On July 31 and August 1, 2019, Korea-Japan Joint Seminar: FUTURE CONSENSUS DIALOGUE was held in Tokyo with the participation of Diet members and experts from Japan and South Korea. It was co-sponsored by the South Korean policy think "Yeosijae" (Future Consensus Institute), the Renewable Energy Institute (REI), and the Society of Security and Diplomatic Policy Studies (SSDP) chaired by the author of this article.

Since its establishment three years ago, the Yeosijae has held an international conference in South Korea every year to promote its "Butterfly Project" which aims at creating a framework of cooperation for economic development in Northeast Asia. However, the Japan-South Korea relationship, on which the promotion of this project depends heavily, has recently worsened to an unprecedented extent. With the restructuring of the bilateral relationship in mind, the co-sponsors organized the Joint Seminar to take place in Tokyo, with the participation of Diet members from both countries and of US experts who strongly call for cooperation between Japan and South Korea. In July this year, the bilateral relationship faced the worst-ever situation, but the Joint Seminar was held as scheduled.

The sub-theme of the conference was "Sustainable Prosperity and Future of Korea-U.S.-Japan Cooperation," and session themes were "Northeast Asia Cooperation through the Butterfly Project," "Political Challenges in Northeast Asia and Proposals for the Future," "The Future of Northeast Asia - Energy Cooperation," and "The Future of Financial Cooperation in Northeast Asia." In the session on "Political Challenges in Northeast Asia and Proposals for the Future," participants discussed the Japan-South Korea relationship frankly and directly. Both countries' politicians took the lead in exchanging frank opinions and in working out recommendations to break through the current situation.

The Japanese Diet members who attended the Joint Seminar included Shigeru Ishiba, Seishiro Eto, Yoshimasa Hayashi, Masatoshi Akimoto, Masaaki Taira, Akihisa Nagashima, Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, Rui Matsukawa, and Keiro Kitagami (former lawmaker). The roster of the South Korean delegation contained the names of politicians such as Kim Boo-kyum, Kim Young-choon, Kim Se-yeon, Kim Kwan-young, Won Hee-ryong, Lee Jae-Young (former lawmaker) and Lee Kwang-Jae (former state governor). Furthermore, two people participated from the United States: Marc Knapper, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Korea and Japan, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, US Department of State, and Frank Jannuzi, President and CEO, Mansfield Foundation.

The Japan-South Korea relationship, particularly on inter-governmental level, is in the worst state since the end of WWII. Consensus, however, has been reached among participants on the necessity of continuing exchanges between Diet members, expert-level dialogues, and private-sector dialogues.

Report of the dialogue is put on ‘Topics' in the SSDP homepage.

This autumn, the fourth FUTURE CONSENSUS DIALOGUE will be held in South Korea. Japan plans to send experts to the conference from political, governmental and academic circles.

(Masahiro Akiyama, SSDP Chairman)

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