Historical disputes between South Korea and Japan revolve around one key issue: how much, and in what fashion should Japan apologize for its colonial past. Many Koreans argue that Japan has never authentically and honestly apologized for the crimes it committed during the Imperial era. An increasing number of Japanese believe, to the contrary, that South Korea is using the “apology business” as a political bargaining chip, and that no amount of apologies, however heartfelt, will ever be enough.
To make sense of this complex situation and see past the underlying politics, we had the pleasure of interviewing Professor Alexis Dudden about her book Troubled Apologies Among Korea, Japan and the United States (Columbia University Press, 2008). Professor Dudden is our first returning guest: we had a great conversation back in Episode 28 about Imperial Japan’s attempts to provide legal and moral legitimacy to its colonization of the Korean Peninsula, based on her first book, Japan’s Colonization of Korea: Discourse and Power, published in 2005 (University of Hawai’i Press).
Professor Dudden is Professor of History at the University of Connecticut; she received her BA from Columbia University and her PhD in history from the University of Chicago. She has published in various academic journals and news outlets, including the Journal of Asian Studies, Dissent and The New York Times. Professor Dudden is currently working on her third book, Islands, Empire, Nation: A History of Modern Japan, under contract with Oxford University Press.
Do we really need to be fighting over the Nanjing Massacre? We know it happened. We know it was awful. What are we using that history for? As a diversion today. And so that’s how I think about how histories are used politically as weapons, as ruses, as devices to divert attention away from very key and ongoing social-political problems. Collectively, the one that suffers the most is climate change.
The interview was recorded on November 21st in Seoul.