At the beginning of the 1980s, the divided Korean peninsula was seen as the world’s second most potentially explosive flashpoint after the Middle East. A strategic buffer zone among China, Japan, the Soviet Union, and the United States, Korea has always been influenced by the relationships among these powers. Conversely, the peninsula’s location invests its internal security situation with international implications affecting the stability of the entire Northeast Asian region. Meanwhile, Japan, which editor Hahn calls “a superpower without military power,” was expanding its own presence in the region as American economic power waned.
This book contains essays presented to the 4th Korea-Japan Intellectual Exchange Conference held in Seoul in July 1981 under the joint auspices of Korea University’s Asiatic Research Center and the Japan Center for International Exchange. The conference coincided with a period of profound change in the domestic and external situations of both Korea and Japan—in Korea, the inauguration of a new government was greeted as a possible harbinger of rapprochement following the tense bilateral strains that characterized the 1970s. One contributor sums up the broad picture by saying that the two countries’ interests converge more often than they diverge and that “what may appear to be divergent interests in the short run may prove to be actually converging when they are considered in longer term perspectives.”