History of Japan–Korea relations

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For over 1,500 years, the relationship between Japan and Korea was characterized by cultural exchange, trade, war, and political contact, all of which underlie their relations even today. During the ancient era, exchange of culture and ideas between Japan and mainland Asia were common through migration via the Korean Peninsula or diplomatic contact and trade between Japan and Korea. Buddhism, Chinese foods, Chinese characters and other technology came to Japan via Korea or East China Sea.[1]

Since 1945 relations involve three states: Japan, North Korea, and South Korea. Japan made the independence of Korea from China and Japan a high priority in the late 19th century, fighting wars with those two countries on the issue. Japan took control of Korea with the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty of 1910. When Japan was defeated in World War II, Soviet forces took control of the North, and American forces took control of the South, with the 38th parallel as the agreed-upon dividing line. South Korea became independent as of August 15, 1945, and North Korea as of September 9, 1945. In June 1950, North Korea invaded and almost conquered South Korea, but was driven back by United Nations command, leading American, Korean, and international forces. North Korea was nearly captured, with the United Nations intending to rollback Communism there.[2] However, China entered the war, pushed the UN forces out of North Korea, and a military stalemate resulted along the lines similar to the 38th parallel. An armistice was agreed on in 1953, which is still in effect, and the cease-fire line of that year remains the boundary between North and South.[3]

Diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea were established in 1965. In the early 2000s, the Japanese–South Korean relationship soured when the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited the Yasukuni Shrine every year during his term. Furthermore, conflicts continue to exist over claims of the Liancourt Rocks - a group of small islets halfway between the two countries. In 2012, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak became the first president to visit the Liancourt Rocks.

Bilaterally and through the Six-Party Talks, North Korea and Japan continue to discuss the case of Japanese citizens abducted by the North Korean government during the 1970s and 1980s, although there are no diplomatic relations between the two; Japan does not recognize North Korea as a sovereign state.

In recent decades irreconcilable disputes over history and history textbooks have soured relations between South Korea and China on the one hand and Japan on the other. The debate has exacerbated nationalist pride and distrust, as teachers and professors become soldiers in an intellectual war over events more than a half-century old or even 2000 years old. Efforts to reach compromise agreements have failed. Meanwhile, a much less controversial and less politicized historiography has flourished in Western countries.[4] [5] In 2013, polls reported that 94% of Koreans believe Japan "Feels no regret for its past wrongdoings," while 63% of Japanese state that Korean demands for Japanese apologies are, "Incomprehensible." [6]

Ancient times[edit]

Relations between Japan and Korea go back at least two millennia. After the 3rd century BC, people from Goguryeo, Baekje, Silla and Gaya in the Korean Peninsula, started to move into the Kyushu region of Japan.[7] Many of knowledge from Asia were transmitted to Japan via Korea. According to the description of the Book of Wei, Yamatai-Koku kingdom in Japan and Four Commanderies of Han had diplomatic exchanges around the third century. There are indications of cross-border political influence, but with varying accounts as to in which direction the political influence flowed. It is believed that the ruling class had close ties with Baekje, one of the three Korean kingdoms.[8] Buddhism was introduced to Japan from Baekje of Korea.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15][15][16] By the time of the Three Kingdoms period of Korea, Baekje and Silla sent their princes to the Yamato court in exchange for military support to continue their already-begun military campaigns around 400.[17][18]

