The Korea Herald


Yoon estrangement with China hurting economy: opposition head

By Kim Arin

Published : June 19, 2023 - 16:09

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Democratic Party of Korea leader Rep. Lee Jae-myung addresses the National Assembly on Monday. (Yonhap) Democratic Party of Korea leader Rep. Lee Jae-myung addresses the National Assembly on Monday. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol aligning with the US and Japan while shifting away from China was exacting a toll on the country’s economy, the leader of the political opposition said Monday.

Addressing the National Assembly plenary session, the main opposition party leader said ties with China “have gone downhill” since Yoon took office, accusing the president of “having given up on diplomacy.”

“We used to have the largest trade surplus with China. The president’s tough line against China has cost us 15 consecutive months of trade deficits,” he said.

“For stabilization and recovery of the economy, we must build supply chains with China once again.”

The opposition leader said there were a “myriad of issues” South Korea could be addressing together with China. One of them was the country’s response to Japan’s plan to release wastewater stored at the now-defunct Fukushima nuclear power plant.

He called the water -- which the Japanese government said would be treated and diluted -- “nuclear waste” and that releasing it into the ocean an “act of terrorism.” For South Koreans in the fishing industry, the water’s discharge was “a death sentence,” he said.

He added that Yoon “took away” the chance for Japan to apologize for forced labor and other atrocities dating back to Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. “Eighty years on, Japan is still refusing to apologize or even acknowledge the historical facts,” he said.

At a June 8 dinner meeting with Chinese ambassador to Seoul, Xing Haiming, Lee called for South Korea and China to join efforts in countering the Fukushima water release plan.

He came under fire for echoing Xing’s criticism of the South Korean president for supposedly “deteriorating relations” with Beijing. The Democratic Party head, deviating from Yoon’s stance on Taiwan, also said South Korea supported China’s “One China” policy.