Japan–Korea disputes

Japan–Korea disputes
Japanese-Korean disputes
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  North Korea
  South Korea

There have been disputes between Japan and Korea (both North and South) on many issues over the years. The two nations have a complex history of cultural exchange, trade, and war, underlying their relations today. In ancient times, cultural exchanges of ideas between Japan and Korea were common through Koreans immigrating to Japan or via Japanese trade and diplomacy with Korea. Yayoi people skeleton is similar to the modern Japanese and Koreans .[1] However During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), Koreans looked down on the Japanese because Koreans had a spiritual culture based on Confucianism. As a result, Korean thinks that the Japanese has an inferiority complex toward Korea.[2] the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598), and the 1910–1945 Japanese control of Korea, have scarred the relations of both countries ever since.

Today, Japan and South Korea are major trading partners, and many students, tourists, entertainers, and business people travel between the two countries, whereas North Korea's political and economic relations with Japan are not as developed.


Historical issues

Korea under Japanese rule

With the Treaty of Ganghwa in 1875, Japan became involved in Korean politics. In 1895, Empress Myeongseong was assassinated by Japanese agents.[3] In 1897, Joseon was renamed the Korean Empire (1897–1910), and King Gojong became Emperor Gojong. In 1905, Japan forced Korea to sign the Eulsa Treaty,[4] making Korea effectively a protectorate of Japan. In 1909, following the signing of the treaty, An Jung-geun assassinated Japanese statesman Itō Hirobumi, the Resident-General of Korea, for Ito's role in the occupation of Korea.

In 1910, Japan annexed Korea. The legality of the annexation and the subsequent 35-years of Japanese colonial rule are controversial, and have been criticized as illegal based on the 1905 protectorate treaty's having been signed under duress, as well as its never having been ratified by the Emperor of Korea.[5][6][7] Japanese scholarship has challenged this view of the treaty as invalid.[8]

Many Koreans suffered under Japanese rule.[9] Korean resistance to the Japanese occupation manifested in the massive nonviolent March 1st Movement of 1919. Thereafter the Korean liberation movement, coordinated by the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in exile, was active in neighboring Manchuria, China and Siberia.[10] Japanese control of Korea ended in 1945 with Japan's surrender on the USS Missouri.

Japanese apologies to Korea for colonization

Following independence from Imperial Japan, both North and South Korea demanded apologies for what they regard as a brutal, unjust occupation. Some Japanese cabinet members have made apologies, while other Japanese politicians have made statements either whitewashing or justifying the Japanese occupation.[11]

Several Japanese Prime Ministers have issued apologies, including Prime Minister Obuchi in the Japan-Republic of Korea Joint Declaration of 1998, and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration of 2002.[12] Koizumi said, "I once again express my feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology, and also express the feelings of mourning for all victims, both at home and abroad, in the war."[13] While Koreans welcomed the apologies at the time, many Koreans now view the statements as insincere, because of the continuing actions of Japanese officials that contradict such statements of remorse. In one example, hundreds of Japanese politicians made a tributary visit to the Yasukuni Shrine to honor Japan's war dead while Prime Minister Koizumi was simultaneously issuing an apology. This was seen by South Koreans as a conflict between actions and words and has caused many South Koreans to distrust Japanese statements of apology.[14]

Statements by Japanese politicians on colonial rule

Since the 1950s, many prominent politicians and officials in Japan have made statements on Japanese colonial rule in Korea which created outrage and led to diplomatic scandals in Korean-Japanese relations. The statements have led to anti-Japanese sentiments among Koreans, and a widespread perception that Japanese apologies for colonial rules have been insincere.[15][16][17][18]

During the talks between Japan and Korea in 1953, Kubota Kanichiro (久保田貫一郞), one of Japanese representatives, stated that "Japanese colonial rule was beneficial to Korea...Korea would have been colonized by other countries anyway, which would have led to harsher rules than Japanese rules." This remark is considered by Koreans as the first reckless statement by Japanese politicians on colonial rules on Korea.[19]

In 1997, Abe Shinzo (安倍晋三), an ex-Prime Minister of Japan, stated that "Many so-called victims of comfort women system are liars...prostitution was ordinary behavior in Korea because the country had many brothels." [20]

On May 31, 2003, Aso Taro (麻生太郎), another ex-Prime Minister of Japan, stated that "the change to Japanese name (創氏改名) during Japanese colonial rule was what Koreans wanted." [21]

