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Consider a Korea-Japan Alliance

Author: Peter M. Beck, International Affairs Fellow in Japan, Sponsored by Hitachi, Ltd. 2010-2011
May 27, 2011
Korea JoongAng Daily


Korea-Japan relations have warmed considerably since President Lee Myung-bak took office, but new agreements have proven elusive. After raising the idea with hundreds of Japanese, ranging from Diet members to Okinawa pineapple farmers, I have concluded that there is no time to waste for Lee and Prime Minister Naoto Kan to pursue a formal alliance.

Overcoming centuries of animosity has proven difficult. Indeed, the shadow of history often looms over the present. Korea's disaster team was the first foreign group to search for survivors of Japan's devastating earthquake, but less than three weeks later, Tokyo's release of textbooks, which insist the Dokdo islets belong to Japan, threw cold water on the Korean people's outpouring of emotional and financial support for Japan.

How can we resolve differing interpretations of history? The simple answer is we cannot. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War, yet many white Southerners still refer to the “War of Northern Aggression” and proudly fly a flag most Americans consider a symbol of racism and rebellion. The important thing is that these Southerners do not reflect the views of the vast majority of Americans.

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