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Ruling party, main opposition spar over diplomatic approach to Tokyo’s trade restrictions

The ongoing dispute between the ruling Democratic Party of Korea and the main opposition Liberty Korea Party on Tuesday spilled over to the government’s diplomatic approach in handling trade restrictions by Japan.

The fresh round of tit-for-tat came a day after the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee passed a resolution pressing Tokyo to retract trade measures imposed on three key tech materials vital for Korean tech businesses.

Stepping up criticism against the conservative party for being “pro-Japan,” Democratic Party Floor Leader Lee In-young said, “I ask Liberty Korea Party to not ‘team kill’ by taking a submissive stance toward Japan and an aggressive attitude toward the government.”

“It is as though our country would fall apart if we counter Japan’s irrational moves with fair diplomacy. It is difficult to understand how developing our own technology to deal with Japan’s economic retaliation is isolationism,” Lee added at a party meeting on Tuesday morning.

Liberty Korea Party Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn had criticized the Moon Jae-in government’s response to Japan’s export regulations as “no different from the isolationist policy of the late Joseon that led the country to collapse.”

Democratic Party of Korea Floor Leader Lee In-young speaks at a party meeting on Tuesday morning. (Yonhap)
Democratic Party of Korea Floor Leader Lee In-young speaks at a party meeting on Tuesday morning. (Yonhap)

Seeking to brush off criticism about the party’s stance, the main opposition’s Floor Leader Na Kyung-won said the ruling party “should stop childish politics of obsessively using the immature pro-Japan frame (against the opposition) and face reality.”

Na questioned the Moon government’s call to “out win Japan” and how it plans to do so.

“We need an immediate diplomatic solution. The government has no plans to shrink the gap between the judiciary ruling and diplomacy,” Na said.

Amid the prolonged stalemate between political blocs, the National Assembly delegation slated to depart for the US later in the week to discuss the export curbs with Japanese and US counterparts may leave with an incomplete resolution.

The resolution passed at the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee on Monday has to be ratified at a plenary meeting for it to take effect.

At a meeting convened by National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang on Monday, floor leaders of the three political parties failed to set a date for a plenary meeting.

The ruling party has been calling for prompt approval of the supplementary budget, while the main opposition is pushing for its motion calling for the removal of Defense Minister Jeong Keong-doo to be put to a parliamentary vote. 

By Kim Bo-gyung (