Relations Between Japan and South Korea Are Blossoming
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Relations Between Japan and South Korea Are Blossoming


APLN member Eunjung Lim was quoted in The Economist, where she highlighted that generational change and shifting geopolitical dynamics are leading to a gradual shift in South Korean attitudes towards Japan.

Nonetheless, there are good reasons to believe the current relationship will endure. Mr Yoon has personally committed himself to Japan in a way few South Korean leaders have. His childhood experience of the country, where he briefly lived while his father was a visiting scholar, predisposed him to have “good feelings” toward Japan, says one former senior South Korean official.

Two larger structural forces are also at work. First is generational change. While the struggle against Japanese colonialism remains a pillar of South Korean identity, the bitter history generates less passion among today’s youth, who only learn about it through textbooks, says Lim Eun-jung of Kongju National University. The latest eai survey suggests that age is among the most important variables affecting South Koreans’ favourable views of Japan. The highest-rated film in South Korea these days is “Exhuma”, a supernatural horror with seeming anti-Japanese overtones—a message lost on many young viewers. “I didn’t even think about anti-Japanese sentiments,” says Kim Do-hoon, a 23-year-old fan. “My blood isn’t boiling from anger.”

Second is geopolitical change. Faced with an assertive China, a threatening North Korea and a disruptive Russia, the two East Asian democracies have ever more strategic incentives to get along. Doing so also helps strengthen both countries’ alliances with America. Even in South Korean opposition circles, “the stance on Japan is changing little-by-little, and the main reason is the strategic environment,” says Wi Sung-lac, a former diplomat and adviser to progressive politicians. As the governments look ahead to next year, which will mark the 60th anniversary of their formal relations, the “scope and depth” of their cooperation is “wider than ever”, says a senior Japanese official. It will be an opportune occasion for the two to renew their vows.

The full article can be accessed on the Economist website here.

Image: iStock/seolbin

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