Line is a messenger application that nearly all Japanese smartphone users have. The application originally started as a disaster response messenger system after 2011 earthquake. Soon, Line became the most popular application in Japan. One thing about Line that many Japanese probably don’t realize is that Line Corporation is a subsidiary of Naver, the Google of South Korea. Line shows that the relationship between South Korea and Japan is not always a competitive one -- and can be a constructive one.
Relations between Japan and Korea today are at a historical low. Improving them is a difficult task but a necessary one, important to both countries. The economies of South Korea and Japan are complementary, having benefited both nations for decades. The two countries help maintain the liberal international order in East Asia. If the cooperation between them diminishes, it would have a profound regional impact, not just in Korea and Japan. Their bilateral relationship is important for all of Asia, and for the world.
South Korea and Japan are both liberal democracies that value free trade. The two countries benefit from the international liberal order and it behooves them to strengthen the ideal in the Indo-Pacific. Asia, unlike the West, has not embraced the liberal international order. China is still trying to create its own order in Southeast Asia through economic coercion and aggressive policies. Many Southeast Asian countries still are developing and have not become democratic. South Korea and Japan both are promoting a policy to engage with Southeast Asia, for Japan it is the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy and for South Korea it is the Southern Policy. These two policies are complementary to one another and could be improved with more cooperation. South Korea and Japan could help strengthen the liberal order together in the Indo-Pacific by promoting free trade, free and open navigation, and eliminate economic coercion.
In the economic sector, South Korea and Japan working together benefit the entire world. Both countries work closely in energy and resource industries in other countries. Cooperation between Hyundai and Mitsubishi was crucial to the development of Saudi Arabia’s Co-generation plants. There also are additional 50 cases of cooperation on energy, including in geothermal and LNG.
Around the world, many enjoy consumer goods from South Korea and Japan. South Korean companies rely on parts from Japan and vice versa. Many of South Korea’s electronic goods need chemicals from Japan, and many Japanese TV manufacturers require OLED displays made in Korea. Thus, over 300 business leaders, knowing the importance of supply chains in the two nations, tried to stop Japan from removing South Korea from its whitelist.
History disputes between South Korea and Japan lead some in each country to believe it is better to cut off ties with the other. They believe that self-sufficiency should be the goal as relations get worse. However, it is important to remember both South Korea and Japan are highly advanced countries. Replacing the technology in which each country specializes will take considerable time, money and manpower. In addition, issues of China, Russia and North Korea are security issues for both countries. Each country cannot solve these issues alone. The historical disputes are a salient topic. However, both countries must realize there are pressing current issues that require cooperation.
When a new South Korea president or a Japanese prime minister is elected, they talk about looking forward to a future-oriented relationship between the two nations. It is also worthwhile looking back at past accomplishments, to remember why the two countries are so important to each other. Line is just one of the countless examples that shows that South Korea and Japan have made millions of lives better around the world.
From, Sang Hyun Back
A master’s student, George Washington University
Washington, DC, US