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Hatred of Korea Rising in Japan, Especially Among Youth

It’s called ken-kan—from the Japanese characters meaning “to hate” and “Republic of Korea”—and it’s spreading. For 11 straight days this month, the front page of a national tabloid was splashed with ken-kan stories: “South Korea blasts into 20-year-long economic panic,” “South Korea’s President Park accelerates tyrannical rule.” Why? It sells newspapers. It resonates with under-30 editors at Japan’s newspapers. It’s popular among young readers.

“The atmosphere produced by the anti-Japanese/anti-Korean campaigns in the respective media is as bad as I have seen in monitoring the press for over three decades,” a former media analyst at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo told the Japan Times, describing the trend as “sad and disturbing.”

The feeling is mutual for the South Korean press. The Korea Herald described South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye, “looking frosty and gazing in the opposite direction,” meeting Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a summit in Bali as “awkward.” South Korea, the Herald reports, is concerned that the US wants Japan, “an ancient foe,” to build up its military and will abandon South Korea, a “shrimp caught between two Asian whales.”

The relationship between the two countries only looks likely to get colder. Park and Abe met for less than a minute at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Bali. In the press in both countries, the hate is rising. Anti-minority groups, like the right-wing Japanese who organize hate rallies in Korean neighborhoods, are becoming more vocal, more prominent. It was good to see that a Japanese court ordered one far right group to pay compensation for disturbing classes and scaring students at an elementary school. Most level-headed Japanese and South Koreans would like to see more of that, but it will take time and serious work to repair the relationship, at its most distraught point in decades.

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  • rheddles

    This is to be expected at a moment when the social contract is being renegotiated. Note your article on Russian race riots below and the catastrophe on the Potomac and on and on. Last time things were this bad was…1940.

  • Andrew Allison

    It would be interesting to read Prof. Mead’s views as an international relations guru on WHY the relations have turned frosty — the three main areas of strain are not new, and shines a somewhat different light on the subject.

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