Japan–South Korea relations

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


South Korea
Diplomatic Mission
Japan Embassy, Seoul Korea Embassy, Tokyo
Ambassador Kōrō Bessho Ambassador Yu Heung-su

After the division of Korea, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) had established diplomatic relations in December 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.[citation needed]

Japan and South Korea are close neighbors. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan explains their relationship as 'sharing fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, respect for basic human rights, common interests in maintaining regional peace and security'.[1] In recent years, however, the relationship has greatly deteriorated due to many disputes, including the territorial claims on Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo or Takeshima), Japanese prime ministers' visits to Yasukuni Shrine, and differing views on Imperial Japan's treatment of colonial Korea, as well as Japan's refusal to negotiate Korea's demands that it apologize or pay reparations for mistreatment of World War II comfort women from Korea. These tensions have complicated American efforts to promote a common front against Chinese threats in the region.[2]

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, after China, the country with the second most negative perception of Japan in the world.[3]


Embassy of South Korea in Japan

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.[4] 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 Dokdo (독도, 獨島; "solitary island") in Korean and Takeshima (竹島; "bamboo island") in Japanese, are a group of islets in the Sea of Japan that is occupied by South Korea but its ownership is still disputed between South Korea and Japan. There are valuable fishing grounds around the islets and potentially large reserves of methane clathrate.[5]

The territorial dispute is a major source of nationalist tensions between the two nations.[6] Currently, South Korea occupies the island, which has its Korean Coast Guard stationed there, as well as two elderly Korean residents.[7]

Comfort women[edit]

Korea has been demanding compensation for "Comfort Women" issue, the women who were forced to work in Imperial Japanese military brothels during World War II. According to the World Conference on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery, 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.[8] However an article in the New York Times says that "There is little evidence that the Japanese military abducted or was directly involved in entrapping women in Korea, which had been a Japanese colony for decades when the war began."[9] because as an article in the Asahi Shimbun says "Prostitution agents were prevalent due to the poverty and patriarchal family system. For that reason, even if the military was not directly involved, it is said it was possible to gather many women through such methods as work-related scams and human trafficking."[10] 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 (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.[8][11] The Japanese government has also arranged an organization that gives money and official letters of apology to the victims.[8] 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.[12]

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.[8][13] 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.[14]

On 28 December 2015, Japan and South Korea have agreed to settle the issue of "comfort women" forced to work in Japanese brothels during World War II, in their first such deal since 1965. Japan had made apology and will pay 1bn yen ($8.3m, £5.6m) to fund victims. The announcement came after Japan's foreign minister Fumio Kishida arrived in Seoul for discussions with his counterpart Yun Byung-se, following moves to speed up talks.

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?) among K-pop fans 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,[15] and has often been identified as a landmark in South 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.[16]

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.[17][18] 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.[19][20] In 2004, the ban on imports of Japanese CDs and DVDs was lifted.[21] Currently, it is still illegal to broadcast Japanese music and television dramas.[22][23]

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.[24] The military agreement between South Korea and Japan is a military intelligence-sharing pact.[25]

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.

Human exchange[edit]

Japan–South Korea tourist comparison 2005-2015

Since Lee Myung-bak's visit to the Liancourt Rocks and demand for the emperor’s apology in 2012, the Japanese public's image of South Korea deteriorated significantly. Japanese tourists to South Korea declined to half from 3.5 million in 2012 to 1.8 million in 2015 while South Korean tourist doubled from 2 million in 2012 to 4 million in 2015.[26][27][28]

Official view[edit]

On March 2, 2015 The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan revised its official view of South Korea from "an important neighboring country which shares the basic common values of freedom, democracy, a market economy with Japan." to simply "the most important neighboring country for Japan." reflecting the deteriorated relations. The change was made on the next day of South Korean President Park Geun-hye's speech that Japan and South Korea, “both upholding values of liberal democracy and a market economy, are important neighbors ..."[29] A Japanese government official said “There is distrust in South Korea’s judiciary and society.” In February 2012, the word "sharing of the basic values of basic human rights" had already been removed in the text.[30][31][32][33][34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "1. Asia and Oceania - CHAPTER 2". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. 
  2. ^ Alastair Gale, "Enmity Between South Korea, Japan Worries U.S.: Seoul’s demand for new apology over WWII ‘comfort women’ complicates regional security ties" Wall Street Journal," Feb. 17, 2015
  3. ^ http://www.globescan.com/images/images/pressreleases/bbc2013_country_ratings/2013_country_rating_poll_bbc_globescan.pdf
  4. ^ "South Korean leader bids farewell to Japanese emperor". CNN. 1998-10-09. p. 1. Archived from the original on April 20, 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-19. 
  5. ^ "Gas exploration off Dokdo". Retrieved December 12, 2011. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ "Liancourt Rocks / Takeshima / Dokdo / Tokto", Globalsecurity
  8. ^ a b c d [1] The World Conference on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery
  9. ^ "Rewriting the War, Japanese Right Attacks a Newspaper". The New York Times. December 2, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Forcibly taken away: Coercion that led to lost freedom existed". Asahi Shimbun. August 22, 2014. 
  11. ^ [2] Doosan Encyclopedia article
  12. ^ "http://www.bbsi.co.kr/news/inside_view.asp?nIdx=537699". Bbsi.co.kr. December 14, 2011. Retrieved April 19, 2012.  External link in |title= (help)
  13. ^ [3] 2007 National Public Radio article
  14. ^ "Comfort Women used as sex slaves during World War II". Religioustolerance.org. Retrieved April 19, 2012. 
  15. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/30/AR2006083002985.htmlJapanese Women Catch the Korean Wave, Washington Post, August 31, 2006
  16. ^ "BoA Takes Sole Possession of 2nd Place of All Time. Brother and Sister of the Jackson Family Reach the Top 10 Together." (in Japanese). Oricon. March 4, 2008. Retrieved December 11, 2008. 
  17. ^ "KARA draws 12,000 fans for their first Japanese fan meeting". 
  18. ^ "SNSD is certified double platinum in Japan". 
  19. ^ Azuma, Yasushi (2001-05-01). "Release of bilingual CD aims to soothe Tokyo-Seoul discord". Kyodo News (The Japan Times). Retrieved 2007-01-19. 
  20. ^ "外務省: ご案内- ご利用のページが見つかりません". 
  21. ^ Ju Brown, John Brown. China, Japan, Korea; Culture and Customs. p.168
  22. ^ "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)
  23. ^ 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)
  24. ^ "South Korea to Sign Military Pact With Japan". The New York Times. 29 June 2012. 
  25. ^ "Japan ready to sign South Korea military agreement in light of North's aggressions - The Japan Daily Press". 
  26. ^ "Aide's memoir tells why S. Korean president demanded apology from emperor". The Asahi Shimbun. January 6, 2016. 
  27. ^ "Foreign visitors to Japan" (PDF). Japan National Tourism Organization. 
  28. ^ "Press release" (PDF). Japan National Tourism Organization. 
  29. ^ "Did Japan Just Change Its Attitude Toward South Korea?". The Diplomat. March 5, 2015. 
  30. ^ "The Basic data of epublis of Korea". The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Archived from the original on February 21, 2012. 
  31. ^ "The Basic data of epublis of Korea". The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Archived from the original on January 27, 2012. 
  32. ^ "The Basic data of Republic of Korea" (in Japanese). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Archived from the original on November 9, 2014. 
  33. ^ "The Basic data of Republic of Korea" (in Japanese). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Retrieved March 2, 2015. 
  34. ^ "Foreign Ministry no longer says South Korea shares 'basic values'". The Asahi Shimbun. March 4, 2015.