The last king of Baekje, Uija (reigned 641-660), formed an alliance with Japan and made Prince Buyeo Pung and King Zenko stay there as their hostages. In 660, Baekje fell when it was attacked by Silla and the Tang-dynasty China. Former generals of Baekje, including Gwisil Boksin, asked Japan to return Prince Buyeo Pung and to provide military aid. In 663, Japan, supporting Baekje, was defeated by the allied forces of Tang dynasty China and Silla in Korean Peninsula (the Battle of Baekgang), and the restoration of Baekje ended up in failure. After the fall of Baekje, Japan took in many Korean refugees, but at the same time hostility between Japan and Silla escalated. Empress Jitō honored King Zenko by giving him the hereditary title of Kudara no Konikishi and allowed him to pass on his royal lineage to future generations. According to the Shoku Nihongi (続日本紀), Takano no Niigasa came from a background of the naturalized clansmen Yamato-no-Fumito (和史) and was a 10th-generation descendant of King Muryeong of Baekje. She was chosen as a concubine for Emperor Kōnin and subsequently became the mother of Emperor Kanmu.[19][20]

Japan has had official contact with the Chinese since the 7th to 8th century. Chinese culture was introduced to Japan via the Korean Peninsula, but the Korean value slumped when Chinese culture was introduced directly via Japanese missions to Tang China. Emperor Kanmu severed diplomatic relations with Silla in 799.[21] From the early 9th–11th centuries, Korean pirates plundered the north Kyushu region of Japan and Japan-Korea relations deteriorated.[22][23]

During the middle Kamakura period, Japan suffered from the Mongol Empire (Yuan dynasty), which was then dominant on the continent, and its subject kingdom, the Goryeo of Korea. The History of Yuan states that the Mongol invasions of Japan began with King Chungnyeol of Goryeo "persistently recommending an expedition to the east to Yuan's emperor in order to force Japan to become its subject."[24] In order to invade Japan, the Mongols ordered the Korean king to manufacture 1000 warships.[25] The two Mongol - Korean fleets were destroyed by storms, giving rise to the myth of the Kamikaze, the divine wind that protected Japan. At the time of Mongol invasions of Japan, Japanese people were scared by the attacks of the Mongol and Goryeo army, saying, 'moko kokuri no oni ga kuru (the devils of the Mongol and Goryeo will come)', which phrase later came to represent something scary; thus a tradition spread to the whole country to scare children by saying 'mukuri kokuri, oni ga kuru' to make them behave themselves.

Early modern period (16th - 18th centuries)[edit]

During the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period in Japan, samurai warriors and pirates from the Kyushu region attacked ships along the coasts of China and Korea and were feared as Japanese pirates (called "wako" in Japanese).

In 1592 and 1598 Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who had unified the nation, ordered daimyōs (feudal lords) all over the country to the conquest of Ming Dynasty China by way of Korea, after the latter's refusal to allow Japanese forces to march through, while King Seonjo alerting its Chinese counterpart regarding the Japanese threat. Japan completed the occupation of the Korean peninsula in three months. The Korean king Seonjo first relocated to Pyongyang, then Uiju. In 1593, The Chinese emperor intervened and sent his army and recaptured the Korean peninsula. However, the Japanese military were able to gather in Seoul and successfully counterattacked China. Although during the war Korean land forces lost most of their land battles (with only a handful of notable exceptions), the Korean Navy won almost all the naval battles with decisive defeats of the Japanese fleet by Admiral Yi Sun-sin (who never lost a battle; the only battle Korean fleets lost to the Japanese was not commanded by Admiral Yi), it managed to cut off Japanese supply lines and helped to stall the invading forces in Korean peninsula. Amid the stagnation of the battle between the Ming army and the Japanese army, Hideyoshi died in September 1598. The Council of Five Elders ordered the remaining Japanese forces in Korea to retreat.

