Korean gov’t will not ask Japan to Resume Currency Swap Talks

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The Korean government said recently it will not ask Japan to resume bilateral currency swap talks. Tokyo put the talks on hold as part a “diplomatic retaliation” for the placing of a “comfort woman” statue in front of the Japanese consulate in Busan, symbolizing Japan’s wartime sexual slavery.

Deputy Minister of Strategy and Finance Song Inchang said in a press conference that there would be “no big impact regarding the halt of the Korea-Japan currency swap talks,” although the government “will open channels for discussion, but will not ask the Japanese to resume the talks.” “We regret Tokyo’s move regarding the statue. We believe politics and economics should be handled separately.”

The two neighbors have been haggling over resuming a swap deal of their currencies since last year. The bilateral currency swap began in 2001 at $2 billion and increased rapidly to peak at $70 billion in 2011. However, the volume shrank after former President Lee Myung-bak’s visit to the Dokdo islets in 2012 and expired in February 2015.

Dokdo is Korea’s easternmost territory but Japan also claims sovereignty of the volcanic out crop. In August last year, the two countries agreed to resume talks over the swap, but earlier this month Japan placed the talks on hold after civic activists erected the statue in December last year.

A currency swap is an arrangement between two countries to exchange one currency for another at a specific rate of exchange in a bid to use the more powerful currency to soothe volatility in the market.

A currency swap between Seoul and Tokyo has been widely accepted as beneficial to countries. Korea could have an additional safety net to brace for emergencies, while Japan could use the deal to lift the international image of its currency.

201702e_%ed%8e%98%ec%9d%b4%ec%a7%80_52_03Meanwhile, Song said the government is seeking to extend a swap deal with China, which expires in October this year. In March last year, Korea and China agreed to extend their swap deal “in principle.” However, with Seoul’s decision to deploy a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery on its soil, uncertainties still linger over the extension.

“It is true that there are uncertainties including political issues,” Song said. “Due to the uncertainties, it is difficult to predict what’s going to happen.” Korea and China signed a swap deal in 2009 and extended it twice. The volume of the deal reached $56 billion, which accounts for 51.4 percent of all swap deals Korea has inked with other countries.

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