On October 28, 2003, Ishihara Shintaro (石原愼太郞), Governor of Tokyo stated that "The annexation of Korea and Japan was Koreans' choice...the ones to be blamed are the ancestors of Koreans".[15]

In 2007, Shimomura Hakubun (下村博文), Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japanese government, stated that "The comfort women system existed, but I believe it was because Korean parents sold their daughters at that time." [16]

On March 27, 2010, in the centennial of Japan-Korean annexation, Edano Yukio (枝野幸男), Japanese Minister of State for Government Revitalization, stated that "The invasion and colonization and China and Korea was historically inevitable...since China and Korea could not modernize themselves."[17]

Japanese compensation to Korea for colonial rule

Twenty years after World War II, South Korea and Japan re-established diplomatic relations with the 1965 signing of the Treaty on Basic Relations. In 2005, South Korea disclosed diplomatic documents that detailed the proceedings of the treaty. Kept secret for 40 years, the documents revealed that Japan provided 500 million dollars in soft loans and 300 million in grants to South Korea as compensation for its 1910-45 occupation, and that South Korea agreed to demand no more compensation after the treaty, either at a government-to-government level or an individual-to-government level.[22] It was also revealed that the South Korean government assumed the responsibility for compensating individuals on a lump sum basis[23] while rejecting Japan's proposal for direct compensation.[24]

However, the South Korean government used most of the loans for economic development and have failed to provide adequate compensation to victims, paying only 300,000 won per death, with only a total of 2,570 million won to the relatives of 8,552 victims who died in forced labor.[23][25] As the result, the Korean victims are preparing to file a compensation suit against the South Korean government as of 2005. The treaty does not preclude individual suits against Japanese individuals or corporations but such suits are often constrained by the statute of limitation. The Women's International War Crimes Tribunal 2000 on Japan Military Sexual Slavery, a mock trial organised by Asian women and human rights organizations and supported by international NGOs, issued a ruling that "states cannot agree by treaty to waive the liability of another state for crimes against humanity."[26]

Return of Korean remains

During the Japanese period of Korea (notably during World War II), Japan mobilized hundreds of thousands of laborers from Korea to sustain industrial production, mainly in mining. Most of them were eventually returned to Korea after the war, with many dying in Japan.[27][28] The South requested help in finding the dead bodies of these kidnapped laborers for proper burial.[29] The Japanese government delegated this responsibility to the corporations that committed the kidnappings. Corporations, such as Mitsubishi, Mitsumi and others, stated that the culpability should fall on the governments and not on private companies. The situation prevented South Korea from appropriately coordinating their efforts, and they have only identified a few hundred bodies. The issue remains salient in Korea, where what is perceived to be the insensitivity of Japan stirred popular outrage among Koreans.

Return of Korean cultural artifacts

During the Japanese Occupation, the Korean language was repressed. Koreans were required to take Japanese surnames, known as Sōshi-kaimei.[30] Traditional Korean culture suffered heavy losses, as numerous Korean cultural artifacts were destroyed[31] or taken to Japan.[32] To this day, valuable Korean artifacts can often be found in Japanese museums or among private collections.[33] One investigation by the South Korean government identified 75,311 cultural assets that were taken from Korea, 34,369 in Japan and 17,803 in the United States.[34]

Comfort women

Many in Korea have been demanding compensation for "comfort women", the women who were pressured to work in Imperial Japanese military brothels during World War II. Enlisted to the military stations through force, kidnapping, coercion, and deception, the Korean comfort women, most of them under the age of 18, were forced to have sexual relationships with 30-40 soldiers each day.[35] As the few surviving comfort women continue to strive for acknowledgment and a sincere apology, the Japanese court system has rejected such claims due to the length of time and claiming that there is no evidence.

In November 1990, the Committee for Korean Comfort Women (한국정신대문제대책협의회; 韓國挺身隊問題對策協議會) was established in South Korea. As of 2008, a lump sum payment of 43 million Korean won and a monthly payment of 0.8 million won are given to the survivors.[35][36] The Japanese government arranged a small private organization that gives small amounts of money to the victims.[35] Today, many of the surviving comfort women are in their 80s. As of 2007, according to South Korean government, there are 109 survivors in South Korea and 218 in North Korea. The survivors in South Korea protest in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, Korea every Wednesday. The protest was held for 900th time in March, 2010.[35][36]

In December 2000, The Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery sat in Tokyo, Japan. During the proceedings, the judges of the Tribunal heard hours of testimony by 75 survivors, as well as reviewed affidavits and video interviews by countless others. The Tribunal's Judgment found Emperor Hirohito and other Japanese officials guilty of crimes against humanity and held that Japan bore state responsibility and should pay reparations to the victims.