After the war, Japan then initiated a series of policies called Sakoku to isolate itself from international world. It forbade Japanese to go abroad in ships, and initiated the death penalty for Japanese returning to Japan from abroad. This ended Japanese piracy definitively. During the Japanese invasion, much of Korea's cultural heritage was destroyed and looted by the invading Japanese armies. Among the atrocities of the Japanese soldiers was the practice of cutting off noses and ears of slain enemy soldiers, which evolved into cutting off those of the living and the civilians in order to fulfill the "kill quota" assigned to the troops. Hence the origin of the Korean saying to misbehaving children, "Ear-nose devils are coming!".[26] After the wars, Korean missions were dispatched 11 times to the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan between 1607 and 1811.[27]

At the end of the 16th century, the Bunroku-Keicho War broke off the relationship between Korea and Japan. However, the Tokugawa shogunate started trading again with Korea by concluding the Treaty of Giyu with the Sō clan of Tsushima Island in 1609, establishing a relationship of near equality through mutual visits of Korean messengers. Tsushinshi were sent from Korea to pay homage to a new shogun or to celebrate the birth of an heir to a shogun. Korean envoys were provided with the same role as an envoy to bring tributes to a Chinese emperor or was used for showing the prestige of Tokugawa shogunate[citation needed]

19th century[edit]

With the erosion of Qing Chinese influences in the 19th century, Korea began to avoid Chinese influence, but also Western and Japanese control. Japan was rapidly modernizing in the second half of the 19th century and showing a keen interest in Korea, especially as it was the closest potential point of expansion directly on the Asian mainland. It was perceived that Japan would be vulnerable to any power that controlled the Korean peninsula. With the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1876, Japan decided the expansion of their settlement, the addition of the market and acquired an enclave in Busan. A severe conflict at court between Heungseon Daewongun, the biological father of Gojong (king of the Joseon Dynasty), and Gojong's wife Queen Min continued. In 1882, Daewongun was seized by the Qing-dynasty China troops, and confined in Tianjin City (Jingo Incident). The Min family including Queen Min assumed authority, but relations between Japan and Korea did not turn better. Queen Min were changing their policies from pro-Japanese to Qing Dynasty China. In the Sino-Japanese War, When Japan beat China in 1895, the Treaty of Shimonoseki was concluded, and removed China's sovereignty over Korea.[28] Korea moved closer to Russia. Japan became alarmed when Russia enhanced its grip and influence over the Korean peninsula by acquiring vital state assets such as the mining rights in Chongsong and Gyeongwon sold off by Queen Min, timber rights in the north, and tariff rights, and purchased back and restored many of these. In the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95, Japan defeated China and released Korea from China's tributary system. Japan imposed the Treaty of Shimonoseki on China; it forced China to acknowledge Korea as an independent country. Japan encouraged the modernization of Korea. However, the Min clan, including the Queen Min, took precautions against Japan of which dominating power was further increasing in Korea.[29] In 1895, Queen Min was assassinated by Japan after seeking to promote Russian influence and oppose reform.[30]

In 1897, Joseon was renamed the Korean Empire (1897–1910), affirming its independence, but greatly gravitated closer to Russia, with the King ruling from the Russian legation, and then using Russian guards upon return to his palace. Japan declared war on Russia to drive out Russian influence, while Korea declared to be neutral. Japan ended the war by imposing the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1905. Korea became a protectorate of Japan, a precursor to its annexation. Emperor Gojong, who did not accept the conclusion of this Treaty, dispatched secret envoys to the second Hague Peace Conference in 1907 in order to denounce the conclusion of the treaty as compulsive and invalid, but the trial failed and the Korea-Japan relationship deteriorated. On July 24, they concluded the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1907 to grasp domestic administration authority, and disbanded the army of the Korean Empire on August 1 immediately after that. Itō Hirobumi, who was the first prime minister of Japan and one of the elder statesmen and was Resident-General of Korea opposed to the annexation of Korea.[31] However, the power balance of the Japan domestic grew in favor of the annexation, because an influential statesmen objecting to the early annexation disappeared due to the assassination of Ito Hirobumi by An Jung-geun in 1909, On August 22, 1910, Japan officially annexed the Korean Empire by signing the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty.[32]

20th century[edit]

Korea under Japanese rule[edit]

During the colonial period, more than 100,000 Koreans served in the Imperial Japanese Army. While it is debatable whether the service of these Korean men was forced upon them,[33] it is without a doubt that Koreans fought alongside Japanese as allies to battle against the forces of the Allies of World War II.[34] Some Korean women were also sent as comfort women at the war front to serve the Imperial Japanese Army.[35][36][37] There are several controversies about this issue, including the veracity on the nature of the comfort women as sex slaves, or whether the Japanese Imperial Army was involved in the supposed women's abductions.[38] The issue on comfort women had been the source of diplomatic tensions between Japan and Korea since the 1980s.

