What do North Koreans think of Japan

South Korea declares North Korea a friend and wants nothing in common with Japan

As the two Koreas converge, the rift between Tokyo and Seoul widens. The reasons for this are diverse.

Sometimes what is not said says a lot. So in the current white paper of the South Korean Ministry of Defense. In contrast to the last edition, the dictatorial North Korea is no longer referred to as an enemy. Japan's democracy, on the other hand, is viewed with suspicion. In previous editions it was said that the country shared “basic values ​​of free democracy and a market economy”. This is no longer the case. Both editorial changes show how much the change in power in Seoul in 2017 to left-wing liberal President Moon Jae In shifts geopolitical interests in Northeast Asia. Seoul moves closer to Pyongyang as the rift widens to Tokyo.

The north is surrounded. . .

Even under Presidents Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun, who sought relaxation with the north with their sunshine policy, the description of "greatest enemy" was dispensed with. North Korea remained a “direct” or “serious threat” in the minds of the South Korean military. The tide turned in 2010 under Conservative President Lee Myung Bak. Pyongyang earned the enemy award again after it sank the South Korean corvette "Cheonan" and fired artillery on the island of Yeonpyeong.

Today, Seoul is sticking to the fact that North Korean weapons of mass destruction are a threat to peace and stability on the Korean peninsula. South Korea estimates the stocks of weapons-grade plutonium in the north at around 50 kilograms. Nonetheless, the Moon government speaks soothing language in its first White Paper on Defense. Moon wants to promote relaxation and achieve nuclear disarmament in the north.

. . . Japan gets harsh words to hear

If South Korea is distancing itself from Japan, this is a retreat. For its part, Tokyo abandoned the wording that South Korea shared basic values ​​such as freedom, democracy and human rights three years ago. But relations between the two countries, which differ from neighbors like China and North Korea in precisely these values, have been deteriorating for years.

On the one hand, the time from 1905 to 1945, which was not properly dealt with, boils again and again, during which Japan occupied the Korean peninsula. For example the question of young women who have been forced into sex services by the Japanese Imperial Army. The Moon government finally buried a half-hearted Japanese solution last year. In addition, Korean courts have upheld several lawsuits from former Korean forced laborers in Japanese industrial plants. The convicted Japanese companies face seizure of assets in South Korea. Tokyo is indignant and takes the position that all claims for compensation were settled in a 1965 state treaty.

The tense relations also affect the military. In the fall, the dispute over the flag of the Japanese Navy led Tokyo to cancel its participation in a friendly international naval parade off the South Korean island of Jeju. Since last month, the two sides have been arguing over whether a South Korean warship has detected a Japanese patrol aircraft with its target radar in the waters between the two countries. Seoul denies this, Tokyo maintains the accusation.

Domestic political reasons

Another burden for the Japanese-South Korean relationship is that Moon plays on the historical keyboard as he approaches the north. Because nowhere are North and South Korea so united as in their resentment against the former colonial power Japan. March 1st is a historic date. Then it will be the centenary of the beginning of the independence movement against the Japanese occupation. On this occasion, Pyongyang and Seoul want to look for the bones of Ahn Jung Geun together. Ahn had murdered the former Governor General of the Japanese Protectorate of Korea and four-time Prime Minister of Japan, Hirobumi Ito, in Manchuria in 1909. Ahn was then executed by Japanese soldiers in the Chinese city of Lüshun (then Port Arthur). For the Koreans, Ahn is an independence fighter, from the Japanese perspective a terrorist.

In addition, South Korean domestic politics ensures that relations with Japan remain tense. Moon's popularity has suffered badly due to the ailing economy. Allegations against Japan help to distract from it. At the same time, the inter-Korean rapprochement is exacerbating tensions between Tokyo and Seoul. Both sides share the goal of nuclear disarmament in the north. But Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is taking a harder line than Moon. For example, he is demanding that the fate of the Japanese, who North Korea kidnapped decades ago, be clarified before he is ready to politically and economically accommodate Pyongyang. Moon, on the other hand, wants economic sanctions to be relaxed as soon as possible so that the Kaesong Industrial Park can reopen.