In July 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution that Japan apologize for forcing women into sex slavery during World War II. The resolution was sponsored by Mike Honda (D-CA), a third-generation Japanese-American.[35][37] On December 13, 2007, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that demands the Japanese government to apologize to the survivors of Japan's military sexual slavery system. This resolution was passed with 54 ayes out of 57 parliament members present. It became the fourth foreign country to demand an official apology from Japan to Korea.[38]

Japanese prime ministers' visits to Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni Shrine (靖國神社) is a Shinto shrine which memorializes Japanese armed forces members killed in wartime. It was constructed as a memorial during the Meiji era. The shrine dedicates Tojo Hideki (東条英機), the Prime Minister and Army Minister of Japan during much of World War II, between 1941 and 1944, and 13 other Class-A war criminals.[39] The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal convicted 148 Koreans of Class B and C war crimes, 23 of whom were sentenced to death. Yasukuni shrine serves, among other functions, as a memorial for 1,043 Japanese and 23 Korean B and C war criminals who were executed, as well as 14 Japanese A-class war criminals. As such, it has been the subject of continued controversy.

Nakasone Yasuhiro (中曾根康弘) and Hashimoto Ryutaro (橋本龍太郞) visited Yasukuni shrine and paid respects as Prime Minister of Japan in 1986 and 1996 respectively, which drew intense opposition from Korea and China.[40] Koizumi Junichiro (小泉純一郎) visited the Shrine and paid respects 6 times during his term as Prime Minister of Japan, starting on August 13, 2001, stating that he was "paying homage to the servicemen who died for defense of Japan."[41] These visits drew strong condemnation and protests from Japan's neighbors again, mainly China and South Korea.[42] As a result, the heads of the two countries refused to meet with Koizumi, and there were no mutual visits between Chinese and Japanese leaders after October 2001 and between South Korean and Japanese leaders after June 2005. President of South Korea Roh Moo-hyun had suspended all summit talks between South Korea and Japan, until 2008 when he resigned from office.[43]

Koizumi's successors have not visited Yasukuni shrine, but offered tributary gifts as Prime Minister of Japan - Abe Shinzo (安倍晋三) in 2007 and Aso Taro (麻生太郞) in 2008 and 2009.[40]

Nationalist historiography

While most anthropologists and historians acknowledge that Japan has historically been actively engaged with its neighbors China and Korea, as well as Southeast Asia.[44] Among these neighbors, Korea especially sent many missions to Japan to spread its culture dates from Three Kingdoms period to Joseon period.[45][46] Japanese and Korean peoples share closely linked ethnic, cultural and anthropological histories, a point of controversy between nationalist scholars in Japan and Korea rests on which culture came first, and can thus be considered the forebear of the other. In brief, the Korean points are that through a long history of contact, several important Asian mainland and Korean innovations in culture and technology were transferred to Japan. Several linguistic theories make similar points. In these theories, Korean had reached the mainland culture that Buddhism[47], Chinese characters,[48] iron processing technology, ritual implements,[49] rice cultivation,[50] customs, and pottery[51][52][53] can be traced to Korea, contrary to Japanese scholarship.[citation needed] The New York Times writes that Japanese national treasures such as the Koryuji sculptures, which are "a symbol of Japan itself and an embodiment of qualities often used to define Japanese-ness in art", are in actuality based on Korean prototypes and probably carved in Korea.[54][54]

In addition, in 1976 Japan stopped all foreign archaeologists from studying the Gosashi tomb, which is supposedly the resting place of Empress Jingu. In 2008, Japan allowed limited access to foreign archaeologists, but the international community still has many unanswered questions. National Geographic wrote that "the agency has kept access to the tombs restricted, prompting rumors that officials fear excavation would reveal bloodline links between the "pure" imperial family and Korea or that some tombs hold no royal remains at all."[55]

