Japan–South Korea relations

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Japan-South Korea relations
Map indicating locations of Japan and South Korea


South Korea

For over 1,500 years, Japan and Korea had gone through cultural exchange, trade, war, and political contact which underlies their relations even today. During the ancient era, exchange of culture and ideas between Japan and Asia were common through migration via the Korean Peninsula or diplomatic contact and trade between Japan and Korea. Cultivation of rice, Buddhism, Chinese foods, Chinese characters and other technology came to Japan via Korea.[1]

After the division of Korea, Japan and South Korea had established diplomatic relations in 1965, under the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea, with Japan recognizing South Korea as the only legitimate government of the whole Korean peninsula.

In recent years, however, the relationship between South Korea and Japan has greatly deteriorated over many disputes, including the territorial claims on Liancourt Rocks, Japanese prime ministers' visits to Yasukuni Shrine, and differing views on history of Imperial Japan, including comfort women during Korea under Japanese rule.

According to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, 13% of Japanese view South Korea's influence positively, with 37% expressing a negative view, while 15% of South Koreans view Japanese influence positively, with 79% expressing negatively, making South Korea, along with China, the country with the most negative perception of Japan in the world.[2]


In line with the 1965 reconciliation treaties Japan continued to improve its relations with South Korea. Tokyo extended an additional $200 million credit to Seoul, and Prime Minister Sato attended official functions in July, the first visit of a Japanese premier to postwar Korea. Nevertheless, Seoul objected violently to occasional visits by Japanese politicians to North Korea, to the continuation of Red Cross repatriation of Korean residents in Japan to North Korea, and to the proposal of Tokyo Governor Minobe to permit a pro-North Korean university in Tokyo. The Japanese Foreign Ministry opposed Minobe on this issue in order to prove its loyalty to South Korea. Meanwhile contacts between Japan and South Korea increased through new air routes, tourism, and trade.

In 1975 South Korean-Japanese relations improved following the July "settlement" of a two-year-old feud that began when South Korean agents abducted Kim Dae-jung, an opposition leader, from a Tokyo hotel. As a result of the settlement, a long-delayed ministerial conference was held in Seoul in September to discuss economic cooperation between the two countries. Japan joined the United States in providing assurances for South Korea's security. In a joint statement by Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Miki and President Ford declared: "The security of the Republic of Korea is ... necessary for peace and security in East Asia, including Japan"

Trade and Partnership[edit]

In 1996 FIFA announced that the two countries would jointly host the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The next few years would see leaders of both countries meet to warm relations in preparations for the games.[3] Though citizens of both countries were initially unhappy about having to share the honors with the other, and the Liancourt Rocks controversy flared up again, it turned out to be very successful.


Main article: Japan-Korea disputes

Liancourt Rocks[edit]

The Liancourt Rocks, called Takeshima (竹島; "bamboo island") in Japanese and Dokdo (독도, 獨島; "solitary island") in Korean, are a group of islets in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) whose ownership is disputed between South Korea and Japan. There are valuable fishing grounds around the islets and potentially large reserves of methane clathrate.[4]

The territorial dispute is a major source of nationalist tensions between the two nations.[5] Currently, South Korea occupies the island, which has its Korean Coast Guard stationed there, as well as two elderly Korean residents.[6]

Comfort women[edit]

Korea has been demanding compensation for "comfort women", the women who were forced 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.[7] 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 Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (한국정신대문제대책협의회; 韓國挺身隊問題對策協議會) was established in South Korea. In 1993, the government of Japan officially acknowledged the presence of wartime brothels. 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.[7][8] The Japanese government has also arranged an organization that gives money and official letters of apology to the victims.[7] 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 1000th time in December, 2011.[9]

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.[7][10] 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.[11]

Cultural exchange[edit]

In spite of the many disputes that are negatively affecting the relations between the two nations, Japan and South Korea enjoy cultural exchanges with each other.

From South Korea to Japan[edit]

In recent years, South Korean pop culture experienced major popularity in Japan, a phenomenon dubbed the "Korean wave" (韓流?) in Japan. The Korean Wave has sparked a fad for Korean movies, dramas and pop music in Japan.

