It's been a year since the Japanese government slapped export restrictions on three key materials for IT products needed by South Korea's biggest tech companies.
Tokyo then removed Seoul from its list of trusted trade partners.
The move came after South Korea's top court ordered Japanese firms to compensate the Korean wartime victims of forced labor.
Since then, tension and tit-for-tat moves have severely strained bilateral ties with low prospects for any significant improvement in the foreseeable future.
Today, we discuss how the bilateral relationship has fared over the past year, and where it's heading with Kim Byung-joo, Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul and Nancy SNOW, Distinguished Professor of Public Diplomacy at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies.
KIM: It's been a year since Japan imposed export curbs on South Korea companies. Three key materials needed for South Korea's main cash cows displays and semiconductors. What impact have the restrictions had on South Korean firms over the past twelve months?
SNOW: South Korea took reciprocal action and removed Japan from its own whitelist, and there were boycotts against Japanese-made goods. How much impact has the trade spat had on Japan?
KIM: Japan said it will start an anti-dumping probe into potassium carbonate imports from South Korea. It appears to be a response to a South Korean court's plans to liquidize the assets of Japanese firms in the country which were involved in forced labor to compensate the victims. Do you see the situation escalating? And what do you think is the strongest measure Japan could take against South Korea?
SNOW: Abe's popularity has dropped 11 points over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. How is he faring in the leadership race and what alternatives are there to Abe in Japanese politics?
SNOW, KIM: Do you think Abe will continue hitting out at South Korea amid his domestic struggles especially at multilateral bodies like the G7 summit?
KIM: For now, South Korea has been pushing to reopen a WTO panel to settle the dispute. The WTO says it will decide on it this month. If the panel reopens, how would the settlement play out?
SNOW, KIM: The dispute arose from a much deeper, more complicated historical context. And the process of resolving the issues has been politicized by both sides. What is the first rational step the two countries should take to come to a compromise?
We're going to have to wrap up the discussion here but it's been very insightful. Kim Byoung-joo, Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, and Nancy SNOW, Distinguished Professor of Public Diplomacy at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies