Historical Grievances in the Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea more than Half a Century after Their Normalization
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Historical Grievances in the Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea more than Half a Century after Their Normalization
Publication type
Dmitry Streltsov 
Institute of Oriental Studies RAS
MGIMO University
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow

The article deals with the issues of the historical past rooting the conflict between Japan and the Republic of Korea since their normalization in 1965. Historical grievances have already gone beyond academic disputes to become part of the political discourse. Creating a destructive psychological atmosphere in bilateral relations, these conflicts are manifested in emotional street speeches and demonstrations, mutual exchange of accusations by government officials, and even in the recall of ambassadors. The most important reason for the conflict over the historical past is the South Korean side's dissatisfaction with the terms of normalization of bilateral relations with Japan held in June 1965, according to which the parties renounced any mutual claims related to the period of Japanese colonial rule, while simultaneously accepting Japan's commitment to provide financial assistance to the South Korean government, conditional on its economic development goals. Many South Koreans believe that Japan did not properly repent and did not suffer due punishment for its colonial rule in Korea, and that the real victims did not receive adequate compensation from Tokyo. The greatest public response among the unresolved problems of the historical past is the problem of “comfort women” and the problem of forced labor mobilization of Koreans who were transported to the homeland during the war. In Japan, however, it is believed that the country's leadership has already sufficiently expressed its apologies in the past and that the problem of material compensation has already been completely resolved. The rise of nationalist sentiment in East Asia, which has equally affected Japan and South Korea, does not allow for a proper compromise. Against this background, the issues of the historical past will remain on the agenda of bilateral relations for an indefinite period of time.

“Historical grievances”, Japanese colonial rule, Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea, renunciation of claims, ‘comfort women’, Kono statement, forced labor mobilization
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