Kim Il-sung led a Korean independence movement, which was active in the border areas of China and Russia, particularly in areas with considerable ethnic Korean populations. Kim founded North Korea, and his descendants have still not signed a peace treaty with Japan. The Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, led by (later) South Korea's first president Syngman Rhee, moved from Shanghai to Chongqing. Lee lobbied in the United States and was recognized by the South Korean administrator by Douglas MacArthur.[39] Japanese control of Korea ended on September 9, 1945 when the Japanese Governor-General of Korea signed the surrender document of the United States in Seoul.

Post World War II[edit]

At the end of World War II, Korea regained its independence after 35 years of Japanese rule. Per the Yalta Conference agreements, Soviet forces accepted surrender of Japanese forces in northern Korea above the 38th parallel, and U.S. forces south of that line. Korea was then divided into Soviet (North Korean) and U.S. (South Korean) spheres. South Korea refused diplomatic and trade relations with Japan, using Japan as a domestic bugbear to rally support for the South Korean government. The early ROK (Republic of Korea; South Korea) government derived its legitimacy from its opposition to Japan and North Korea, portraying South Korea as under threat from the North and South. The diplomatic relationship between Japan and South Korea was established in 1965, when the Treaty on Basic Relations was signed; Japan subsequently recognized the Republic of Korea (the official name of South Korea) as the only legitimate government on the Korean Peninsula. As such, North Korea does not have official diplomatic ties with Japan.

21st century[edit]

In recent years, the two countries would jointly host the 2002 FIFA World Cup, and 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.

