AAS Annual Meeting

Korea Session 599

[ Korea Sessions, Table of Contents | Panels by World Area Main Menu ]

Session 599: Shadows from the Past: History, Contemporary Politics, and Korea-Japan Relations

Organizer: Ji Young Kim, University of Chicago, USA

Discussant: Walter Hatch, Colby College, USA

Although 100 years have passed since Japan formally annexed the Korean peninsula, the colonial era continues to cast a long shadow over the East Sea. (Or is it the Japan Sea?) Japan and South Korea, industrialized democracies and thus “natural” allies, continue to squabble over issues that have deep and tangled roots in the past. These disputes include the legal status of Dokdo/Takeshima, the political meaning of official visits to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, and the appropriateness of the Japanese government’s approval of history textbooks prepared by nationalists. Japan and North Korea, always rivals, are divided not only by nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles, but also by the lingering effect of previous imperial and big power policies, including those that have led to negotiated or compulsory cross-border migration. This panel, representing both younger and more established political scientists from both Japan and South Korea, considers these problems and seeks to understand how the past continues to shape the present in Korea-Japan relations.

Discovery of Disputes: Collective Memories on textbooks and Japan-South Korean Relations
Kan Kimura, Kobe University, Japan

This is a study to examine the reasons why Japan and South Korea have historical disputes through the textbook case. Between Japan and South Korea, there are still serious historical disputes. However, it does not mean that they have treated the pasts in the same way. The pasts never change once it is fixed in the history, hence, we can not explain the change by itself. Without understanding the change, we can not find the reasons of today’s disputes. One of the points here is that many issues with which we discussed were never treated seriously until the 1980s. The history textbook issue is the typical one. Although it was in 1982 when the textbooks became the focus of public attention for the first time, it does not mean that the Japanese textbooks became nationalistic in the year. Rather it was in the 1980s when the Japanese textbook started writing more and more about the pasts. Then, why was the issue about the textbook suddenly discovered in the 1980s? This study insists that changing of the historical perceptions of Korean people is one of the reasons. Until the 1970s, two countries’ textbooks shared the same basic story of their modern history. It was a legacy of the colonial rule. However, South Korea textbooks changed dramatically their explanation of the modern age in the 1980s. As a result of it, the gap of the historical perceptions on textbooks had broadened and they became seeds of the disputes.

Territorial or Historical Dispute?: The Dokdo/Takeshima Dispute, Symbolic Politics, and the Japan-South Korea Security Relationship in 2005-6
Ji Young Kim, University of Chicago, USA

This paper explores how the Dokdo (for Koreans)/Takeshima (for Japanese) territorial dispute affected the security relationship between Japan and South Korea in 2005-2006. During this period, Japan and South Korea also experienced a major nuclear threat from North Korea. According to a realist’s perspective, the incident should have led the two countries into engaging in an intense cooperation against a common threat. However, intense security/political cooperation between the two nations did not materialize. Japan and South Korea were not in a position to pursue any kind of cooperation during this period, due to the dispute over the island. Why, then, did the Dokdo/Takeshima issue become such an important source of conflict? It was because this issue is interpreted differently in Japan and South Korea. For South Koreans, it is a historical issue; for the Japanese, it is a territorial issue. For South Koreans, Dokdo is an emotion-laden symbol that embodies Korea's intact independence from the Japanese colonial rule. This is the main reason why the South Korean public has been much more sensitive and aggressive about the issue than the Japanese, going as far as causing a major change in the relationship with Japan. The paper explores how symbolic politics regarding this issue affected the public opinion in South Korea. Through an analysis of mass media reports and public protests, I will argue that emotional factors have important implications for changes in Japan-South Korea security relationship.

Japan's Repatriation of Korean Residents and the U.S. Involvement: Japanese Two-Level Game and Its Contemporary Implication
Sung Chull Kim, Seoul National University, South Korea

Inasmuch as to obtain U.S. support was an essential requirement for Japan’s realization of the controversial repatriation of Korean residents to North Korea starting in 1959, the Japanese two-level game should be closely analyzed. The U.S. and Korean archives reveal that to the United States, the Kishi administration not only cited frequently the mounting Korean residents’ wish and Japanese popular support for repatriation but also noted a possibility of Kishi’s losing power in case of failure. A tool for enlarging the win-set in Japan-U.S. relations was the principle of freedom of choice of residence, which was indeed the same as North Korea’s slogan. In need of stability of the pro-U.S., cooperative Kishi administration at the important juncture of revising the 1951 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, the United States became more than a silent partner of Japan’s repatriation project, while witnessing the principle of the free will of repatriates being seriously watered down. In Japan-U.S. relations today, the Japanese use of domestic situation in dealing with the North Korea issue remains the same as in the repatriation case. Japan not only made an attempt to situate the domestically fermented abduction issue in the context of the U.S.-led war on terrorism but also managed to place it on the multilateral nuclear-talks table at the particular juncture of the base-relocation negotiation in the mid-2000s.

Yasukuni Shrine: Its Meanings and Implications for Japan-ROK Relations
Kei Koga, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Yasukuni shrine, the Shinto religious shrine whose origin was Tokyo Shokon Sha that was built for commemorating the solders of Boshin War (1868-69), has been known for commemorating Japan’s war dead. However, since 1978, the fact that Yasukuni enshrined 14 class-A criminals added a factor that can be regarded as justification of Japanese militarism during World War II. This is illustrated by the fact that China accused Japan of Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone’s official visit to the Shrine in 1985 and Koizumi’s visit in 2001 with South Korea. Nevertheless, it has yet to be clear what meanings of Yasukuni have for the Japanese people over time, whether it is tantamount to Asian countries’ concerns, and to what extent the Yasukuni problem hinders cooperation between Japan and Asian countries. Indeed, many of the literatures assume the meaning of Yasukuni as a political tool to establish new nationalism within Japan or to gain political supports from bereaved families, and they do not necessarily analyze the degree of hindrance it poses in the context of continuing economic and political cooperation between Japan and Asian countries. This paper first examines the evolution of political meanings of Yasukuni Shrine to the Japanese. Second, it attempts to explain to which extent the Yasukuni factor has hindered cooperation between Japan and neighboring states, especially South Korea. These two questions will be examined by comparing the 1985 Nakasone’s visit and the 2001 Koizumi’s visit to the shrine.