Can Korea-Japan Relations Survive 2017? (Huffington Post)
Originally posted December 30, 2016 on The Huffington Post and Medium
As the United States grappled with a difficult 2016, one bright spot held steady throughout the year: an improving relationship between two U.S. allies, Korea and Japan.
Last December, the two countries concluded an agreement regarding Korean women — referred to euphemistically as “comfort women” — trafficked for sexual purposes by the Japanese military during World War II. Though the agreement encountered opposition from some, implementation has been smooth. That agreement has paved the way for a burst of U.S.-Korea-Japan trilateral cooperation on everything from isolating North Korea to curing cancer.
But one year after the agreement, prospects for the relationship look bleak.
That’s because the Korea-Japan relationship, unpopular even in the best of times, is deeply vulnerable to Korea’s politics. The impeachment of President Park Geun-hye due to a corruption scandal has thrust Korean politics into turmoil. A new presidential election is likely in the coming months. As a new U.S. administration takes charge in Washington, it must act quickly to preserve recent gains and build a U.S.-Korea-Japan partnership that can withstand the ups and downs of domestic politics.