The End of the '65 System
October 3, 2019 2:22 PM   Subscribe

Blogger T.K. provides a six-part look at the history of South Korean-Japanese relations and the rise and fall of the system shaped by the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations. (Although not limited to any specific current events, this series may be of particular interest to those trying to understand how a major trade war arose from a South Korean Supreme Court decision upholding the right of victims of forced labor under Japanese rule to sue the companies that victimized them.)

  • Part I:  Colonial Times
  • Part II:  The '65 System
  • Part III:  The Rise of the '65 System
  • Part IV:  The '65 System's Decline
  • Part V:  The End of the '65 System
  • Part VI:  Taking Stock
    The ’65 System is dead—but Americans are slow to wake up to this fact. Much of the foreign policy circles in and around Washington DC still think South Korea and Japan can patch things up quickly and get on as they did before July 2019. They argue: it’s about point-scoring in the domestic politics by stoking the nationalistic passion. Moon Jae-in and Abe Shinzo are being childish over ancient history. South Korea and Japan ought to be natural allies, sharing a common bond as liberal democracies to stand up against the threats of China and North Korea.
    But why would Abe Shinzo or Moon Jae-in need more political points? Abe is the longest serving prime minister in Japanese history with three re-election victories, and Moon is the most popular president in South Korean history whose approval rating at one time was over 80 percent. Abe did not begin the trade war to become more popular with the Japanese, and Moon did not say “we will never lose to Japan again” to become more popular with Koreans. Neither Abe nor Moon is using history to be popular; they are popular because they are focused on history.
posted by shenderson (10 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
This history is palpable in my family. At least one but maybe both of my parents protested the 1965 treaty. From their vantage point, this was just the last straw in the South Korean dictatorial regime's focus on economic growth to legitimize military rule, the denial of differential treatment, and human rights abuses.

Thanks for posting. I had only been paying attention out of the corner of my eye (legacies of historical injustice within the U.S. being overwhelming by themselves). I'll have to catch up. And then ask my parents what they (and their respective cohorts) think.
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:50 PM on October 3, 2019 [6 favorites]

When I saw this unfolding, I didn't think it would make it this far- it's not the first time that Japan has had diplomatic problems because of statements of the comfort women. The Statue of Peace
(wikipedia link) is a commemoration of the comfort women. There is one installed in front of the Japanese embassy and in front of many, if not all, of the Japanese consulates in Korea. The Japanese right really hates this statue, to the point of shuttering an art exhibition when it turned out that it was going to be featured. (It's going to be reopened for three whole days in an attempt to make it look like it wasn't censorship, but everyone really knows what was going on.)

But South Korea and Japan had managed to patch things up even after the installation of the statues. I thought this was just going to be another round in this. From these posts, I think I was wrong.
posted by Hactar at 4:18 PM on October 3, 2019 [6 favorites]

In Japan & Korea, 100 miles is a long distance.

In America, 100 years is a long time.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 4:34 PM on October 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

I closely follow Korean trade publications in high tech sectors and I can't believe how little coverage of this I see in western media. It is a BFD.
Thank you for this post.
posted by Glomar response at 4:35 PM on October 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thanks for this post!

On a personal every-day-life-in-Japan level, over the last few years I’ve experienced several friendships deteriorate after discussions of this exact issue.
Perfectly nice, otherwise compassionate people, prompted by some news item or discussions of regional politics in general, launch into discourses of “There weren’t really that many crimes committed. And if there were, they mostly did it to themselves. And in any case Japan has apologized many times (not that there’s anything to apologize for). And they took the money so STFU right? And, why can’t they be grateful for the schools and infrastructure, like Taiwan!?”
posted by AxelT at 5:06 PM on October 3, 2019 [8 favorites]

I blame Emperor ahem "General" MacArthur. He basically refused to allow a program similar to the de-Nazification program in Germany to be conducted in Japan and as a result Japan was never forced to actually admit error and acknowledge Japanese war crimes. He had reasons he thought were good (tl;dr: he was afraid Japan would revert to guerrilla war if he didn't tread lightly), but the result is the current mess.

