Ms Park goes to Beijing, but will Xi cooperate on North Korea?

South Korean President Park Geun-hye speaks during a luncheon meeting with members of charity groups at presidential house in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Zhiqun Zhu, Bucknell University

South Korean President Park Geun-hye will visit China from September 2–4 to attend Beijing’s official activities to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, including a military parade on 3 September. Her visit comes fresh off the heels of inter-Korean tensions triggered by a North Korean landmine which maimed two South Korean soldiers. Read more…

South Korea must confront structural problems in the economy

A delivery worker unloads boxes from a cart at a market in Seoul on 3 August 2015. Export success conceals economic weakness in South Korea, argues Seongman Moon. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Seongman Moon, KIEP

South Korea’s economic growth has slowed significantly since the 1997 Asian financial crisis. The five-year average GDP growth rate was 7.9 per cent during 1991–95, but dropped substantially to 4.5 per cent for 2001–05 and then 3.8 per cent in 2006–10. This slowdown is closely linked to that in domestic demand. After the burst of the credit card lending boom from 1999–2002, growth in domestic demand has been close to zero and has even dropped into the negative. Read more…

Abe’s history report fails Japan–ROK relations

South Korean protesters and North Korean defectors shout slogans during a rally denouncing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Richard Samuels, MIT

Many have correctly objected to the potted history depicted in the front end of the Abe statement. But it seems that Abe was licensed in a sense by the report his expert advisory council issued on 6 August. Would they or would they not label Japanese behaviour as ‘aggression’? It had been leaked that they would, and they did — with a caveat.

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New leadership needed to fix Japan–ROK relations

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, second from left, is led by a Shinto priest, right, after paying respect for the war dead at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Trevor Kennedy, University of British Columbia, and Maël ‘Alan’ van Beek, Seoul National University

In June, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and South Korean President Park Geun-hye put their differences aside just long enough to celebrate the 50th anniversary of normalisation of relations, albeit without meeting in separate ceremonies in Seoul and Tokyo. In doing so the two leaders played nice emphasizing the common interests of their two countries while mollifying historical disputes. Yet as the 70th anniversary of the end of Japan’s colonial occupation of the Korean peninsula approaches on 15 August, can we really expect relations to keep improving? Probably not.

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How to renew the Japan–ROK relationship

South Korean President Park Geun Hye addresses an event organized by the Japanese Embassy in Seoul on 22 June 2015, marking the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Masao Okonogi, Keio University

The recent deterioration in Japan–South Korea relations may have been exacerbated in light of the two countries different responses to two key changes in the international system: China’s emergence as a major economic power and its pursuit of blue-water ambitions. South Korea regarded the former as a business opportunity, while Japan focused on the latter as a military threat in view of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute and anti-Japanese riots in China. Read more…

A new chapter for Tokyo–Seoul relations, 50 years on?


Author: Lionel Babicz, University of Sydney

The synchronised but separate 50th anniversary celebrations of the Japan–South Korea Treaty on Basic Relations illustrates the relationship between the two countries: inexorably close and painfully distant. The 22 June 2015 celebrations were quite unusual. There was no summit meeting, but two parallel ceremonies with President Park Geun-hye attending in Seoul and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo. Read more…

Japan and South Korea must foster domestic support for bilateral relations

Members of South Korean conservative groups stage a protest outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul on 1 March 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Junya Nishino, Keio University

Many expected Japan–Republic of Korea (ROK) relations to be reset when the Shinzo Abe and Park Geun-hye administrations first came to power, but the past two years or so have seen further deterioration and pessimism.

June 2015 will mark the 50th anniversary of the normalisation of diplomatic relations between the two countries, offering a perfect opportunity to construct a shared long-term vision for Japan–ROK relations. Read more…