There have been disputes between Japan and Korea (both North and South) on many issues over the years. The two nations have a complex history of cultural exchange, trade, and war, underlying their relations today. In ancient times, cultural exchanges of ideas between Japan and Korea were common through Koreans immigrating to Japan or via Japanese trade and diplomacy with Korea. However, the subsequent Japanese aggression, such as the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598), and the 1910–1945 annexation of Korea, have scarred the relations of both countries ever since.
Today, Japan and South Korea are major trading partners with many students, tourists, entertainers, and business people traveling between the two countries. Conversely, North Korea has few political or economic relations with Japan.
Proponents of Japanese nationalism and Japanese imperialism as well as scholars, such as Professor Carter Eckert at Harvard University and Professor Yi (李榮薰) at Seoul National University, have made attempts at justifying the colonial era by citing industrial advances made during that time. Much of this argument has been discredited in recent years, as overall development of the Korean Peninsula did not start until after the end of the Korean War (1950–1953). Japanese control of Korea ended in 1945 with Japan's surrender on the USS Missouri. Many Koreans suffered under Japanese rule.
Nakasone Yasuhiro discontinued visits to Yasukuni shrine in 1986. However, Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi resumed visits to Yasukuni Shrine, starting on August 13, 2001. He visited the shrine six times as Prime Minister, stating that he was "paying homage to the servicemen who died for defense of Japan. These visits drew strong condemnation and protests from Japan's neighbors, mainly China. As a result, China and South Korea refused to meet with Koizumi, and there were no mutual visits between Chinese and Japanese leaders after October 2001 and between South Korean and Japanese leaders after June 2005. President of South Korea Roh Moo-hyun has suspended all summit talks between South Korea and Japan.
So far, the Japanese government has refused to fully apologize and has taken a minor action to settle the problem. They arranged a small private organization that gives small amounts of money to the victims. Today, many of the surviving comfort women are in their 70s and 80s. Many suspect that the Japanese government is waiting and hoping for these witnesses to die in which case there will be no more evidence and memories will start to fall apart, allowing people to forget about this event.
On the other hand, the European Parliament has recently adopted a resolution that demands the Japanese government to apologize to the former comfort women. This resolution was passed with 54 ayes out of 57 parliament members present. This is the fourth time a foreign country has demanded an official apology from Japan to Korea, following ones from U.S, Canada, and Netherlands. The Japanese government, however, has refused to do this so far.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) reviews and approves the content of school history textbooks available for selection by Japanese schools. Foreign scholars, as well as many Japanese historians, have criticized the political slant and factual errors of some approved textbooks. After the Tsukurukai's textbook passed inspection in April 2001, South Korea demanded, to no avail, the revision of 25 passages in the textbook. This demand aroused resentment among those who felt that Korea was interfering in Japanese domestic affairs. So far, Tsukurukai's textbook has been adopted by less than 0.1% of the schools, but has become a bestseller in the general book market, and has caused the viewpoint of textbooks to shift to the right. For example, it omits any reference to "comfort women". However, it should be noted that there are many Japanese teacher unions that are against the textbook. In contrast, in North Korea, only one series of history textbooks published by the government is allowed for use in schools. South Korea uses 6 history text books which the schools can choose from. Some conservative Japanese scholars claim that Korean textbooks have a bias in criticizing Japan and the Japanese occupation of Korea , but thus far there has been no massive protest against Korean textbooks in Japan.
Twenty years after the end of World War II, South Korea and Japan re-established diplomatic relations with the 1965 signing of the Treaty on Basic Relations. In 2005, South Korea disclosed diplomatic documents that detailed the proceedings of the treaty. Kept secret for 40 years, the documents revealed that Japan provided 500 million dollars in soft loans and 300 million in grants to South Korea as compensation for its 1910-45 occupation, and that South Korea agreed to demand no more compensations after the treaty, either at the government to government level or individual to government level. It was also revealed that the South Korean government assumed the responsibility for compensating individuals on a lump sum basis while rejecting Japan's proposal for direct compensation. However, the South Korean government used most of the loans for economic development and have failed to provide adequate compensation to victims, paying only 300,000 won per death, with only a total of 2,570 million won to the relatives of 8,552 victims who died in forced labor. As the result, the Korean victims are preparing to file a compensation suit against the South Korean government as of 2005. The treaty does not preclude individual suits against Japanese individuals or corporations but such suits are often constrained by the statute of limitation. The Women's International War Crimes Tribunal 2000 on Japan Military Sexual Slavery, a mock trial organised by NGOs, issued a ruling that "states cannot agree by treaty to waive the liability of another state for crimes against humanity.
