with Japan's update of export licensing policies and procedures, the ROK also announced its decision to terminate the GSOMIA (August 22). Furthermore, on September 11, the ROK requested bilateral consultations with Japan on the account that Japan's updates related to three items were in breach of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement (note: bilateral consultations were held in Geneva, Switzerland, in October and November).

In this context, the Government of the ROK announced on November 22 that it suspended the effect of the notification of termination of the GSOMIA, and that it would also suspend its WTO complaint procedures while the Japan-ROK Export Control Policy Dialogue would be held as normal. On this basis, on December 16, the seventh Export Control Policy Dialogue was held for the first time in three and a half years, at which the two countries agreed to continue dialogues between their export control authorities.

(G) Exchange

In 2018, the number of people making visits between the two countries was approximately 10.49 million people, exceeding 10 million for the first time. In 2019, however, the number was approximately 8.85 million people due to a significant decrease in the number of people visiting Japan from the ROK. Nevertheless, the Governments of Japan and the ROK have shared the view on multiple occasions that, notwithstanding the challenging situation of the bilateral relationship, the two countries should continue their exchanges at a variety of levels, including people-to-people exchanges, economic exchanges, and regional exchanges.

In Japan, K-POP, South Korean TV dramas, etc. are widely accepted by people of all ages. In recent years, Korean cuisine has become widespread throughout Japan, and Korean cosmetics are popular mainly among young Japanese women. Despite the severe situation of Japan-ROK relations, the major Japan-ROK grassroots exchange program “Japan-Korea Exchange Festival” (Nikkan Omatsuri) attracted many visitors in both Tokyo and Seoul. The Government of Japan continues to work on promoting mutual understanding primarily between young people and building a friendly and cooperative relationship for the future through Japan's Friendship Ties Programs (JENESYS 2019).

(H) Other Issues

Sea of Japan is the only internationally established name for the sea area concerned, and the UN and governments of major countries such as the U.S. adopt Sea of Japan as the official name. Objections to this name, however, were first raised by the ROK and North Korea in 1992. Since then, the ROK and North Korea have been objecting to the name at the UN Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names, the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), and other international conferences. These assertions however are groundless, and Japan has firmly refuted these assertions each time they arise.

Furthermore, Japan has made requests to the Government of the ROK through its diplomatic channels to return cultural properties that were stolen and are currently in the ROK20 to Japan as soon as possible. Japan will continue to call upon the Government of the ROK for their prompt return.

Other than these issues, Japan has provided supports and taken measures as much as possible from a humanitarian perspective in a wide range of fields, including responses for ethnic Koreans in Sakhalin,21 addressing the issue of atomic bomb survivors living in the ROK,22 and helping Hansen's disease patients admitted to sanitariums in the ROK.23

  • 20 In April 2016, Buseoksa Temple in the ROK called for the Government of the ROK to return to Buseoksa Temple a Seated Kanzeon Bodhisattva statue, which had been stolen from Tsushima City in Nagasaki Prefecture and not returned to Japan, and filed a suit in the Daejeon District Court. On January 26, 2017 the court issued the verdict in the first instance which awarded the statue to the plaintiff (Buseoksa Temple).
  • 21 For various reasons, before the end of World War II, people from the Korean Peninsula traveled to what was then known as Minami Karafuto (South Sakhalin) and 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, such as to enable them to return home temporarily and to visit Sakhalin.
  • 22 This is the issue of 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 Bombs Survivors' Assistance Act.
  • 23 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 who were formerly resident in sanatoriums overseas for the first time.
B Japan-ROK Economic Relations

The total value of trade between the two countries amounted to approximately 8.27 trillion yen in 2019. Japan is the ROK's third largest trading partner, and vice versa. The ROK's trade deficit with Japan decreased by approximately 19% from a year earlier, reaching approximately 1.82 trillion yen (Trade Statistics of Japan, Ministry of Finance). Japanese direct investment in the ROK totaled approximately 1.4 billion US dollars (up 10% from the previous year) (figures published by the ROK Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy), making Japan the ROK's sixth largest source of foreign direct investment.

Japan and the ROK continue to make every effort for progress in negotiations concerning the Japan-China-ROK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

On the other hand, following Japan's announcement in July on the application of its export control measures, campaigns unfolded in the ROK to boycott Japanese products and refrain from traveling to Japan. At the national and local assemblies of the ROK, legislation and ordinances were enacted to restrict procurement of Japanese company products.