In 2015, relations between the two nations reached a high point when South Korea and Japan addressed the issue of comfort women, or sex slaves, used by Japanese military during World War II. Fumio Kishida, the Japanese Foreign Minister, pledged that the Japanese government would donate 1 billion yen ($8.3 million USD, 2015) to help pay for the care of the surviving former sex slaves. Furthermore, Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzō Abe, made public apologies to the "women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered insurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women". South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, hailed this deal as a sign of positive progression in Japanese and South Korean relations.[40][41]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Association for Asian Research. The Japanese Roots (Part III)
  2. ^ James I. Matray, "Truman's Plan for Victory: National Self-Determination and the Thirty-Eighth Parallel Decision in Korea." Journal of American History 66.2 (1979): 314-333. in JSTOR
  3. ^ Steven Casey, ed. The Korean War at Sixty: New Approaches to the Study of the Korean War (Routledge, 2014).
  4. ^ J.J. Suh, "War-like history or diplomatic history? Contentions over the past and regional orders in Northeast Asia.," Australian Journal of International Affairs (2007) 61#3 pp 382-402.
  5. ^ Gi-Wook Shin, and Daniel C. Sneider, eds. History textbooks and the wars in Asia: divided memories (Routledge, 2011).
  6. ^ Ahn, Dong-hwan. "94% Koreans Say Japan Feels No Regret for Its Past Wrongdoings, 63% Japanese Find Korean Demand for Japanese Apology Incomprehensible,”." Seoul shinmun, January 4 (2013).
  7. ^ 강성현 (2005). 21세기 한반도와 주변 4강대국. 가람기획. p. 156. ISBN 89-8435-224-1. 김달수의 《일본 열도에 흐르는 한국 혼》에 의하면 고대 한반도의 고구려․백제․신라․가야국으로부터 일본 열도로의 이동이 시작된 것은 기원전 3세기, 일본의 이른바 야요이(彌生)시대부터였다고 한다. 
  8. ^ http://egloos.zum.com/supercms/v/4076880
  9. ^ Metropolitan Museum of Art [1] "Metallurgy was also introduced from the Asian mainland during this time. Bronze and iron were used to make weapons, armor, tools, and ritual implements such as bells (dotaku)"
  10. ^ Choson Sinbo "Kitora Tomb Originates in Koguryo Murals" By Chon Ho Chon "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-02-26. Retrieved 2012-09-02. 
  11. ^ "Yayoi Era". Archived from the original on 2005-11-11. 
  12. ^ "Japanese history: Jomon, Yayoi, Kofun". Japan-guide.com. 2002-06-09. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  13. ^ "Asia Society: The Collection In Context". Asiasocietymuseum.com. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  14. ^ Pottery - MSN Encarta. Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. 
  15. ^ a b "Japanese Art and Its Korean Secret". .kenyon.edu. 2003-04-06. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  16. ^ "Japanese Royal Tomb Opened to Scholars for First Time". News.nationalgeographic.com. 2010-10-28. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  17. ^ Korean History Record Samguk Sagi : 三國史記 新羅本紀 : 元年 三月 與倭國通好 以奈勿王子未斯欣爲質 [2] ; King Asin of Baekje sent his son Jeonji in 397
  18. ^ Korean History Record Samguk Sagi : 三國史記 百済本紀 : 六年夏五月 王與倭國結好 以太子腆支爲質 秋七月大閱於漢水之南 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-05-12. Retrieved 2008-05-12.  :King Silseong of Silla sent his son Misaheun in 402.
  19. ^ Watts, Jonathan (Dec 28, 2001). "The Emperor's New Roots". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-06-11. "I, on my part, feel a certain kinship with Korea, given the fact that it is recorded in the Chronicles of Japan that the mother of Emperor Kanmu was of the line of King Muryong of Paekche," [Emperor Akihito] told reporters. 
  20. ^ Fujiwara no Tsugutada; Sugano no Mamichi, eds. (797), 続日本紀 (Shoku Nihongi) (in Japanese), 40, retrieved 2012-06-11, 壬午。葬於大枝山陵。皇太后姓和氏。諱新笠。贈正一位乙継之女也。母贈正一位大枝朝臣真妹。后先出自百済武寧王之子純陀太子。皇后容徳淑茂。夙著声誉。天宗高紹天皇竜潜之日。娉而納焉。生今上。早良親王。能登内親王。宝亀年中。改姓為高野朝臣。今上即位。尊為皇太夫人。九年追上尊号。曰皇太后。其百済遠祖都慕王者。 
  21. ^ Nihon Kōki (日本後紀) 延暦18年4月庚寅(16日)条(799)