Several Japanese Prime Ministers have issued several official apologies, including Prime Minister Obuchi in the Japan-Republic of Korea Joint Declaration of 1998, and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration of 2002. Koizumi said, "I once again express my feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology, and also express the feelings of mourning for all victims, both at home and abroad, in the war. While Koreans welcomed the apologies at the time, many Koreans now view the statements as insincere, because of the continuing actions of Japanese officials that contradict such statements of remorse. In one example, hundreds of Japanese politicians made a tributary visit to the Yasukuni Shrine to honour Japan's war dead while Prime Minister Koizumi was simultaneously issuing an apology. This was seen by South Koreans as a conflict between actions and words and has caused many South Koreans to distrust Japanese statements of apology. In addition, almost all politicians who have apologized at official international forums would later retract or contradict their apologies at home in Japan causing confusion internationally. Thus, most apologies are seen as vague statements of regret or sadness for a tragic past while failing to indicate specific details.
The Liancourt Rocks (Korean: Dokdo "solitary island"; Japanese: Takeshima "bamboo island") are a group of islets in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) whose ownership is disputed between Japan and South Korea. South Korea currently occupies the islands, an action that continues to draw official protests from Japan. There are valuable fishing grounds around the islets and potentially large reserves of natural gas.
Perceptions of Dokdo in Korea and Japan
ㅇ According to Samguksagi ("Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms"), an island state known as "Usanguk" was incorporated into Korea's Silla Dynasty in A.D. 512 when Lee Sa-bu, a governor of the ancient kingdom of Silla, conquered Usanguk. The eastern islands Ulleungdo and Dokdo that composed Usanguk have been part of the Korean history ever since. Dokdo has been known by various names including Usando and Sambongdo, but Seokdo or Dokdo came to gain widespread currency since the late 19th century.
ㅇ Many historical records including Sejongsillok ("Annals of King Sejong") (1454) have clearly shown there were two groups of islands - Ulleungdo and Usando - in the East Sea, and that Usando refers to Dokdo. Some Japanese scholars have tried to deny the existence of Usando, asserting that "there is a view claiming that Ulleungdo and Usando are in fact one island known by different names." However, this view appears in such documents as the Sinjeung donggug yeoji seungnam (Revised and Augmented Version of the Survey of National Geography of Korea) (published in 1481, revised in 1531) merely as a way of briefly introducing a view held by a minority of people, and the official view clearly distinguishes Ulleungdo and Usando as two separate groups of islets, demonstrating Korea's perception of Dokdo as part of its territory in those days.
ㅇ Many maps clearly distinguish between Ulleungdo and Usando. Though some old maps incorrectly indicate the position and size of Dokdo, this does not mean that they are denying the existence of Usando. Maps manufactured in old times, before the development of science and technology, lacked accuracy in terms of geographic information and measurement, and relied on the subjective perception of each map's creators. The key point here is that most of the old Korean maps, whether produced by the government or by civilians, show both Ulleungdo and Dokdo, demonstrating that even in the past, Dokdo was recognized as a territory of Korea.
ㅇ The first document in Japan to make reference to Dokdo is the Onshu shicho goki ("Records on Observations in Oki Province") compiled in 1667. Interestingly, the Web site of Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not mention this document. Onshu shicho goki is a topographical survey of Onshu (present-day Oki Island) compiled by a government official of Izumo. The survey stating, “Onshu is in the middle of the North Sea... two-days of sailing northwest brings one to Songdo, and then Jukdo after one more day... therefore, Japan's boundary shall be limited to this state (shu),” explicitly recognizes Onshu as the boundary of Japan. This is a record that clearly shows that Japan in the 17th century did not see Dokdo as its own territory.
ㅇ Despite Japanese claims that it has recognized Dokdo for a long time, old Japanese maps produced by the government consistently omit Dokdo, and many civilian-made Japanese maps place Dokdo as part of Korean territory.
