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The Three Problems Plaguing Japan-South Korea Relations

Authors: Scott A. Snyder, Senior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy, and Brad Glosserman, Executive Director, Pacific Forum CSIS
June 2, 2015


It is not surprising that Japan-South Korea (ROK) relations are so complicated, given that Japan invaded and occupied Korea and tried to assimilate Koreans for over three decades during the 20th century. The psychological scars would be even deeper if not for interceding developments, including the fratricidal Korean War, a bloody fight that linked Japan and South Korea (from a security perspective) as a result of Japan’s logistical support in the war and the establishment of Japan and South Korea’s parallel alliances with the United States.

Perhaps what is even more remarkable is South Korea’s great success by following Japan’s developmental path, a path that has created an economic and political partner with shared values and common interests in Northeast Asian stability. Yet in spite of this convergence and repeated efforts to forge a “future-oriented” path in Japan-South Korea relations, historical grievances block the relationship from reaching its full potential.

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