  22. ^ Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku (日本三代実録, "The True History of Three Reigns of Japan") Vol.16
  23. ^ Nihongiryaku (日本紀略) 弘仁四年
  24. ^ 『元史』 巻十二(History of Yuan Vol 12) 本紀第十二 世祖九 至元十九年七月壬戌(August 9, 1282)「高麗国王請、自造船百五十艘、助征日本。」
  25. ^ 『高麗史』巻一百ニ 列伝十五 李蔵用 元宗九年五月二十九日の条 (History of Goryeo Vol.102 May 29, 1268) 「又勑蔵用曰、爾還爾國、速奏軍額、爾將討之、爾等不知出軍將討何國、朕欲討宋與日本耳、今朕視爾國猶一家、爾國若有難、朕安敢不救乎、朕征不庭之國、爾國出師助戰亦其分也、爾歸語王、造戰艦一千艘、可載米三四千石者、蔵用對曰、敢不承命、但督之、則雖有船材、恐不及也」
  26. ^ http://www.ko2ja.co.kr/japan_history/view.asp?idx=146&pdsCode=200407280013&cgrCode=8C
  27. ^ Sin, Hyŏng-sik. (2004). A Brief history of Korea, p. 90.
  28. ^ Treaty of Shimonoseki [3] Article 1 "淸國ハ朝鮮國ノ完全無缺ナル獨立自主ノ國タルコトヲ確認ス因テ右獨立自主ヲ損害スヘキ朝鮮國ヨリ淸國ニ對スル貢獻典禮等ハ將來全ク之ヲ廢止スヘシ"
  29. ^ Tatiana M. Simbirtseva, "Queen Min of Korea: Coming to Power." Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society–Korea Branch 71 (1996): 41-54. online
  30. ^ Bruce Cumings, Korea's Place in the Sun (1997) p 123.
  31. ^ Asahi Shimbun March 27, 2008 11:40 Lee Sung-Hwan &
  32. ^ Chong Ik Eugene Kim; Han-Kyo Kim (1967). Korea and the Politics of Imperialism, 1876-1910. p. 53. 
  33. ^ "Truth Commission on Forced Mobilization under the japanese Imperialism Republic of Korea". Archived from the original on February 14, 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2009. 
  34. ^ A Brief History of the US-Korea Relations Prior to 1945. "While less than 100 Koreans in America enlisted in the US military during World War II, more than 100,000 Koreans served in the Japanese army as officers and soldiers. There were two Korean Lt. Generals in the Japanese Army: a Chosun prince, whose rank was honorary and who commanded no troops; and Lt. Gen. Hong Sa-Ik, who was a professional military man from the old Chosun army."
  35. ^ "従軍慰安婦の正体". Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved August 19, 2012. 
  36. ^ Soh, C. Sarah (May 2001). "Japan's Responsibility Toward Comfort Women Survivors". San Francisco: Japan Policy Research Institute. Retrieved February 3, 2012. 
  37. ^ "WCCW's Mission". Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues. 2011. Archived from the original on May 2, 2010. Retrieved February 18, 2010. 
  38. ^ "朝日新聞が日韓関係を破壊した 慰安婦についての大誤報を謝罪することが関係修復の条件". Retrieved August 19, 2012. 
  39. ^ Bruce Cummings (2010). "38 degrees of separation: a forgotten occupation". The Korean War: a History. Modern Library. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-8129-7896-4. 
  40. ^ "Japan apologises for its wartime sex slaves". Retrieved December 29, 2015. 
  41. ^ "South Korea, Japan reach agreement on 'comfort women'". Retrieved December 29, 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Cha, Victor D. (1999). Alignment despite Antagonism: the US-Korea-Japan Security Triangle (Stanford University Press).
  • Conroy, Hilary. (1960) The Japanese seizure of Korea, 1868-1910: a study of realism and idealism in international relations (1960). online in Questia
  • Cumings, Bruce. (2005) Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History (W W Norton).
  • Dudden, Alexis (2008). Troubled Apologies Among Japan, Korea, and the United States (Columbia UP)
  • Hawley, Samuel. The Imjin War: Japan's Sixteenth-Century Invasion of Korea and Attempt to Conquer China (2005). excerpt
  • Lee, Chong-Sik (1985). Japan and Korea: The Political Dimension (Stanford University Press).
  • Lee, Chong-Sik (1963). The Politics of Korean Nationalism (U of California Press), online
  • Lind, Jennifer (2008). Sorry States: Apologies in International Politics (Cornell University Press).
  • Meyers, Ramon Hawley, et al. (1984). The Japanese Colonial Empire, 1895-1945 (Princeton University Press).
  • Morley, James (1965). Japan and Korea (New York: Walker, 1965).
  • Swope, Kenneth M. A Dragon's Head and a Serpent's Tail: Ming China and the First Great East Asian War, 1592–1598 (2009)
  • Turnbull, Stephen. Samurai Invasion: Japan's Korean War 1592 -1598 (2002).

External links[edit]