Issues impeding the reconciliation of South Korea and Japan - Research Paper Example

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This animosity between Japan and South Korea started during the 16th century in what the Koreans would call as the Imjin, which means the Year of the…
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Issues Impeding Reconciliation Between Japan and South Korea The problems that hamper steady cordial relations between Japan and South Korea is largely due to unresolved historical issues. This animosity between Japan and South Korea started during the 16th century in what the Koreans would call as the Imjin, which means the Year of the Water Dragon War. During this time, Japan was under the rule of Shogun Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the second of the Three Great Unifiers after the Sengoku Jidai period. During his reign, Hideyoshi wanted to expand Japan’s imperial power by doing military conquests against the Ming Dynasty China, which was already weakened due to internal strife. For Hideyoshi’s army to mobilize easily to China, he had to pass through Korea. Hideyoshi deciced to claim Korea by conquest, but with the sole purpose of merely passing through and making the Kingdom of Korea serve under his rule. That expectation did not go as planned as the initially weak Korean defense stiffened as they became more organized and relentless. It is also noted that the Chinese Ming sent an army to support the Koreans in their defense when it was apparent that the Japanese really intended to make a push for China. This bogged down the Japanese’ first invasion attempt. The second attempt to invade Korea was far more brutal as it is noted here:
His second invasion of Korea was more about saving face than conquest: he wanted to demonstrate to the Chinese that he did not fear them or feel subservient in any way. He also wanted to punish the Koreans for resisting him. In the first invasion he had hopes of winning them over, and thus had ordered his troops to treat civilians well so long as they were compliant. There would be none of this in the second invasion. Hideyoshi wanted the Koreans killed, soldiers and civilians alike, and evidence of the slaughter sent back to him in Japan. (Hawley, “The Imjin War: Part 2”)
Though the Japanese pushed further in their second invasion attempt, the combined force of the Korean and Ming soldiers halted them, and much of Japan’s defeat was due to the skillful and daring capability of the Korean navy. When Hideyoshi finally died due to illness, the invasion was called off.
Centuries after, there was the Japanese imperial expansion prior and during World War II. When Japanese Imperial Forces marched through Korea, they pillaged cities and committed murder on civilian populations. Many Japanese soldiers, out of cruel whim, took many Korean girls and women for their own pleasure. As such, the euphemism "comfort women" (ianfu) was coined by imperial Japan, which referred to young females of various ethnic and national backgrounds, and social circumstances, who were forced to offer sexual services to the Japanese troops before and during the Second World War. It is believed that most were Korean (Soh, “Japans Responsibility Toward Comfort Women Survivors”). 
After World War II, the conflict and animosity between both countries were further aggravated when Japan made the Yasukuni Shrine in honor of the soldiers who fought during the war. The shrine honors some 2.5 million of Japan’s dead soldiers, but the remains of fourteen convicted Class-A war criminals are also interred there (Pan, “Japans Relationship with South Korea”). The fact that the recent Japanese government does not acknowledge the existence of these issues due to national and cultural pride has made warmer diplomatic relations hard.
For as long as Japan does not put closure to the issue by admitting responsibility for its faults in the past, the chances for reconciliation between the two countries will always be very slim. If Japan shows some degree of humility and acts on such goodwill, relations will improve.
Works Cited
Hawley, Samuel. “The Imjin War: Part 2.” 2003. Web. 23 September 2011.
Pan, Esther. “Japans Relationship with South Korea.” 27 October 2005. Web. 23 September 2011.
Soh, C.S. “Japans Responsibility Toward Comfort Women Survivors.” May 2001. Web. 23 September 2011. Read More
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