comparative politics international relations

JPOSS #18 “The Failed Reconciliation between North Korea and Japan”

The eighteenth session of the Japanese Politics Online Seminar Series (JPOSS) took place on July 15, 2021. Yusaku Horiuchi (Dartmouth College) chaired the seminar and moderated the question and answer session.

Cana Kim (Louisiana State University) presented her paper, “The Failed Reconciliation between North Korea and Japan.” In her presentation, Kim articulated her research exploring why repeated diplomatic attempts to normalize relations between Japan and North Korea have failed–an empirical puzzle that existing theories of interstate negotiation cannot fully account for. Drawing on insights from qualitative analysis, Kim applies theories from the political science literature on reconciling historical grievances to show how shifting Japanese public opinion on North Korea due to increased politicization of the abduction of Japanese citizens and North Korean attempts to developed nuclear weapons increased threat perception in the early 2000s among Japanese political elites and the public. Consequently, as Kim explains, normalization between Japan and North Korea became very difficult.

Discussant comments were offered by Thomas Berger (Boston University) and Yinan He (Lehigh University). The discussion raised salient and intriguing questions about the prospect for reconciliation between Japan and many of its East Asian neighbors including but not limited to North Korea. Furthermore, discussants offered useful comments on how to think about the process of reconciliation between states with a hitherto adversarial relationship as well as what this would look like in democratic and authoritarian regimes.

This event attracted several participants and produced an engaging Q&A session. The organizers would like to thank the presenters, discussants, and participants, as well as the staff at the Harvard Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, who provided administrative support. We look forward to seeing you at the next session of JPOSS: