Council on Foreign Relations Korea Update June 2015

The Japan-South Korea Identity Clash

Despite Japan and South Korea’s common interests, shared values, and geographic proximity, divergent national identities have driven a wedge between the two countries. In The Japan-South Korea Identity Clash: East Asian Security and the United States, Scott A. Snyder, senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and Brad Glosserman, executive director of Pacific Forum CSIS, investigate the roots of this split and its ongoing threat to the region and the world. Through public opinion data, interviews, and years of observation, the authors show how fundamentally incompatible, rapidly changing conceptions of national identity in Japan and South Korea—and not struggles over power or structural issues—have complicated territorial claims and international policy. Preorder the book nowRead more at »



Prime Minister Abe's Very Good Visit

As far as state visits go, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s trip to the United States last month went off without a hitch. However, Abe missed an opportunity to address U.S.-Japan-South Korea (ROK) relations and lay the groundwork for a more substantial discussion later this summer, write Snyder and Glosserman in a blog post cross-posted at Pacific Forum CSIS. Read more at Asia Unbound »

Divergent Identities Split South Korea and Japan

South Korea and Japan are both democracies with market economies, U.S. allies, and committed to the rule of law. Despite shared interests and values, divergent national identities have driven a wedge between them. In a book talk at the Korea Society in New York, Snyder and Glosserman isolate competing notions of national identity as the main obstacle to a South Korea-Japan partnership, offering bold recommendations for leaders to reframe a shared identity for reconciliation. Watch the book talk at the Korea Society website »

Hitting Bottom for South Korea-Japan Relations

South Korea-Japan relations have hit an all-time low, fraught with mutual mistrust and animosity. President Park Geun-hye’s nationalist rhetoric is likely to grow tougher than ever, as this year marks the seventieth anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule and fifty years since Park’s father, Presdient Park Chung-hee, controversially normalized diplomatic relations with Japan. At the Asan Institute for Policy Studies’ 2015 Plenum in Seoul, Snyder joins panelists Alexis Dudden (University of Connecticut), Nishino Junya (Keio University), Park Cheol Hee (Seoul National University), and moderator Martin Fackler (New York Times) to discuss how the current deadlock in Korea-Japan relations can be overcome, and whether the United States should play a role in mediating its two allies’ tensions. Watch the panel at Asan Institute website »

South Koreans' Outlook on China and the United States

South Korea’s current foreign policies reflect a dynamic in which the country is pulled toward a rapidly growing China by economic opportunities, while relying on the U.S.-ROK alliance for its security. The Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul released its latest report on South Korean public views on the United States, which demonstrates that South Koreans view the United States as the major political and military leader in the region, if not as the dominant economic force. Snyder and Darcie Draudt, research associate for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, conclude that there is a curious contrast between the South Korean public’s preference for U.S. leadership and public expectations that China will surpass the United States in national power within the next decade. Read more at Asia Unbound »

Power Profile: Shinzo Abe

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit increased scrutiny of Japan’s relationships with the United States and neighboring countries. In a panel moderated by David Ignatius, columnist and associate editor at the Washington Post, Yomiuri Shimbun’s Washington Bureau Chief Keiko Iizuka and CFR Senior Fellow for Japan Studies Sheila A. Smith discuss Abe as a figure of conservatism and change in the Asia-Pacific. Watch the panel at »

Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China

No country feels China's rise more deeply than Japan. Underlying these concerns is Japan's insecurity about its own capacity for change and its waning status as the leading economy in Asia. In her new book, Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China, Smith explores the policy issues testing the Japanese government as it navigates its relationship with an advancing China. Smith scrutinizes the role of the Japanese government in coping with contention as China’s influence grows and Japanese citizens demand more protection. Order the book now. Read more at »

Five Takeaways from China's Bold, New Military Strategy

In its most recent policy document, the Chinese Ministry of Defense outlines how the Chinese armed forces are expected to support Beijing’s geopolitical objectives. In the white paper, a copy of which can be read online in English or Chinese, China vows to use the armed forces to create a “favorable strategic posture with more emphasis on the employment of military forces and means,” in order to guarantee the country’s peaceful development. CFR Research Associate Lauren Dickey and CFR Military Fellow Stephen Liszewski discuss five major elements of the strategy worth U.S. attention. Read more at Defense in Depth »


Media coverage of the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) report on North Korean human rights inevitably gravitated toward the most severe cases. But a growing body of rigorously collected information attests to the pervasiveness of North Korean suffering. A new book by Sophia University Professor Sandra Fahy, Marching Through Suffering: Loss and Survival in North Korea, addresses these issues. The stories Fahy examines, writes Draudt, are central to the case against the North Korean government: that suffering in North Korea is commonplace, and the extraordinary nature of “ordinary” lives deserves attention and indignation as much as the outliers. Read more at Asia Unbound »