With respect to the WTO dispute settlement procedures between Japan and the ROK, the WTO Appellate Body issued a report that recognized Japan's major claims in “Korea – Anti-Dumping Duties on Pneumatic Valves From Japan” (September 2019). Other dispute settlement cases are ongoing, including “Korea – Sunset Review of Anti-Dumping Duties on Stainless Steel Bars” (note: a panel was established in October 2018) and “Korea – Measures Affecting Trade in Commercial Vessels” (note: bilateral consultations were held in December 2018) (see Chapter 3, Section 3, 3 (3) regarding a case concerning the import restrictions on Japanese food products by the ROK and A (F) above regarding a case concerning the application of Japan's export control measures).

C Situation in the ROK
(A) Domestic Affairs

The Moon Jae-in administration entered its third year in May 2019, and cabinet reshuffles were conducted in March and August. In the August reshuffle, President Moon nominated Mr. Cho Kuk, his close associate and Senior Secretary to the President for Civil Affairs in charge of prosecution at the Blue House, as Minister of Justice. Shortly after his nomination, however, alleged controversies emerged concerning Cho's family, relatives, and others. Although President Moon appointed Mr. Cho as Minister of Justice on September 9, Mr. Cho resigned from his post on October 14 amidst further intensification of domestic backlash.

In December, a new Prime Minister was nominated. On January 14, 2020, Mr. Lee Nak-yeon, who served as Prime Minister since the establishment of the Moon administration, resigned, and Mr. Chung Sye-kyun, former Speaker of the National Assembly, was appointed as Prime Minister.

The Government of the ROK has carried out prosecution reforms, which President Moon pledged during his presidential campaign. On December 30, the National Assembly passed the bill to establish the Corruption Investigation Office For High-ranking Officials, an independent body that investigates improper acts by high-ranking officials, and on January 13, 2020, passed the bills for revising the Criminal Procedure Act and the Supreme Prosecutors' Office Act for adjusting the investigative rights of the prosecution and police.

(B) Foreign Policy

In 2019, the ROK continued to engage in diplomacy with top priority given to the issues of North Korea. On June 30, during his visit to the ROK, U.S. President Trump visited Panmunjom and met with Chairman Kim of North Korea. Ahead of this meeting, President Trump and Chairman Kim held informal talks with President Moon also present. (see C (B) regarding inter-Korean relations).

With regard to the relations with the U.S., the series of the U.S.-ROK joint military exercises “Key Resolve,” “Foal Eagle,” and “Freedom Guardian” were concluded in March based on the progress of the dialogues with North Korea. (Of these exercises, “Key Resolve” and “Freedom Guardian” were conducted as command post exercises.) The U.S. Government has also negotiated with the Government of the ROK on Host Nation Support (HNS) in line with the Trump administration's policy of requesting HNS increases for U.S. forces stationed in various countries. In February, the U.S. and the ROK reached a tentative agreement regarding the 10th Special Measures Agreement (SMA) which sets the ROK's cost at approximately 1.0389 trillion won (approximately 920 million US dollars) for the year 2019. Since then, the two countries have held negotiations on the HNS amounts for 2020 and beyond.

In 2019, President Moon Jae-in visited Brunei (in March), Malaysia (in March), Cambodia (in March), the U.S. (in April), Turkmenistan (in April), Uzbekistan (in April), Kazakhstan (in April), Finland (in June), Norway (in June), Sweden (in June), Japan (in June for the G20 Osaka Summit), Thailand (in September), Myanmar (in September), Laos (in September), the U.S. (in September for the UN General Assembly), Thailand (in November for the ASEAN-related Summit Meetings), and China (in December for the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting).

(C) Economy

In 2019, the GDP growth rate was 2.0%, showing a decrease from 2.7% of the previous year. Due to factors such as falling semiconductor exports, exports stagnated in general, recording continuous decreases from December 2018 to December 2019 compared to the same period of the previous year. The total amount of exports decreased 10.4% year-on-year to approximately 542.2 billion US dollars, while the total amount of imports decreased 6.0% year-on-year to approximately 503.3 billion US dollars, resulting in a trade surplus of approximately 38.9 billion US dollars (figures published by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy).

As for domestic economic policies, the Moon Jae-in administration inaugurated in May 2017 has stressed the importance of “income-led growth” and “an employment-centered economy” revolving around people. It has significantly increased the minimum wage for two consecutive years to 7,530 won in 2018 (up 16.4% year-on-year) and to 8,350 won in 2019 (up 10.9% year-on-year). However, such sharp rises drew growing criticisms for causing job losses and more. In July 2019, the administration announced that the minimum wage in 2020 would be 8,590 won (up 2.9% year-on-year). In March 2018, the Labor Standards Act was revised, shortening maximum weekly work hours from 68 hours to 52 hours from July 2018 (to be applied to companies with five to 299 employees; excludes companies with fewer than five employees). In recent years, the ROK has had a rapidly declining birthrate and aging population. In 2018, the total fertility rate was 0.98 children per woman, recording less than 1.00 for the first time, making the declining birthrate issue all the more serious.