S. Koreans criticize Japan’s ‘whitelist’ decision, urge active gov’t response

SEOUL, South Korean citizens and civic groups on Friday condemned Japan's decision to remove their country of a list of trusted trading partners, calling on the Korean government to take an active step to tackle the trade row.

Earlier in the day, Japan's Cabinet approved a proposal to strip South Korea from the whitelist of countries subject to preferential trade status, following its July 4 imposition of export curbs of hightech materials against the South over a historical issue.

Park Jeongeun, secretarygeneral of the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a Seoulbased civic group, said that Japan appears to have reset its ties with Seoul with the economic retaliation.

Despite thorny issues in their shared history, Seoul and Tokyo have closely developed economic ties and sought trilateral security cooperation involving the United States. Friday's decision signals that Japan will not walk that way, Park added.

A network of 682 local activist groups, including the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), a militant umbrella labor union, also denounced Tokyo's latest measure.

Withdrawing South Korea from its 'whitelist' is an additional attack, they said in a press conference held in front of Japan's embassy in downtown Seoul. Japan's move is aimed at militarizing the country and reveals its desire to keep South Korea down, without historical reflections on its past aggression and colonization. That also runs counter to the peace regime in Northeast Asia.

Ordinary South Koreans expressed anger at Japan's economic retaliatory measures over last year's Korean court rulings over Tokyo's wartime forced labor.

It is deplorable that our neighboring country Japan is taking a different path from Germany, which apologized for its wartime wrongdoings, said an office worker in his 30s, who only identified himself by his surname Park.

I plan to participate in a boycott of Japanese goods more aggressively. I am already not buying Japanese beer and other stuff, he added.

A 23yearold college student, who gave only his surname Yoon, stressed the need for the Korean economy to find ways to reduce its reliance on imports of Japanese parts and materials over the long haul.

We need to explore a longterm plan to reduce heavy dependence on the Japanese economy, not just shortterm supportive measures to conglomerates, he said.

Others also called for the government's diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue, stressing antiJapanese sentiment does not help.

To prevent the SeoulTokyo ties from spiraling out of control, President (Moon Jaein) and the government should be more active, said Park Inhwan, cohead of the Citizens United for Better Society.

Source: Yonhap news Agency

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