Relations between Japan and South Korea are perplexing: the two countries are major trade partners and popular tourist destinations for each other’s people, they are democracies in a region with numerous authoritarian regimes and alliance partners of the United States. Yet, despite all this, their relations are troubled by territorial and historical issues that limit mutual understanding and cooperation.
To learn more about these contentious relations, we met with Scott Snyder to talk about his latest book, The Japan-South Korea Identity Clash: East Asian Security and the United States (Columbia University Press), which he wrote together with Brad Glosserman. We discussed the two countries’ identities and perceptions of each other, the role that Japanese and Korean political leaders play in this context, the stakes that the United States has in this situation – and a possible way forward.
Scott Snyder is Senior Fellow for Korea studies and Director of the program on U.S.-Korea policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a think tank based in Washington D.C. He has received his BA from Rice University and his MA from the regional studies East Asia program at Harvard University. He was also a Thomas G. Watson fellow at Yonsei University in Seoul. We previously interviewed him in Episode 22 about South Korea’s role as a Middle Power.
[…] from the mid-2000s, I think that we saw a number of instances where, in these two democracies there was a temptation by politicians in Japan and South Korea to appeal to an identity-based constituency as a base for gaining popularity, for winning elections. But that base came into conflict with broader national interests and so we were interested in what accounts for this rise in terms of identity based political calculations among politicians that were influencing South Korean and Japanese foreign policy in ways that were actually negative for potential collaboration between the two countries.
The interview was recorded on April 26th in Seoul.