In August 1951, South Korea requested that the USA have Japan give up Dokto/Takeshima, but the USA Secretary of State David Dean Rusk researched the historical dispute and rejected South Korea's request. 1P 2P 3P 4P
In January 1952, South Korea's Syngman Rhee line declaration included Liancourt Rocks as Korean territory. Since September 1954, Japan has proposed adjudicating this problem in the International Court of Justice but South Korea has both refused to accept this proposal or to acknowledge the dispute, likely based on various grounds. North Korea supports the South Korean claim.
Koreans claim this island to be Korean, although the South Korean government does not make this claim. Called "Tsushima" in Japanese and "Daemado" in Korean, this island was briefly Korean-controlled during the Joseon Dynasty, and possibly during the Silla era.
In 1948, the South Korean government formally demanded that the Island be ceded to South Korea based on "historical claims." However, the claim was rejected by SCAP in 1949. As of July 19, 1951, South Korean government agreed that the demand of Tsushima had already been omitted.
In 2005, when Japan's Shimane Prefecture announced Takeshima Day claiming Liancourt Rocks as part of its jurisdiction, Korea's Masan city council proclaimed Daemado Day and declared Tsushima Island Korean territory.
In 2007, Japan proposed to South Korea to bring the matter to the International Justice Court, but the offer was rejected by the South Korean government. Tsushima remains a very important matter of diplomatic relationship between Japan and South Korea.
The name "Sea of Japan" is claimed to have been geographically and historically established in Europe from the late 18th century to the early 19th century and is currently used all over the world. However, both North and South Korean governments protest that Japan promoted the usage of the name "Sea of Japan" while Korea lost effective control over its foreign policy under Japanese imperial expansion. South Korea argues that the name "East Sea," which was one of the most common names found on ancient European maps of this sea, should be the official name instead of (or at least used concurrently with) "Sea of Japan." Japan claims that Western countries named it the "Sea of Japan" prior to 1860, before the growth of Japanese influence over Korean foreign policy after the outbreak of the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894. It was in 1928, when Limits of Oceans and Seas officially took the name Sea of Japan, which eventually influenced other official international documents such as the United Nations. South Korea claims that Korea was occupied by the Japanese and effectively had no international voice to protest in 1928.
A junior high school student from Niigata, Megumi Yokota, was kidnapped by North Korea on November 15, 1977. In addition to her, many other Japanese citizens were kidnapped by North Korean agents. In 2002, North Korea admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens during the 1970s and 1980s, in order to train spies to infiltrate U.S. military installations in Japan. Five people have been released, but the North Korean government claimed that there were eight dead. Japan has pressed for the return of the bodies. However, the Japanese government believes that there are still kidnapped Japanese citizens being held captive in North Korea. North Korea's official statement is that the issue has been settled. Because of the overwhelming number of South Koreans also kidnapped by North Korea, there has been some joint efforts of South Korea and Japan in retrieving their citizens.
Zainichi (在日, Resident Japan) refers to Koreans currently residing in Japan. Most of them are second-, third-, or fourth-generation Koreans who have not yet applied for Japanese citizenship. Some of them were either forced to relocate to or willingly immigrated to Japan during the Japanese occupation of Korea, while others entered Japan illegally in order to escape the Korean War that took place after the Japanese occupation. They lost their Japanese citizenship after the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which officially ended the Japanese annexation of Korea and their country of origin, Korea, no longer existed when South Korea and North Korea became separate states. Zainichi communities are split based upon affiliation with North or South Korea, (Chongryon and Mindan). It is claimed that two or three of the leaders of the smaller organized crime syndicates found on a list of more than twenty such groups as specified by the National Police Agency in Japan may be ethnic Koreans. More positively speaking, Masayoshi Son, Japan's richest businessman and chief of Softbank, is of Zainichi background. In addition, some of Japan's popular stars, athletes and high ranking businessmen are Zainichi. Rikidozan, Mas Oyama etc. In order to escape discrimination, there are Koreans living in Japan who use Japanese names to hide their origin. Today, however, as the relationship between Japan and Korea has improved, there also exist many Zainichi Koreans or former Zainichi Koreans with Japanese nationality who don't hide their origin and are in full activity, just like Tadanari Lee, a Japanese football player of Korean origin.