International Reconciliation in the Postwar Era, 1945-2005: A Comparative Study of Japan-Rok and Franco-German Relations*

Article excerpt

Under what conditions do sets of two former adversary states with deeply rooted historical animosity try to reconcile with each other? When they seek bilateral reconciliation, why are the outcomes significantly different? France and Germany were historic antagonists that fought three catastrophic wars between 1870 and 1945. In the postwar era, however, their antagonism and hostility dramatically evolved into mutual partnership and cooperation. Unlike the Franco-German case, Japan-Republic of Korea relations still remain frigid due to mistrust and enmity, although sixty-three years have passed since Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule. This article argues that in both cases, the motives for reconciliation were mainly derived from realpolitik concerns such as security and economy. Structural conditions also affected the initiation of international reconciliation. Nonetheless, it was the dynamics of political leaders and nongovernmental organizations that played central roles in differentiating the reconciliation processes and outcomes in the two dyadic relationships.

Key words: international reconciliation, Japan-ROK relations, Franco-German relations, East Asian politics

Introduction

Under what conditions do sets of two former adversary states with deeply rooted historical animosity try to reconcile with each other? When they seek bilateral reconciliation, why are the outcomes significantly different? This article addresses these questions by examining two dyadic cases-postwar Japan and the Republic of Korea (hereafter, ROK or South Korea) and Franco-German relations. Although the two sets of dyads share deep-seated historical antagonism, France and Germany reached a far deeper stage of reconciliation than Japan and the ROK during the postwar era.

France and Germany were historic antagonists that fought three catastrophic wars-the France-Prussia war and two World Wars-between 1870 and 1945. France's sudden defeat during World War II by the Nazi invasion in June 1940 led to its humiliation and the persistence of harsh Nazi rule for nearly four years.1 In the postwar era, however, the antagonism and hostility between France and Germany dramatically evolved into the establishment of mutual partnership and cooperation. Notable in this evolution are the formation of a security alliance, the engagement in economic and political integration of the European community, the joint writing of a history textbook, and the improvement of mutual perception. The Franco-German reconciliation has thus played a key role in promoting peace and prosperity throughout Western Europe.2

On the other hand, the Japan-ROK relationship progressed in a different direction during the postwar era. The origin of the historical antipathy between Japan and Korea dates back to 1592 when Japan invaded Korea. Yet the most significant root of historical enmity stems from Japan's colonial rule over Korea from 1910 to 1945. During this period, Koreans suffered under Japan's relentless political repression, economic exploitation, attacks against Korean culture, and violations of the human rights of Koreans.3 Unlike the Franco-German case, Japan and South Korea followed a fluctuating path ranging from chronic antagonism to limited cooperation during the postwar era. Although sixty-three years have passed since Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule, it still appears as if Japan-ROK relations remain frigid due to distrust and hostility.

This article argues that in both cases, the motives for reconciliation were mainly derived from realpolitik concerns such as security and economy. Structural conditions also affected the initiation of international reconciliation. However, it was the dynamics of political leaders and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that played pivotal roles in differentiating the reconciliation processes and outcomes in the two dyadic relationships. The Franco-German case was marked not only by political leadership that commonly favored reconciliation, but also by the vibrant activities of reconciliation-promoting NGOs during the early postwar period. …