| An employee of a Korean food company who works in Japan as a sales employee is irritated these days. Sales plummeted after former President Lee Myung-bak visited Dokdo in August last year, and are showing no signs of rebound. He reported to Seoul headquarters that "Japanese people are annoyed. They don`t buy Korean food. Distribution companies are canceling Korean product fairs." What he got as reply was, however, "A year has passed since the Dokdo incident. That is no excuse."
An employee at a financial institution who has been dispatched to Japan for the fourth time is breathing a sigh of relief. Korean restaurants at Shinokubo in Tokyo have seen the number of customers plunge in the wake of the Dodko incident. As a result, Korean owners are fleeing unable to pay bank loans. He said, "One consolation is that we applied tighter screening and cut lending. Korea-Japan relations are in the worst situation."
A Korean living in Japan had been in the forefront in raising human rights of Koreans in Japan, but is in a silent mood these days. Living in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, he had filed a lawsuit against the city a few years ago protesting that Koreans living in Japan can`t apply as civil servant certification exam. Some 2,000 Koreans living there also remain silent, because of fear of being attacked by right-wing people if they say words like "human rights" and "discrimination." He said, "Korean people living in Japan are suffering the most from souring Korea-Japan relations."
An owner of a small and mid-sized company in Osaka is agonizing over whether to move the China factory to Korea. In the wake of Chinese people`s violent protests amid the Senkaku Island disputes last year, he was almost determined to relocate the plant to Korea, but souring Korea-Japan relations made him reconsider. He said, "Many other Japanese entrepreneurs are worried about investing in Korea."
The aforementioned four cases are just a part of a severe situation since Korea-Japan relationship started to sour in the second half of last year. Korean President Park Geun-hye is demanding Japan to admit its historical mistakes, but Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe not only ignores Japan`s past invasion errors, but also does not mind committing fraudulent acts and glorification of the invasion, in order to embrace the country`s conservative forces who are his supporters. There has been no sign of improvement in the two countries` relations.
While enhancing diplomatic relations is a long-term goal, Korea needs to carry out a strategic and wise diplomacy to ease pain suffered by Koreans living in Japan. Announcing import ban on Japanese fisheries products at this time around may not be a wise choice.
Korea`s import ban announcement came two days before the voting of 2020 summer Olympic Games host country. Many Japanese people believe Korea intended to interfere with Japan winning the vote. If Japan failed to become host country, Japan might have blamed Korea.
The Strategy and Finance Ministry announces major financial measures on Fridays or Saturdays to reduce possible shocks on financial markets. Even though Japan failed to abide by international standards, and acted in a detestable manner with historical disputes, a small regard by adjusting announcing plans that could have negative impact on the country could pave the way for improving diplomatic relations. This could have eased some suffering of Koreans doing business in Japan or those living there.