China and South Korea have historical foundation for friendship: expert

The relationship between South Korea and China is expected to get back on track regardless of the deployment of an American-built anti-missile system in South Korea, which soured the two neighbors' relations, said an expert.

Rhee Sang-gi, president of the Korea-China Regional Economic Association, made the remarks during a recent interview with, as South Korean President Moon Jae-in was in China on a state visit to repair the bilateral ties impaired by the deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system (THAAD).

Rhee said that President Moon's tour of the western city of Chongqing during his China visit, the first since he took power as South Korea's top leader, shows a historical significance because South Korea's government-in-exile was once based there.

In Rhee's opinion, President Moon wants to use the Chongqing visit to send a message that South Korea and China have traditional friendship. And the significance of the message would be amplified specially at a time when the interests of many South Korean companies have been harmed by the installment of the controversial THAAD defense system.

In September, South Korean retail giant Lotte Group announced the decision to sell its money-losing Lotte Mart supermarkets in China. Lotte Group became a target of criticism in China after it sold a golf course in the southern South Korean county of Seongju for use as the deployment site of the THAAD defense system in a land swap deal with South Korea's defense ministry in late February.

South Korea's automobile industry, a major pillar of the country's economy, also took a hit in Beijing's boycott of South Korea's companies doing business in China since Seoul decided to introduce the THAAD defense system, with Hyundai Motor suffering from a sales slump this year. In July, Hyundai Motor set up a plant in Chongqing in attempt to right the ship in China.

Chongqing is located in the intersection of the Belt and Road and China's Yangtze River economic zone, and President Moon's visit to the city means that he wants his country to join the Beijing-led Belt and Road Initiative to strengthen the two countries' economic cooperation, according to Rhee.

The South Korean expert also said that the large base of South Korean students studying in China lays the foundation of the friendship between the two neighbors, as reflected in the fact that many South Korean students studying overseas voted for Moon in the presidential election, who is considered as a progressive politician. After Moon took office, the president made great efforts to mend fences, said Rhee.

When talking about the escalated tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the South Korean expert said that Seoul would increase the defense spending by 7 percent next year, a move that can be seen as a direct response to North Korea's nuclear provocations. While Beijing and Washington will never recognize North Korea as a nuclear country, President Moon has persistently called for a peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue in order to avoid a war, the South Korean expert said.

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