Regarding Japan’s Removal of Korea from Its Whitelist of Trading Partners
This Cabinet Meeting has been urgently convened to respond to the diplomatic and economic emergency situation.
This morning, the Japanese Government decided to remove Korea from its so called whitelist countries. This is a very reckless decision that rebuffs the diplomatic efforts to resolve the problem and further exacerbates the situation. I express profound regret.
Ultimately, the Japanese Government dismissed the Korean Government’s proposal to put our heads together to solve the problem diplomatically and our warning not to go down a dead-end path. It did not even accept the United States’ suggestion that both countries set a specific deadline to provide time for negotiations and prevent the current situation from deteriorating further.
It’s become obvious that the Japanese Government is responsible for having made the situation worse by ignoring the Korean Government and the international community’s efforts to diplomatically resolve the issue. Accordingly, I unequivocally warn that the Japanese Government will be entirely held accountable for what will unfold going forward.
No matter what pretexts are given, the Japanese Government’s decision is undeniable trade retaliation against our Supreme Court’s rulings on Korean victims of forced labor during colonial rule. Japan’s action also violates such universal human values as the prohibition of forced labor and support for democracy based on separation of powers, as well as broad principles of international law. The Japanese Government through its action is refuting the free trade order it championed at the G20 Summit. In addition, the action contradicts the Japanese Government’s own stance expressed in the past that individual victims' right to claim damages had never been waived.
What we take even more seriously is the fact that these moves by the Japanese Government carry the clear intention to attack and hurt our economy by impeding our future economic growth. It is truly disappointing and regrettable that Japan, which has been regarded as our closest neighbor and friend, has taken such measures.
The step taken by Japan today is something that impairs the longstanding economic cooperation and friendly partnership between our two countries, posing a grave challenge to the bilateral relationship. Moreover, it is a selfish, destructive act that will cripple the global supply chain and wreak havoc on the global economy. It is sure to draw condemnation from the international community.
Japan’s measure will add even more difficulties to our economy under these severe circumstances. However, we will never again lose to Japan. We have come this far today by overcoming countless hardships. Considerable travails are expected, but our businesses and people have the ability to rise above those challenges. Just as we have always done in the past, we will in fact turn adversities into opportunities to leap forward.
The Government will provide assistance in every way possible to minimize damage to businesses, including by securing alternative import sources for materials and parts and building stockpiles, adopting original technologies, developing technology for localized production and providing financial support to build new factories and expand existing ones. Taking it a step further, the Government will use this situation as an opportunity to ensure that the country will never again be subjected to technological hegemony by helping raise the competitiveness of our materials and parts industries and also to strengthen Korea’s position as a manufacturing powerhouse further still.
We can achieve these goals sufficiently if the Government and businesses, conglomerates and SMEs, labor and management and all the people join forces. I appeal to the public to have trust in the capabilities of the Government and our businesses, have confidence and come together.
On the other hand, although it is something we never hoped for, the Korean Government will resolutely take corresponding measures in response to Japan’s unjustifiable economic retaliatory measures.
If Japan-even though it has great economic strength-attempts to harm our economy, the Korean Government also has countermeasures with which to respond. We will never overlook such circumstances where Japan, the instigator of these wrongs, is turning on us. We will step up our responses in a phased manner according to the measures taken by the Japanese Government.
As we have already warned, if Japan intentionally strikes at our economy, Japan itself will also have to bear significant damage.
Even at this moment, the Korean Government does not want a vicious cycle of tit-for-tat. There is only one way to stop this. The Japanese Government must withdraw its unilateral and unwarranted measures as soon as possible and take a path toward dialogue.
There are deep wounds between Korea and Japan due to our unfortunate history. However, our two countries have long endeavored to heal the wounds by using stitches, medicine and bandages. Nonetheless, if Japan, the aggressor, reopens the old wounds after so long, an international community aware of the facts will never tolerate it. Japan must squarely face up to this.
Let me also speak to my fellow Korean people: This year in particular, we committed ourselves to another 100 years while commemorating the centennial of the March First Independence Movement and the establishment of the Provisional Republic of Korea Government.
The old order in which one country can dominate another by using force is merely a relic of the past. The Republic of Korea today is not the Republic of Korea of the past. The people’s capacity for democracy is among the best in the world, and our economy has grown beyond comparison. We have the potential to fully overcome any difficulty. There may be hardships in the immediate future. However, if we succumb to challenges, history will repeat itself. If we take the current challenges as an opportunity instead and turn them into a chance to make a new economic leap, we can fully triumph over Japan. Our economy can surpass Japan's.
There is a saying that there are shortcuts in history but no omissions. This is a mountain that we must eventually cross. If we stand still at this time, we will never be able to move beyond the mountain. The Government will lead the way, believing in the great power of the people. We will create the history of prevailing over challenges once more together with the people. We can do it. I urge all government ministries and agencies to work with extraordinary determination to stand beside businesses as they brace for hardships.