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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #183:January 5, 2004

S.Korean antipathy for Japan eases

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"S.Korean antipathy for Japan eases"
(by Cheon Jong-woo) Reuters§ion=news


It seems to surprise foreigners, not only Americans and Europeans but also many Asians, that it has been illegal to use Japanese in public in South Korea until only very recently, and that there are still restrictions left.

The article reports that the anti-Japan sentiment in South Korea may be easing, especially among younger generations, which is reflected in the recent relaxation of imports of Japan's movies and CDs.

History of relationship between Japan and Korea is long and complex, as with any neighboring countries with long histories. In fact, the relationship was generally amicable throughout history compared to those of European countries where war seemed to be an ever ongoing event. The turning point was 1910, when Japan annexed Korea. Without getting into the complicated and very, very sensitive discussion as to the justifiability of the action and consequent events, the incident brought the relationship to the form of the ruler and ruled.

When WWII ended in 1945, Japan gave up its control over the land and Korea became an independent state, only to be split into North and South shortly afterwards. During the cold war, as South Korea and Japan were considered to be the front line of Western allies against Communism, both countries were heavily supported, or controlled, by the US. The fact that Japan and South Korea both became junior partners of the US concealed the conflicts between the two from outside under the umbrella of the US.

Under this umbrella, however, were still remnants of the past, unhealed. The San Francisco Peace Treaty, to formally end the state of war between Japan and the allies, was signed in 1951, but it was finally in 1965 when a normal state-to-state relationship was restored between Japan and South Korea. Indeed, the lengthy and complex record of the negotiation makes it an overwhelming task for novice scholars today to go over the process.

Even after the practical agreements were established, however, South Korean government kept the anti-Japan policy, for reasons and objectives by themselves offering a grand subject to analyze.

It was in 1998 when at last Korea opened its doors to Japan's cultural products, albeit in limited scope. Japan's movies were allowed to be imported except those rated R. Japan's TV shows were allowed to be re-broadcasted but only those of documentary nature and no dramas. And Japanese songs were allowed to be performed live, but CDs were not allowed to be sold.

Since then, the restrictions have been lifted little by little, as if, so commented by some, to reflect the building of friendly relationship between the two countries. But as the article introduced here reports, there seems to be still in South Korea those who insist that "no matter how much the two countries exchange culture, some anti-Japan sentiment will remain in the mind of South Koreans." A pity.

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