If Biden wins the election, one of the first things he should do is to set up a trilateral leadership summit with Moon Jae-in and Suga Yoshihide. It will likely require a lot of arm-twisting and ego-bruising, but something has to be done for this trilateral alliance to survive.
This is not an infantilization of SKorea or Japan. It is not "White Knighting" the US either. Anyone who thinks this is the case clearly only has a superficial understanding of this troubled partnership between the three democratic nations.
The relation between SKorea and Japan goes back a long way. For SKorea, it comes down to identity. Our history, present, and future has been and will continue to be shaped by the 35 years we were occupied by Japan. It also has to do with our own demons.
While SKorea's economic and cultural rise over the past few decades has been meteoric, our newfound wealth and status are the direct result of failing to exorcise the wartime collaborators and their descendents. It is this complex that continues to eat away at our national soul.
Even if every single Japanese government official got down on their knees and apologized for the occupation and also did so in writing and provided half of Japan's GDP as war reparations, it still wouldn't stop our national psyche from gnawing at itself.
This self-loathing on our part combined with our rise in status manifests itself in our unending hate for Japan.

As for Japan, it has long considered SKorea (or Chosun before it) as little more than barbarians at its gate. The nonchalance that the Japanese people feel for...
...SKoreans that Western observers (and pro-Japanese SKoreans) love to point to when they wish to castigate blame to the SKoreans for deteriorating ties between the two countries is relatively new.

Nowadays, the Japanese public is fully aware that the Korean Wave...
...is fully global; that Kpop has far exceeded the reaches of Jpop; even though it was the latter that made it big first. But before the late 1990s, before the Korean Wave first arrived on Japanese shores in the form of melodramatic soap operas, the average Japanese person...
...looked down on SKoreans. We were seen as little more than quarrelsome and loud upstarts who were desperately trying to imitate them.

As much as SKoreans think of this Japanese nonchalance toward us as problematic vestiges of their imperialist past, from the Japanese...
...point of view, this is a huge improvement compared to how they felt about us 30 or even 20 years ago.

And as for the conservative Japanese government that has seldom lost its majority power, bashing SKorea to please their nationalist constituents for additional votes...
...comes as easily as it does for SKorean politicians when it comes to Japan-bashing for the same damned reason.

The ONLY reason that neither SKorea nor Japan has completely turned their backs on each other is their mutual alliance with the US.
True to stereotypical fashion, the average American (assuming they pay attention to East Asian geopolitics) doesn't know or even care about this complex relationship between Seoul and Tokyo. All they see is two bickering states and they just want to know why we can't get along.
As maddening as this dumb-hick-elephant-in-a-china-shop routine may be, the US' sheer heft has been the one external factor that has forced both SKorea and Japan to at least be polite to one another in public.

Trump's presidency upended all of that.
His ignorance, lack of curiosity, and overall buffoonery caused the US government and voters to be more concerned about whether or not wearing a mask is helpful during a global pandemic. America's reputation just ain't what it used to be!
Fairly or not, it's not just Beijing that thinks that the American Century is over. SKorean and Japanese officials might be too polite and have their own self-interested reasons to publicly agree with the People's Republic of China, but, privately, a lot of us think so, too.
And it is this belief that has caused SKorea-Japan ties, and by association, the trilateral alliance to deteriorate to the point it has.

And unless the US steps up to restore order, things will stop deteriorating and will simply disintegrate.

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More from @koreanforeigner

18 Oct
"The US government has made it a rule not to transfer fuel for nuclear-powered submarines to *any country,* regardless of whether they are allies or not – in line with its principle of non-proliferation."

That's fine. SKorea has other options.

Asking the US to help SKorea with starting its own nuclear submarine program was always going to get a no. It couldn't hurt to ask, of course. But now that the US has said no (it still can't hurt to keep asking), SKorea can also choose to shop elsewhere.
The French were willing to help SKorea with its nuclear program in the 1970s but were stopped from doing so by the US. I don't see why the French wouldn't be willing to help now, or why the French would be more keen to listen to Washington either. The US ain't what it used to be.
Read 8 tweets
17 Oct
We have reached the point where even immigration (a measure that has long faced heavy resistance) might not be able to resolve our demographic problem.
Some possible ideas to offset SKorea's demographic timebomb: Looser immigration policies, permanently do away with minjok-ism, adopt English as our 2nd national language, ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAW, adopt UBI, accelerate R&D on AI, expand and force parental leave for men and women..
..chaebol reform to enforce more even economic opportunities for small businesses, thorough and long-term education to eradicate patriarchal biases in society, increased and improved legal protection for women, education reform to radically change how English is taught in school.
Read 4 tweets
1 Jul
Classy. A SKorean cartoonist has portrayed Park Sang-hak, a NKorean defector, as a mad dog.

미친X means mad dog. The X was used because adding the word dog would have been an insult. Because THAT would have been over the line.

The caption: "I will report Moon Jae-in to the UN."

Park Sang-hak is a NKorean defector and chairman of Fighters for a Free North Korea (자유북한운동연합). FFNK is the organization that periodically launches balloons carrying human rights and pro-democracy leaflets, DVDs, and USB flash drives from SKorea to NKorea.
Last month, after Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong Un's sister, threatened SKorea over the leaflets sent by activists, SKorea's ruling Minjoo Party sponsored five separate bills in the National Assembly to ban leaflet drops from and around the DMZ.
Read 16 tweets
21 Jun
Controversy and internal squabbling erupted within SKorea's main opposition party - the United Future Party - after former National Assemblyman Jeong Byeong-guk suggested that the party removes the portraits of former presidents Syngman Rhee, Park Chung Hee, and Kim Young Sam.
Syngman Rhee is SKorea's first president. He was an authoritarian leader who oversaw SKorea's fight against NKorea during the Korean War. His government was also corrupt and was also responsible for gross human rights abuses (see Jeju Uprising).

Park Chung Hee was SKorea's strongman and dictator. While many conservatives like to remember Park as the leader who helped to transition SKorea into the modern economic powerhouse it is today, he was also responsible for gross human rights abuses.

Read 19 tweets
21 May
For the past two weeks, one of the biggest news stories circulating in SKorea (and my God, the drama!) has been regarding comfort women being taken advantage of by an NGO that represents them.

This is a brief summary.
Let's start out with some background information first.

We all know about comfort women - the women across Asia who were forcibly** recruited to serve as sex slaves for the Imperial Japanese Army.

**There is some debate about whether or not there is evidence that the Japanese government itself was legally responsible for this. According to Professor Park Yu-ha who wrote "Comfort Women of the Empire," no such evidence exists.

Read 31 tweets
10 May
There is an excessively high concentration of coffee shops, bakeries, chicken and beer restaurants, and convenience stores in Seoul. If you randomly threw a rock at any small business, there's a very good chance you'll hit one of these four establishments.
As of February 2019, there are 87,000 chicken and beer eateries in SKorea.


To show how crazy that number is, we have to consider the fact that as of February 2019, there are 38,695 McDonald's restaurants *throughout the world.*

Coffee shops are just as concentrated. Seoul has more Starbucks stores than any other city in the world. But of course, Starbucks isn't the only business that sells coffee. It seems like almost everyone and their grandmothers sell coffee.

Read 30 tweets

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