Modern historiography is also a seat of discord. Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) reviews and approves the content of school history textbooks available for selection by Japanese schools. Foreign scholars, as well as many Japanese historians, have criticized the political slant and factual errors of some approved textbooks. After the textbook by Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform (新しい歴史教科書をつくる会) passed inspection in April 2001 and published by Fusosha (扶桑社), South Korea demanded, to no avail, the revision of 25 passages in the textbook. For example, it omits any reference to Japanese war crimes such as Comfort women and the Nanking Massacre.[56]

While MEXT approved this as one of a number of acceptable textbooks in 2001, there were many Japanese teachers' unions that were against this textbook. Additionally, 59 NGOs from Korea and Japan, including Japan's Network for Children and Textbooks (子どもと教科書全国ネット), announced their opposition to the textbook on April 3, 2001, and started a boycott campaign.[56] As of 2010, Tsukurukai's textbook has been adopted by less than 0.39% of the schools.[57] But it became a bestseller in the general book market,[58] selling six hundred thousand copies.[59] In 2010, another textbook by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform passed inspection and published by Jiyusha (自由社).[57]

Geographic disputes

Liancourt Rocks

The Liancourt Rocks, called Dokdo (독도, 獨島; "solitary island") in Korean and Takeshima (竹島; "bamboo island") in Japanese, are a group of islets in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) whose ownership is disputed between Japan and South Korea. There are valuable fishing grounds around the islets and potentially large reserves of natural gas[citation needed].

The territorial dispute is a major source of nationalist tensions. Many Korean nationals have placed the dispute in the context of the history of occupation, so that ceding the territory to Japan would be an unthinkable affront to national dignity: a renewal of past Japanese subjugation.[60] Korean tourists visit the remote, inhospitable island, in order to show national solidarity.[60] In Japan, schoolchildren are instructed that the islands belong rightfully to Japan, and in 2005 Japanese officials declared "Takeshima Day", to highlight their territorial claim to the islands.[60]

Although Liancourt Rocks are claimed by both Korea and Japan, the islets are currently administered by the Republic of Korea (South Korea), which has its Korean Coast Guard stationed there.[61]


A small minority of Koreans claim this island to be Korean, although the South Korean government does not make this claim. Called "Tsushima" in Japanese and "Daemado" in Korean, this island was briefly Korean-controlled during the Joseon Dynasty, and possibly during the Silla era.[62]

In 1948, the South Korean government formally demanded that the island be ceded to South Korea based on "historical claims". However, the claim was rejected by SCAP in 1949. On July 19, 1951, the South Korean government agreed that the earlier demand for Tsushima had been dropped by the Korean government with regards to the Japanese peace treaty negotiations.[63]

In 2010, a group of 37 members of the South Korean congress formed a forum to study Korea's territorial claims to Tsushima and make out-reach efforts to the public. They said Tsushima was a part of Korean history and the people on the island are closely ethnically related to Koreans.[64] Yasunari Takarabe, incumbent Mayor of Tsushima rejects the Korean territorial claim: "Tsushima has always been Japan. I want them to retract their wrong historical perception. It was mentioned in the Gishi Wajinden (ja:魏志倭人伝?) as part of Wa (Japan). It has never been and cannot be a South Korean territory."[65]

Sea of Japan (East Sea) naming dispute

Japan claims that the name "Sea of Japan" (日本海) used in a number of European maps from the late 18th century to the early 19th century, and that many maps today retain this naming. However, both the North and South Korean governments have protested that Japan encouraged the usage of the name "Sea of Japan" while Korea lost effective control over its foreign policy under Japanese imperial expansion.[66] South Korea argues that the name "East Sea" (東海), which was one of the most common names found on ancient European maps of this sea, should be the name instead of (or at least used concurrently with) "Sea of Japan."

Japan claims that Western countries named it the "Sea of Japan" prior to 1860, before the growth of Japanese influence over Korean foreign policy after the outbreak of the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894. Further, Japan claims that the primary naming occurred during period of Sakoku, when Japan had little to no contact with foreign countries, and thus Japan could not have influenced the naming decisions.[67] It was in 1928, when the International Hydrographic Organization's Limits of Oceans and Seas officially took the name Sea of Japan, which eventually influenced other official international documents such as the United Nations. South Korea claims that Korea was occupied by the Japanese and effectively had no international voice to protest in 1928.

