Idea of removing Korea-Japan border checks sparks controversy

A banner board shows the schedule for flights to Japan's Osaka and Sapporo at Incheon International Airport in this Dec. 22 photo. Yonhap

Controversy is growing over a senior Korean foreign ministry official’s idea of allowing Korean and Japanese nationals to visit each other’s countries without passports as part of efforts to promote bilateral exchanges.The foreign ministry clarified that this was a personal suggestion by the official and emphasized that there are no ongoing discussions between Seoul and Tokyo on this matter. However, the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) has already raised concerns about the idea, insisting that Japan should first issue proper apologies regarding historical disputes between the two countries.During a press conference with reporters on April 26, the senior official said the relations between Korea and Japan have dramatically improved recently, and the upcoming 60th anniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic ties next year will be a good opportunity to upgrade their ties further.“With the two countries having such good relations, requiring passports for travelers visiting each other seems like nonsense,” the official said, citing some European nations allowing passport-free travel between each other.“If passport-free travel is impossible, we can at least simplify the immigration process. This idea is gaining favorable responses within Japan as well.”

The official’s idea is equivalent to the European Union’s Schengen Agreement, which abolished border checks at the signatory countries’ common borders. After being signed in 1985, now 29 nations comprise the Schengen Area, guaranteeing free movement to EU citizens, non-EU nationals living in the EU and those visiting the EU as tourists.Business lobby groups, including the Federation of Korean Industries, have for years been proposing passport- or visa-free travel between Seoul and Tokyo to promote exchanges between the two countries. However, this has not been realized as the two countries’ diplomatic relations remained at their lowest ebb until recent years.Last year, Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida dramatically improved bilateral relations through a series of summits, after Seoul’s announcement that it would compensate the South Korean victims of Japan’s wartime forced labor on its own without involving Japanese firms, though Japan did not offer proper apologies for the forced labor issue.In doing so, the exchanges between the two countries also improved. Last year, the neighboring countries were each other’s most popular tourist destinations, with 6.98 million Koreans visiting Japan and 2.32 Japanese visiting 온라인카지노 Korea.

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