Strain in Seoul-Beijing
The relations between Seoul and Beijing, which marked
the 12th anniversary of their establishment Tuesday, are now undergoing a bitter
test because of China¡¯s misrepresentation of the history of the ancient Korean
kingdom of Koguryo. Despite Seoul¡¯s intensive efforts, the issue will be hardly
resolved to the satisfaction of our government due to Beijing¡¯s intransigent
stance amidst its growing nationalism.
The consequence may be the serious erosion of the bilateral relationship,
which has developed remarkably politically, diplomatically andeconomically over
the past 12 years.
China has now emerged as our largest trading partner, replacing theUnited
States, and our biggest source of investment abroad. Last year, bilateral trade
amounted to $57 billion, registering a whopping 8.7-fold increase from the $6.4
billion of 1992. Two-way trade volumeis expected to exceed $100 billion next
year, three years ahead of initial projections.
Without doubt, China is the chief mediator in the nuclear standoff between
North Korea and the U.S. as it is endeavoring to settle the issue peacefully in
the framework of the six-way dialogs, which alsoinvolves Seoul, Tokyo and
Moscow. Beijing is also cooperating with Seoul in helping North Korean defectors
find shelter in the South, even to the extent of risking its relations with
The historical dispute has recently escalated, following the Chinese
Ministry¡¯s deletion from its website of all details of Korean history before the
foundation of the republic in 1948. This was the Chinese state agency¡¯s response
to Seoul¡¯s request that it restore the content concerning Koguryo (37 B.C.- A.D.
668) which it removed from the website in February. To the dismay of the Korean
people, in recent years China has systemically misrepresented the history of
Koguryo, which occupied vast areas of its northeastern region in its heyday,
asserting that the ancient kingdom is a part of its own history.
Reflecting Beijing¡¯s concerns about the negative impact of the issue on
bilateral relations, Wu Dawei, Chinese vice foreign minister for Asian affairs,
made a sudden visit to Seoul Sunday in order to patch up differences between the
two countries. The outcome of his talks with Seoul¡¯s leaders including Foreign
Minister Ban Ki-moon has been kept secret, but seems to have fallen far short of
satisfying Seoul.The real purpose of his visit was reportedly to simply soothe
Seoulin preparation for the visit of China¡¯s No. 4 leader, Jai Qinglin,tomorrow.
We sincerely hope that China immediately stops its naive behavior and takes
appropriate measures to restore the distorted history of theancient kingdom.
This would be the first step in expanding bilateralrelations based on mutual
trust and confidence between the Korean and Chinese peoples.
(Korea Times 2004-8-24)