Disputed deals with Japan could be discarded

By Rachel Lee

Calls are expected to mount for reconsideration of former President Park Geun-hye’s controversial policies following her removal from power, Friday.

They include the county’s sex slavery deal with Japan, which has drawn strong protests from victims.

In accordance with the agreement in 2015 to resolve disputes over Tokyo’s sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II, Japan offered 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) to give aid to the surviving victims of wartime sex slavery. But it still has faced strong objections from opposition parties and civic groups, arguing that Tokyo has yet to offer a sincere apology for its wrongdoings conducted during the 1910-1945 colonial rule of Korea.

The country’s leading presidential contenders, including Moon Jae-in from the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) and Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung, have called for a reassessment of the accord.

The General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Tokyo is one of the Park administration’s key policies that is likely to be reviewed.

The military intelligence-sharing pact — signed in November last year — has stirred up a strong backlash from opposition parties and civic groups, who accused the Park government of pushing for it despite the then growing calls for Park to step aside from all state affairs due to the corruption scandal involving Park and her long-time friend Choi Soon-sil.

They also blamed the current government for unilaterally striking the deal without considering public sentiment against Japan’s unrepentant views towards its atrocities before and during World War II. Seoul and Tokyo resumed the controversial talks in November last year after a four-year hiatus, and it took less than a month to conclude the deal.

The Park government’s controversial state-authored history textbooks for middle and high schools could also be abolished.

The “right-leaning” textbooks have faced fierce opposition from liberal historians for containing definitions and interpretations of historical events skewed in favor of conservatives.

An official from the main opposition DPK said the abolition of the book will be a “top priority for the new education minister under the new government,” considering a high possibility of the opposition bloc taking power. The opposition parties expect the textbook to be scrapped within three months after the early presidential election.

The reopening of an industrial park that was jointly run with North Korea may be reconsidered.

Park’s government closed the Gaeseong complex last year following a nuclear test and long-range rocket launch by the North.

The Constitutional Court upheld a parliamentary vote to impeach Park over the scandal, Friday, leading to an early presidential election, likely to be on May 9.

Park was found to have broken the law by allowing her friend Choi to meddle in state affairs, thus breaching rules on public servants’ activities. “Park’s breaching of the constitution and the laws betrayed the trust of the people,” said Constitutional Court chief justice Lee Jung-Mi, describing her actions as “a serious and unacceptable violation of the laws.”

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