How current Japan-South Korea tensions reflect decades of resentment

How current Japan-South Korea tensions reflect decades of resentment


JUDY WOODRUFF: The two most important U.S.
allies in Northeast Asia are engaged now in a damaging economic confrontation, haunted
by a long and painful history. Today, that confrontation between Japan and
South Korea moved into the national and global security realm. It was South Korea’s turn today in an increasingly
serious feud with Japan. Seoul announced the end of a key intelligence-sharing
deal. KIM YOU-GEUN, South Korean Deputy Director
of National Security (through translator): The government has determined that maintaining
the agreement, which was signed for the purpose of exchanging sensitive military intelligence
on security, doesn’t serve our national interests. JUDY WOODRUFF: The general security of military
information agreement fostered direct intelligence communication between Japan and South Korea,
including North Korean troop movements and missile activity. But it also helped to anchor historically
rocky relations between Tokyo and Seoul. Those took a sharp turn for the worse this
summer. Japan increased limits on exports to South
Korea, including on critical tech materials used by large Korean businesses like Samsung. YOSHIHIDE SUGA, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary
(through translator): It is not our intention to have this affect Japan-South Korea relations,
nor is it a countermeasure against the country. JUDY WOODRUFF: The recent economic fight sparked
mass anti-Japan demonstrations in Seoul. But the anger runs much deeper and is centuries’
old. Daniel Russel served as an American diplomat
in Japan and South Korea and oversaw the Obama administration’s negotiations that resulted
in the intelligence-sharing agreement. DANIEL RUSSEL, Senior Fellow, Asia Society:
Talking to South Korea and Japanese, they will quickly take you back to 1592, when the
Shogun Hideyoshi invaded South Korea. There is a long litany of grievances. Particularly in the last three years, there
has been steady series of events. One slap is met by another slap between Seoul
and Tokyo. JUDY WOODRUFF: At the root, profound Korean
national resentment of imperial Japan’s sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War
II. In 2015, Japan met longstanding Korean demands
for an official apology for the abuse of so-called comfort women in an agreement with Korea’s
former President Park Geun-Hye. But President Moon Jae-in revoked that agreement
when he came to power in 2016. MOON JAE-IN, South Korean President (through
translator): On the issue of comfort women, wartime crimes against humanity can’t be swept
under the rug by saying it’s over. JUDY WOODRUFF: Aging survivors still shaken
by the trouble continue to demand more from Japanese President Shinzo Abe. KIM JEONG-JU, Former Forced Laborer (through
translator): In Japan, I was so hungry that I had to eat grass from our dorm garden and
my hair fell off. I lived like a slave there, but Abe is saying
like it was not. JUDY WOODRUFF: Korea’s younger generation
demonstrated their outrage, too. NOH MIN-OCK, South Korean Student (through
translator): They’re still not owning up to the past, and instead of apologizing to the
victims of forced labor, they are engaging in economic retaliation. It makes me really angry. JUDY WOODRUFF: All of this weakens a critical
alliance for Washington, and military officials are concerned. Marine Corps Commandant David Berger: GEN. DAVID BERGER, U.S. Marine Corps Commandant:
But, from a military perspective, it’s important to be able to share information, because each
country has information that the other ones will need. JUDY WOODRUFF: U.S. Secretary of State Mike
Pompeo had this to say today: MIKE POMPEO, U.S. Secretary of State: We’re
disappointed to see the decision that the South Koreans made about that information-sharing
agreement. And we hope each of those two countries can
begin to put that relationship back in exactly the right place. JUDY WOODRUFF: But the uptick in tension could
be a symptom of White House policies at a critical moment for the Korean Peninsula. DANIEL RUSSEL: There have been series of actions
and reactions that should have caused the Trump administration not to mediate, but to
moderate, to remind both allies that we face a common danger from North Korea. The risk to American citizens is vastly increased
when there is a degradation in the networked security alliance, faced with a threat like
North Korea.

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