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Yoon deserves Nobel Peace Prize for resolving historical issues with Japan: Campbell

April 25, 2024 - 14:23 By Son Ji-hyoung
Japanese first lady Yuko Kishida (from left), Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and South Korean first lady Kim Keon Hee wave hands as Kishida visited Seoul's presidential office in May 2023. (Presidential office)

Kurt Campbell, deputy secretary of state for the United States, lauded President Yoon Suk Yeol's effort to settle the historical conflicts with Japan and mend bilateral ties, which paved the way for the three-way relationship of Seoul, Washington and Tokyo as enshrined in the Camp David summit in August.

Campbell, formerly the White House's top Asia aide in the Joe Biden administration, stressed the role of Yoon and Kishida in overcoming the plight of Japan's atrocities toward South Koreans in the past, and in addressing volatilities in the Indo-Pacific region, specifically from North Korea.

In this regard, Campbell said the two leaders of the East Asian countries deserve a "joint award" of the Nobel Peace Prize, given the gravity of Seoul and Tokyo's accomplishments.

"I think there’s no small part of political courage involved," Campbell said in a forum hosted by the Washington-based think tank Hudson Institute on Wednesday.

"If you look at all the various awards of the Nobel Peace Prize, there are some wonderful organizations on landmines and a variety of things. ... If you asked me honestly who deserves the award for really doing something that could make a huge difference on the global stage, I would say that should be a joint award between Kishida and Yoon," Campbell also said.

Yoon's declaration in March 2023 to improve ties with Japan by leaving the history in the past, could be seen as remarkable, Campbell added, because overcoming historical issues is "incredibly difficult" due to interest groups and political groups in both countries "that are determined not to see that improvement or at least on current terms."

"That’s how important the undertip was," Campbell said.

South Korea has had one Nobel Peace Prize laureate, namely late former president Kim Dae-jung. Kim was awarded in 2000 for his role in reconciliation between the two Koreas, leaving behind the past decades of confrontation on the Korean Peninsula after the Korean War in 1950-53.

During the forum, Campbell said that the three countries should remain committed to "building habits of cooperation" to further develop the trilateral relationship.

Campbell also said he was confident that the liberal opposition parties in Korea would "take the necessary steps to continue to build on this."

He was apparently referring to the Democratic Party of Korea, which has long been a critic of the conservative Yoon administration's gestures, such as establishing a fund backed by South Korean entities to compensate for forced labor victims during Japan's colonization of South Korea in 1910-45 and failing to protest Japan's plan to release nuclear-contaminated water on the sea from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant, among others.