Japanese Foreign Ministry Re-Writes Description of Korea on Website

kpopluv, March 5, 2015, 9:52 a.m.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry has deleted from its website a description of Korea as an "important neighbor sharing the basic values of liberty, democracy and market economy."   The website now describes Korea more drily as the "most important neighboring country" -- a move perhaps prompted by ongoing conflicts amid Tokyo's lurch to the far right.

Diplomatic tension is high due to Tokyo’s repeated territorial claim to Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo, and persistent attempts to whitewash wartime atrocities including sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II.  The old description was used by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last year. But in February he used the new formula. 

The Asahi Shimbun quoted a Japanese government official as saying Tokyo "distrusts" Korea's legal system and society following Seoul's dubious decision to indict Tatsuya Kato, the ex-Seoul bureau chief of the Sankei Shimbun, for "defaming" President Park Geun-hye.  But Jin Chang-soo at the Sejong Institute said the new phrasing probably has nothing to do with the case but reflects Tokyo's general "discontent." 

"What is more important is that this discontent is the consensus view within the Japanese government," Jin added.   Comments by Japanese Foreign Ministry officials support this view.  Takako Ito, a ministry spokesman, refused to comment the new phrasing but added that it was "not the decision of a minority group" within the ministry.  Another ministry official said Tokyo is "frustrated" by Seoul. 

But a Japanese Embassy official here said, "Korea is in every way the most important neighbor" and vowed to strive to build a "future-oriented relationship."   The Japanese Foreign Ministry has been updating its website approximately every two months and has rarely made significant revisions to the description of Korea before. 

Cheong Wa Dae did not issue an immediate response, and a Foreign Ministry official said it was "inappropriate" for Seoul to comment. "We will continue to monitor developments and examine what led to the deletion," he added. 

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