Japan and South Korea Should Bridge Their Differences, Snyder and Glosserman Write in New Book

Japan and South Korea are Western-style democracies with open-market economies committed to the rule of law. They are also U.S. allies. Yet despite their common interests, shared values, and geographic proximity, divergent national identities have fractured relations between them. In The Japan-South Korea Identity Clash: East Asian Security and the United States, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow for Korea Studies Scott A. Snyder and Pacific Forum CSIS Executive Director Brad Glosserman investigate the roots of the split and its ongoing threat to the region and the world.

May 26, 2015

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Japan and South Korea are Western-style democracies with open-market economies committed to the rule of law. They are also U.S. allies. Yet despite their common interests, shared values, and geographic proximity, divergent national identities have fractured relations between them. In The Japan-South Korea Identity Clash: East Asian Security and the United States, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Senior Fellow for Korea Studies Scott A. Snyder and Pacific Forum CSIS Executive Director Brad Glosserman investigate the roots of the split and its ongoing threat to the region and the world.

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“Together, Tokyo and Seoul can do far more than they can alone,” Snyder and Glosserman explain. “Working with the United States provides extraordinary opportunities to reach beyond their grasp and enhance their security and their influence in Northeast Asia and beyond.”

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Snyder and Glosserman isolate competing notions of national identity as the main obstacle to a productive Japan-South Korea partnership. Through public opinion data, interviews, and years of observation, the authors show how incompatible, rapidly changing conceptions of national identity in Japan and South Korea have complicated territorial claims and international policy. Despite changes in Japan’s and Korea’s leaderships and both governments’ concerted efforts to encourage U.S.-ROK-Japan security cooperation, the Japan-Korea relationship continues to be hobbled by history and national identity.

“These three countries have a moment of opportunity. After relations between Japan and South Korea arguably reached their lowest point in decades, elections in Tokyo and Seoul returned new governments. In both cases a conservative administration returned to power; both have histories that recognize the need for common action and reconciliation,” Snyder and Glosserman write. “The individuals making and administering policy in each capital understand the value of each country’s alliance with the United States and the need for a robust and forward-looking relationship with each other.”

Snyder, director of CFR’s Program on U.S.-Korea Policy, writes regularly on relations between Washington and Seoul and Northeast Asian politics and security for CFR’s Asia Unbound blog and Forbes Asia. Before Glosserman became executive director of Pacific Forum CSIS, he served on the editorial board of The Japan Times for ten years and lectured on Japanese politics at the Institute for the International Education of Students.

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Read more about the book at cfr.org/japan_south_korea_book.

PRAISE FOR THE JAPAN-SOUTH KOREA IDENTITY CLASH:

“In East Asian Security and the United States, Brad Glosserman and Scott Snyder unbundle one of the most consequential and seemingly illogical puzzles in contemporary East Asia. Whether scholars and policymakers agree with their call for a bold American move to reset relations between these two critical allies and democracies, one cannot ignore the authors’ pathbreaking analysis—or the strategic consequences they point to in the current impasse.”—Michael J. Green, former special assistant to the president and senior director for Asia at the National Security Council

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“Easy to read, this book covers a very timely topic as many pundits, officials, and experts are struggling with the issues that are raised. I can think of no book on Japan and South Korea together and on their relationship that is a serious rival.”—Gilbert Rozman, Princeton University

“Brad Glosserman and Scott Snyder lay bare in this book the dueling narratives of Japan and South Korea. Both modern, democratic, and market-driven economies animated by twenty-first century possibilities, Japan and South Korea nevertheless are mired in historical resentments and misunderstanding that continually cloud the future. This political alienation between Seoul and Tokyo provides a vexing challenge for American foreign policy, and the authors here offer valuable insights on how to mitigate and manage the bruised feelings, apprehensions, and latent rivalries that shape one of Asia’s most dynamic and least understood relationships. East Asian Security and the United States is required reading for anyone seeking to better understand both the possibilities and inherent limitations of this complex relationship.”—Kurt M. Campbell, former assistant secretary of state for Asia and Pacific affairs, 2009–2013

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