The Non-State Drivers of History Problems in Japan-South Korea Relations

November 27, 2019 6:00 PM (finished)

Lauren Richardson

(The Australian National University)

Date/Time November 27, 2019 6:00 PM
Location Room 549 5th floor, Akamon Sogo Kenkyuto Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo  [map]
Abstract History problems remain the major bone of contention in Japan-South Korea relations. Although the historical roots of such problems have gradually receded with time, paradoxically the diplomatic friction surrounding them has grown steadily more intense. The post-Cold War era in particular has witnessed a marked surge in bilateral tension over the burden of the past. In this presentation I explain this paradox as a rise in contentious activism that began against the backdrop of South Korea’s democratization in the late 1980s. Driving this activism have been the Korean victims of Japanese imperial policies, intent on exacting redress for their historical ordeals; and they have been supported in this endeavour by an array of progressive activists in Japan. I argue that the pressure tactics of the victims and their supporters have become increasingly effectual over time. This has manifested as a new logic for the ROK-Japan relationship: one in which citizens are now agents in shaping state-to-state interaction. Drawing on case studies of Korean “comfort women,” forced laborers and atomic bomb victims, this presentation aims to elucidate the precise mechanisms by which victim redress movements are affecting Japan-South Korea relations.
Bio Lauren Richardson is Director of Studies and Lecturer at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy. Previously she taught Northeast Asian Relations at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on the “history problems” in Northeast Asia and the role of non-state actors in shaping diplomatic interactions in the region. Dr Richardson holds Master’s degrees in Asian Studies (Monash University) and Political Science (Keio University), and a PhD in International Relations from the ANU. She has been a visiting fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs and Keio University.