The Republic of Korea and Japan share a tumultuous history, but arguably no period has caused greater trauma in bilateral relations than the twentieth century. After Japan’s four-decade long colonial occupation of Korea, the two countries took two decades just to establish diplomatic relations. Subsequent interactions have remained seriously compromised by the memory of colonialism. This article reviews the tensions behind the tempestuous bilateral relationship, focusing on the depiction of Japan’s wartime past in school textbooks. We advance three suggestions for reconciliation: viewing reconciliation not as the restoration of a harmonious pre-conflict order, but as an ongoing, incomplete process; expanding promising bilateral dialogues; and accepting that there will always be differences between Korea and Japan, most notably with regard to representations of the past. Rather than being an inevitable source of conflict, these differences should contribute to an ongoing process of negotiation between the two neighbors.
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