Daily Israel Report

Intelligence Sharing With Japanese Too Sensitive For Korea

The painful wounds of the past and the election campaign of the present have temporarily sidetracked a Japanese-South Korean treaty.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 7/2/2012, 5:31 AM

Korean President Lee
Korean President Lee
Reuters

It was an agreement that went too far and did not get anywheer. Although it specified only intelligence sharing, the fear that this first step in overt Japanese-South Korean military cooperation would lead to a more intense relationship, postponed the signing of a treaty on Friday.

Opponents continued to cite the Japanese occupation of Korea, the territorial dispute over small volcanic islands between the two countries and the lack of Japanese repentance for the wrongs it committed against Korea.

There was also fear that South Korea, by signing an agreement with Japan, was effectively completing the triangle of relations.  The United States is a partner to both Tokyo and Seoul in military agreements and the Americans wanted the third leg of the triangle stabilized.

The Japanese were getting the better part of the bargain, wrote the Korea Times that opposes the treaty.  

'South Korea has abundant and valuable human intelligence (humint) about North Korea to give to Japan, while Tokyo has not much signal intelligence (sigint) about Pyongyang that Washington doesn’t have."

Additionally, South Korea had to take note of the hostile Chinese reaction, argued the Korea Times:

No less questionable is why Korea, a peninsular country unlike the island nation of Japan, should unequivocally commit itself as part of an oceanic force at the risk of antagonizing a continental force. Wouldn’t it be best if the Korean Peninsula plays the role of a bridge that facilitates communication and cooperation? Is this because history repeats itself or Koreans have too short a memory span?

The issue has become enmeshed in the run-up to the presidential election in December. The opposition Democratic United Party accused the government of being in Washington and Tokyo's pocket, saying “When the Lee Myung-bak government started out, it was pro-American to the bone, and as it nears the end of its term, it is proving pro-Japanese to the bone,”

The government backed down and postponed the signing of the treaty.

One major force behind the change in policy was the presidential candidate of the ruling New Frontier Party, Park Geun Hye. She is the daughter of Park Chung Hee, the authoritarian ruler who presided over Korea's industrial revolution until his assassination. Park the father was a member of the puppet pro-Japanese Korean army under the occupation. In power, he was willing to extend forgiveness to Japan in exchange for Japanese investment and technological transfers.

This heritage is raised frequently against Ms. Park and she did not want her party saddled with another reminder of the Japanese connection by having the treaty go through