American University
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Cultural and state nationalism: South Korean and Japanese relations with China

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posted on 2023-09-06, 03:12 authored by Hankwon Kim

This research is a comparative study of South Korean and Japanese nationalisms and their impact on the two countries' relations with China during and after the Cold War era. I do recognize overall contributions of realist and liberalist explanations for the regional politics as well as the importance of their central factors, such as security, trade, military, and values. However, this research argues that the factors of nationalism have been necessary to explain and understand Northeast Asian international relations in the post-Cold War era. In fact, there are some regional phenomena that the two traditional theories could not explain completely, such as the ROK's pro-North Korean policy in the face of the unclear threats, or increasing nationalistic frictions between China and Japan in spite of their strong economic ties. In order to prove the significant influence of nationalism in the post-Cold War era, this research discusses four case studies (i.e. anti-Americanism in the ROK, North Korean nuclear issues, the Yasukuni shrine issues, and history textbook revisions in Japan). It also utilizes the notions of cultural and state nationalism in order to compare the characteristics of South Korean and Japanese nationalisms and to understand contrasting directions and mechanisms of the two countries' nationalistic influences in the post-Cold War era. This research concludes that, first of all, due to the uniqueness of cultural and historical background of East Asian countries, the factors of nationalism offer more comprehensive explanations combined with neorealist and neoliberal perspectives to grasp the nature of Northeast Asian international relations in the post-Cold War era. Second, although cultural and state nationalism have existed together in the two countries' histories and shared many ideas and values in each nation, the ROK's cultural nationalism has overwhelmed state nationalism and worked for better relations, rather than harm, with China in the post-Cold War era, while Japanese state nationalism has generated significant tensions and frictions in the Sino-Japanese relations since the 1980s. Finally, for a deeper analyses of the post-Cold War anti-Americanism and pro-China tendency in South Korea, this research highlights and elaborates the notions of the anti-hegemonic nature of Korean nationalism and South Korea's non-respected privileged elite group, which is rooted in Japanese colonialism. This research argues that the two points have interacted, directly or indirectly, to worsen anti-Americanism in South Korea. At the same time, they generated the South Korean pro-China tendency in the post-Cold War era. However, this research also points out that when the issues of Chinese "Dongbei Project" and of North Korean refugees in China recently emerged, the anti-hegemonic characteristic of Korean nationalism harmed South Korean people's image of China and created a chance to reevaluate the meaning of the U.S. to South Korea.







Thesis (Ph.D.)--American University, 2007.


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