South Korea’s Trade Dispute with Japan, Social Cleavages, and the Anti-Japanese Movement in 2019
Since July 2019, an anti-Japanese movement has swept across South Korea following the Korea-Japan trade dispute. Koreans had launched intermittent anti-Japanese movements since the end of colonial rule in 1945, but the one in 2019 was notable for its scale and persistence. This paper examines this recent movement, focusing on Korea’s pre-existing social cleavages regarding Japan-one concerning history and the other security cooperation. The Japanese government’s export restrictions, the direct cause of the trade dispute, have seemed to link history with economics, and Korea has linked economics with security as a way of overcoming the trade dispute. During this process, due to the compatibility of discourses that formed the cleavages, hardline and moderate discourses have respectively been reinforced, and the cleavages have overlapped. This has formed a broader cleavage between those who consider themselves anti-Japanese patriots and those who are cautious about the anti-Japanese movement. The former have called the latter “pro-Japanese collaborators,” who have dominated Korean society and have critically factored in the explosion of the 2019 movement. Based on the research results, this paper concludes by pointing out the implications for constructively managing the Korea-Japan relationship.