Investigating the Plight of North Korea's Overseas Laborers

The COI report focuses mainly on refugees and detention centers in North Korea, but data compiled by the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights shows another facet of human rights’ violations by the North Korean state: forced overseas labor. Snyder discusses these issues in a panel with Executive Vice President and Director of Studies Marcus Noland of the Peterson Institute for International Studies and Database Center for North Korean Human Rights President Yeo-sang Yoon, moderated by Troy Stangarone, senior director of congressional affairs and trade at the Korea Economic Institute of America.  Watch the panel at the Korea Economic Institute website »


Grading Global Governance: Implications for East Asia

The Council of Councils, a network of think tanks that mirrors the membership of the Group of Twenty, released in May a thought-provoking report card assessing the state of global governance. The Council of Councils gave its highest marks (albeit still low) to international efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation, primarily in response to P5+1 diplomatic efforts to keep Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. However, in East Asia the failure to prevent North Korea from expanding its nuclear development efforts outside the confines of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty deserves an F, writes Snyder. Read more at Asia Unbound »


Sydney Morning Herald: “North Korea Gives Chinese Ambassador Li Jinjun the Cold Shoulder” (May 23, 2015)

Wall Street Journal (Korean): “South Korea-Japan Dispute’s New Fire: ‘Hashima Island, Symbol of Japan’s Forced Labor’” (May 21, 2015)

Wall Street Journal: “New History Dispute Splits U.S. Allies in Asia” (May 20, 2015)

Medill News Service: “North Korea Turning to Human Trafficking for Foreign Currency” (May 19, 2015)                      

Korea Times: “U.S. Experts Call on Japan to Renounce Dokdo” (May 19, 2015)

Korea Herald: “Japan Urged to Give Up Claims to Dokdo om Grand Bargain Solution to Improve Ties With Seoul” (May 19, 2015)

YTN (Korean): “U.S. Experts: Japan Should Give Up Its Claims to Dokdo” (May 19, 2015)

Herald kyungjae (Korean): “U.S. Experts: ‘South Korea-Japan Relations Need a “Grand Reset,” Japan Should Give up Dokdo” (May 19, 2015)

Arirang: “Japan Urged to Give Up Claims to Dokdo to Improve Ties With Seoul” (May 19, 2015)

Lowy Interpreter: “Is America, Like Japan, Getting ‘Korea Fatigue’?” (May 19, 2015)

Yonhap: “Japan Urged to Give Up Claims to Dokdo in Grand Bargain to Improve Ties With Seoul” (May 19, 2015)

Munhwa ilbo (Korean): “Japan: Give Up Dokdo, Compensate Women Trafficked for Sexual Pursposes by the Japanese Military During World War II; Korea: Conclude Demands and the Past; ‘South Korea-Japan Grand Bargain’ Advice from the United States” (May 19, 2015)

Yonhap (Korean): “U.S. Experts: ‘Japan Should Give Up Claims to Dokdo and Compensate Women Trafficked for Sexual Purposes by the Japanese Military During World War II” (May 18, 2015)

Financial Review: “Real Danger in North Korean Overkill” (May 16, 2015)

Voice of America Korea (Korean): “U.S. Experts: ‘Execution of Hyun Young-cheol Gives Weight to the System’s Insecurity” (May 15, 2015)

McClatchy: “Analysts Stunned by Report N. Korea Used Anti-Aircraft Fire to Execute Top Offical” (May 13, 2015)

Voice of America Korea (Korean): “North Korean Overseas Laborers Face Severe Human Rights Violations” (May 13, 2015)

Voice of America: “North Korean Laborers Abroad Suffer from Human Rights Violation” (May 13, 2015)

Want China Times, “52 Percent of S. Koreans Approve China’s Global Leadership: Survey” (May 8, 2015)

Yonhap (Korean): “Northeast Asia’s Diplomatic War: New Honeymoon for the U.S. and Japan, Pressures China… Conflict Escalates” (May 7, 2015)

Yonhap (Korean): “Experts’ Take on Northeast Asia’s Diplomatic War” (May 7, 2015)

Korea Herald: “[Lee Joo-hee] Let’s Not Sugarcoat the Truth” (May 6, 2015)

Washington Post: “North Korea Might be Courting Russia, China Still Looms Larger” (May 5, 2015)



The Program on U.S.-Korea Policy

The program on U.S.-Korea policy was established at the Council on Foreign Relations in September 2011. It aims to strengthen the U.S.-Korea relationship by providing relevant policy recommendations and promoting dialogue on sensitive bilateral, regional, and global issues facing the two countries. The program acknowledges the generous support it has received from the Smith Richardson Foundation, Korea Foundation, and South Korean private sponsors, including Hyundai Motors, Korea International Trade Association, and the Federation of Korean Industries. It also acknowledges with thanks additional support received from individual donor Sandor Hau.

Scott A. Snyder, Director
Follow @snydersas on Twitter

Darcie Draudt, Research Associate


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