Korea Came Close to Severing Ties With Japan in 1974

    January 20, 2005 19:45

    Japanese special envoy Shiina Etsusaburo (center), who had come to Korea to apologize for Moon Se-kwang's assassination attempt on President Park Chung-hee, bows to President Park at Cheong Wa Dae on Sept. 19, 1974. Japanese Ambassador to Korea Ushiroku Tarao (left) stares at the ground with his hands neatly folded/Chosun Ilbo DB
    Korea Came Close to Severing Ties With Japan in 1974

    A 1974 assassination attempt on then president Park Chung-hee stretched ties between Korea and Japan to breaking point, diplomatic papers declassified Thursday show. Relations between the two countries reached their worst crisis since diplomatic ties were re-established nine years earlier, with Seoul threatening to break off relations with Tokyo and climbing down only after mediation by the United States.

    The documents record that on August 2, 1974, immediately prior to the assassination attempt, Tokyo rebuked Korea for kidnapping Kim Dae-jung, then a dissident, from Japan and including ethnic Koreans from Japan in its roundup of suspects in a supposed conspiracy to overthrow the government.

    The assassination attempt, which resulted in the death of the first lady, fueled the flames of disagreement, with missives flying back and forth between Tokyo and Seoul.
    Seoul aggressively called for Japan to investigate ties between assassin Moon Se-kwang and the pro-Pyongyang Japanese-Korean group Jochongnyeon.

    Then Korean ambassador to Japan Kim Yeong-seon made hardline demands, including requesting a letter on the incident -- the contents of which were to be approved by the Koreans ahead of time -- signed by Japanese Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei and delivered directly by a special envoy. A diplomatic document from Sept. 9, 1974 revealed that Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil even demanded the special envoy be former Prime Minister Sato Eisaku.

    Moon Se-kwang, the suspected assassin of former president Park Chung-hee’s wife Yook Young-soo, enters a court room on the first day of his trial on October 7, 1974.

    Japan resisted in particular demands to deal with Jochongnyeon, a group Japanese domestic law made it difficult to control, according to the then bureau chief of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asia desk.

    The Korean envoy to the U.S. Park Geun then asked the U.S. State Department to exercise its influence on Japan but was told Washington had done what it could. The U.S. asked Korea to accept the Japanese position, explaining that defending South Korea would grow difficult if relations between Seoul and Tokyo were to break. The U.S. also advised Korean foreign minister Kim Dong-jo to patch up relations with Japan saying that only North Korea would benefit from a deterioration in Korea-Japan ties.

    In the end, the two countries agreed on Sept. 17 to a five-point letter signed by Prime Minister Tanaka in which Tokyo took a certain amount of responsibility for the attempted assassination and promised what it could to crack down on anti-South Korean groups in Japan.

    (Lee Ha-won, may2@chosun.com)
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