There is no real important secular war memorial in Japan, only Yasukuni Shrine. And at Yasukuni Shrine **ALL** Japanese war dead, explicitly including many people condemned and executed for war crimes, are deified as eternal spiritual protectors of Japan. It's run by one of the most extreme right wing nationalist priesthoods in the nation, and their influence is significant. You can always tell which way a new PM will swing by whether (and how quickly) they visit Yasukuni Shrine.

Japan's right wing is larger than you want to think, politically powerful, and believes that any attempt to even mention Japanese war crimes is an existential attack on Japan and must be countered. And as AxelT notes, their influence is widespread even among people who don't actually identify as right wing.

In part, and we can see a parallel here with US neo-Confederates, they have the influence they do because they got control of Japan's education system and have exploited that to the maximum degree they were able. As a result most Japanese kids grow up learning about the Pacific War [1] from sources at least as biased as the ones the United Daughters of the Confederacy produced. They're taught that America's use of atomic weapons was the worst thing to ever happen, they spend a long time talking about the depredations faced by the Japanese people as they struggled to overcome Western aggression and bring prosperity to the people of East Asia who needed a firm Japanese hand guiding things, and any mention of war crimes is at best hurried and glossed over.

Result is that Japan's right wing gets to throw tantrums of serious economic and political consequence every time any foreigners bring up Japanese war crimes.

[1] The preferred name in Japan is significant because it focuses attention on the US/Japan conflict in the Pacific and avoids talking about the actions of Japan in mainland East Asia. It's a bit like calling the US Civil War "the war of Northern Aggression".
posted by sotonohito at 1:24 PM on October 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

the trade war is showing up in diasporic communities.

for instance, there's a suggestion these days to buy cuckoo rice cookers as opposed to zojirushi ones.

it's a fucking rice cooker. i already bought my zojirushi one years ago.

the blood didn't feel this bad a few years ago over the tiny fucking rocks of dokdo, which, naturally, are korean.

i'll still probably buy a cuckoo one next time 'round.
posted by anem0ne at 1:53 PM on October 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

it's also even in the small things--there are, for instance, no plans to ban the rising sun flag from the tokyo 2020 olympics.

the rising sun flag is a bit of a reminder of somewhat more unpleasant times in the first half of the twentieth for a lot of east asia.

japan, of course, maintains that there's no political statement behind it, that it's part of japan's heritage, so. why ban it?

i mean, aside from the fact that it was flown during an era of forced labor, rape, and crimes against humanity; or that the japanese far-right and their confederates seem to really like the flag and the time period it represented, but y'know. who remembers that? water under the bridge...
posted by anem0ne at 2:13 PM on October 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

>They're taught that America's use of atomic weapons was the worst thing to ever happen,

Wait, but the Yasukuni shrine museum doesn't support that viewpoint, it dwells on the atrocities committed by the Russians as being the worst. I had thought the Japanese right tended to downplay the horrors of nuclear weapons compared to the left and center Japanese political positions?
posted by Easy problem of consciousness at 10:25 AM on October 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

On my visit to the museum attached to the Yasukuni Shrine, I felt that the exhibit definitely placed the nuclear bombing as the greatest atrocity. I will admit by that point though I was so enraged I probably wasn’t catching the point they were trying to convey clearly. Starting with the map of the “Liberation of Korea” and the prominent no photographs sign next to it, leading up to the point that the Nanjing Massacre was blamed on Chinese Communists, I was so angered I may have missed what they were were trying to convey in the portion on the nuclear bombs but it sure seemed like the biggest “outrage” to me. As someone who did graduate work in history it’s a weird feeling for me but I really think the world would be a better place if that museum was razed.
posted by wobumingbai at 9:31 PM on October 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

« Older a diverse cast to reflect reality   |   "This is going to save some people's lives" Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments