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Korea and Japan: history wars

18 0 0
13.08.2019

By Gwynne Dyer

Nation-states, like four-year-olds, find it very hard to admit they are in the wrong and apologize. Adult intervention often helps, but all Japan and South Korea have is U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (who tried and failed to mediate early this month in Bangkok). So the trade war between the two grows and festers.

There are obvious similarities with the trade war that Donald Trump is waging against China, with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe playing the Trump role: blustering bully with no clear game plan. Like the Trump trade war, too, the Japan-South Korea confrontation threatens to destabilize both East Asian security arrangements and the global market.

Yet the confrontation between Tokyo and Seoul is not really about trade at all. It's about the difficult history of relations between an ex-imperial power, Japan, and its former colony, Korea.

Japan is existentially in the wrong in this relationship, because it colonized Korea in 1910 and ruled it, sometimes with great brutality, until it was defeated in World War II in 1945. But Tokyo doesn't like to be reminded of all that, and claims that it discharged whatever moral debt it owed when it paid $500 million to Seoul in 1965.

Koreans take a different view,........

© The Korea Times