The Forces Behind South Korea’s and Japan’s Thaw

For years, the forces driving South Korea and Japan apart, deeply rooted in bitter history, had seemed too strong to overcome despite repeated efforts and the urging of their mutual ally, the United States.

South Koreans say Japan never properly apologized or atoned for its brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. To the Japanese, South Korea has often been an untrustworthy neighbor that has broken several promises, including treaty agreements that were designed to salve historical wounds.

But the advent of two new administrations in the neighboring countries — President Yoon Suk Yeol in South Korea, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Japan — has led to a rapid thawing of relations.

In March, the two countries began taking steps to address a long-festering dispute over wartime forced labor. In April, South Korea restored Japan’s status as a preferred trading partner, prompting Tokyo to start the process of restoring the same status for South Korea. And…

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This article was written by Choe Sang-Hun and originally published on