Miscellaneous issues

Boycotting of Japanese products

After the end of Japanese Occupation, Japanese cultural products such as music, film, and books were banned in both North and South Korea. The boycott was lifted in South Korea starting in 1998. Some Japanese cultural items, including but not limited to manga, anime and music, have been introduced into South Korea even while they were banned (the Korean public was not informed of their Japanese origin).[citation needed][citation needed]This is in spite of the fact that a Korean character does not appear in any episode of the animated series.[68] The animation continues to see distribution through mobile networks and internet streaming.[69]

Kidnapping of Japanese citizens by North Korea

A 13-year-old junior high school student from Niigata, Megumi Yokota, was kidnapped by North Korea on November 15, 1977. In addition to her, many other Japanese citizens were kidnapped by North Korean agents. In 2002, North Korea admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens during the 1970s and 1980s, in order to train spies to infiltrate U.S. military installations in Japan.[70] Five people have been released, but the North Korean government claimed that there were eight dead. Japan has pressed for the return of the bodies. However, the Japanese government believes that there are still kidnapped Japanese citizens being held captive in North Korea. North Korea's official statement is that the issue has been settled. Because of the overwhelming number of South Koreans also kidnapped by North Korea, there has been some joint efforts of South Korea and Japan in retrieving their citizens.[71]

Plagiarism of Japanese products

Korea has been accused of plagiarizing Japanese products.[72][73][74][75][76][77] In 2007, a K-pop singer Ivy was accused of copying a scene from the Japanese video game movie adaptation Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children in one of her music videos. The court ordered that the video be banned from airing on television, stating that "most of the clip is noticeably similar to scenes from the film," despite the fact that it showed a disclaimer at the beginning of the music video.[78]

Zainichi Koreans

Zainichi (在日, Resident Japan) refers to ethnic Koreans currently residing in Japan. Most of them are second-, third-, or fourth-generation Koreans who have not yet applied for Japanese citizenship.[citation needed] while others entered Japan illegally in order to escape the Korean War that took place after the Japanese occupation. They lost their Japanese citizenship after the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which officially ended the Japanese annexation of Korea and their country of origin, Korea, no longer existed when South Korea and North Korea became separate states. Zainichi communities are split based upon affiliation with North or South Korea, (Chongryon and Mindan). It is claimed that two or three of the leaders of the smaller organized crime syndicates found on a list of more than twenty such groups as specified by the National Police Agency in Japan may be ethnic Koreans. [21]

More positively speaking, Masayoshi Son (손정의), Japan's businessman and chief of Softbank, is of Zainichi background. In addition, some of Japan's popular stars, athletes and high ranking businessmen were of Zainichi Korean background, including Rikidōzan (역도산), Mas Oyama (최배달), Isao Harimoto (장훈), and Kaneda Masaichi (김정일). In order to escape discrimination, there are Koreans living in Japan who use Japanese names to hide their origin. Today, however, as the relationship between Japan and Korea has improved, there also exist many Zainichi Koreans or former Zainichi Koreans with Japanese nationality who don't hide their origin and are in full activity, such as Yu Miri (유미리), an Akutagawa Prize-winning playwright and Tadanari Lee (이충성), a Japanese football player of Korean origin.

Kimchi exports

In 1996, Japan proposed making kimchi as the official Atlanta Olympics food,[79] and decided to export Japanese made "kimuchi" (キムチ) to other countries. Korea argued that kimchi is a traditional Korean food and that Japanese kimuchi was not the same as kimchi because it was not made to the same standards as kimchi.[citation needed]

In 2001 the Codex Alimentarius published a voluntary standard defining kimchi as "a fermented food that uses salted napa cabbages as its main ingredient mixed with seasonings, and goes through a lactic acid production process at a low temperature."[80]

See also


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Further reading

  • Cha, Victor D. (1999). Alignment despite Antagonism: the US-Korea-Japan Security Triangle. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804731918. 
  • Dudden, Alexis (2008). Troubled Apologies Among Japan, Korea, and the United States. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231141765. 
  • Lee, Chong-Sik (1963). The Politics of Korean Nationalism. Berkeley: University of California Press. 
  •     (1985). Japan and Korea: The Political Dimension. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0817981810. 
  • Lind, Jennifer (2008). Sorry States: Apologies in International Politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 9780801446252. 
  • Myers, Ramon Hawley; et al. (1984). The Japanese Colonial Empire, 1895-1945. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691053987. 
  • Morley, James (1965). Japan and Korea. New York: Walker. 

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