A Korean television series entitled Winter Sonata, which first appeared in Japan in April 2003, became a runaway hit in Japan,[12] and has often been identified as a landmark in Korean-Japanese cultural exchange. The female K-pop artist BoA is one of the most popular singers in Japan with six consecutive albums topping the billboard charts.[citation needed]

In more recent years various K-pop artists, including, Super Junior, TVXQ, Choshinsung, Big Bang, Kara, Girls' Generation, and 2pm, have made their debuts in Japan, and these groups have contributed to the rebirth of the Korean wave in Japan. Kara and Girls' Generation in particular has been topping numerous charts and awards in Japan.[13][14] Numerous other groups, such as F.T. Island, SHINee and BEAST have also entered the Japanese market.

From Japan to South Korea[edit]

After the end of World War II, South Korea banned Japanese cultural imports such as music, film, video games, literature (manga). However, the ban was partially lifted under the Kim Dae-jung administration in 1998.[15][16] In 2004, the ban on imports of Japanese CDs and DVDs was lifted.[17] Currently, it is still illegal to broadcast Japanese music and television dramas.[18][19]

Military relations[edit]

In 2012 it was reported that South Korea agreed to sign a military pact with Japan, possibly in response to threats from North Korea and China.[20] The military agreement between South Korea and Japan is a military intelligence-sharing pact.[21] In 2014 Samuel J. Locklear warned that Japan and South Korea's political differences were preventing the two nations militaries from sharing information, undermining the security of both.[22]

Both South Korea and Japan are US allies and have their own military alliances with the United States.

Both South Korea and Japan perceive North Korea as a threat.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Association for Asian Research. The Japanese Roots (Part III)
  2. ^ http://www.globescan.com/images/images/pressreleases/bbc2013_country_ratings/2013_country_rating_poll_bbc_globescan.pdf
  3. ^ "South Korean leader bids farewell to Japanese emperor". CNN. 1998-10-09. p. 1. Retrieved 2007-01-19. [dead link]
  4. ^ "Gas exploration off Dokdo". Retrieved December 12, 2011. 
  5. ^ Sang-Hun, Choe (August 31, 2008). "Desolate Dots in the Sea Stir Deep Emotions as South Korea Resists a Japanese Claim". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ "Liancourt Rocks / Takeshima / Dokdo / Tokto", Globalsecurity
  7. ^ a b c d [1] The World Conference on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery
  8. ^ [2] Doosan Encyclopedia article
  9. ^ "http://www.bbsi.co.kr/news/inside_view.asp?nIdx=537699". Bbsi.co.kr. December 14, 2011. Retrieved April 19, 2012. 
  10. ^ [3] 2007 National Public Radio article
  11. ^ "Comfort Women used as sex slaves during World War II". Religioustolerance.org. Retrieved April 19, 2012. 
  12. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/30/AR2006083002985.htmlJapanese Women Catch the Korean Wave, Washington Post, August 31, 2006
  13. ^ http://www.allkpop.com/2011/08/kara-draws-12000-fans-for-their-first-japanese-fan-meeting
  14. ^ http://www.allkpop.com/2011/07/snsd-is-certified-double-platinum-in-japan
  15. ^ Azuma, Yasushi (2001-05-01). "Release of bilingual CD aims to soothe Tokyo-Seoul discord". Kyodo News (The Japan Times). Retrieved 2007-01-19. 
  16. ^ http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/area/korea/bunka/index.html
  17. ^ Ju Brown, John Brown. China, Japan, Korea; Culture and Customs. p.168
  18. ^ "韓国政府による日本文化開放政策(概要)" (Open-door policy of Japanese culture by the Korean government - Overview) (Japanese), Embassy of Japan in South Korea, 30 December 2003. (English translation)
  19. ^ 韓国、日本ドラマ解禁に積極姿勢 (Positive attitude Korea, Japan to ban drama) (Japanese), 西日本新聞 (West Newspapers), 24 February 2011. (English translation)
  20. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/29/world/asia/south-korea-to-sign-historic-military-pact-with-japan.html?_r=0
  21. ^ http://japandailypress.com/japan-ready-to-sign-south-korea-military-agreement-in-light-of-norths-aggressions-1727182/
  22. ^ Pellerin, Cheryl (30 July 2014). "Locklear Briefs on Asia-Pacific, Partners, Security". www.navy.mil (DoD). Retrieved 30 July 2014.