After the decision of Japan to exclude South Korea from its so-called ‘White List’ of trustworthy trade allies, both the countries now apparently are headed for a lasting standoff. Without passing any judgment about which party is right in the underlying dispute, the disparate response of Japan of applying pressure through its economic relationship with South Korea has elevated the risk of a never-ending standoff.
Supposedly, the row between South Korea and Japan is about export control regime of Seoul to stop the goods from Japan with likely military applications from being exported again to the countries like North Korea.
According to Japan’s statements, it has lost its trust in South Korea and therefore accused it of not doing preventions in the export of sensitive materials to North Korea on 5 distinct occasions as from 2004.
If this turns out to be a true case, then this would be a technical issue, which is something that can be fixed with the help of consultations between the 2 countries.
However, these are what the justifications are given by Japan, whereas, the underlying reasons over the tightened export regulations is the use of forced labor during the Second World War and its colonization of South Korea. In the past year, the South Korea Supreme Court ruled that the Japanese firms which used South Korean forced labor were accountable for compensation to the victims.
On the other hand, Japan has completely opposed this ruling. Taro Kono, Foreign Minister has called a court ruling of November 2018 “totally unacceptable and extremely regrettable,” while proposing that this ruling overturned the legal grounds of the relationship between Japan and South Korea. More broadly, Japan has contended that the 1965 treaty which stabilized relations provided compensation for the use of forced labor and hence this issue was resolved.