Importance of Reconciliation in Post-Waring Era: Japan-Korea Colonization and Reconciliation

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Importance of Reconciliation in Post-Waring Era: Japan-Korea Colonization and Reconciliation


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Importance of Reconciliation Post Waring Era

History holds dark and traumatic memories of the past. Similarly, some countries have suffered historical injustices and treatments, especially during the colonial era.  Korea is one of the significant victims of hurting history in the face of the Japanese annexation. The annexation was marked by imperialism and slavery. Significantly, it implies the need for healing from saddened past encounters to have freedom and a future. In essence, the revelation of such traumatic experience is pegged on the relevance of reconciliation. Korean people suffered under the Japanese colonization many decades ago.[1]. Although the war ended, the two countries are still not at peace. Even though significant efforts have many initiated to reconcile the two nations, the same fruits are diminished.  However, the need for reconciliation is marked by the attached significance. For instance, the reconciliation between the British and the South Africans was successful and resulted in social integration and unity.[2]. Although high levels of historical racial injustices characterized it, freedom dawned at last.

Japan- Korea Colonization

The colonialism memory held even today among the Koreans is marked by significant trauma. The trauma in Korea was marked by the Colonial rule set by Japan (1910-1945)[3]. Japan levied harsh charges on the well-being of Koreans from political to human rights violations. Political mechanisms and intimation marked Japanese imperialism and atrocities.  The Korean population was forced into slavery, working in the Japanese factories. Notably, the Korean population lost labor and land to the Japanese administration.  Korean men were also arrayed in front as soldiers during war to be killed. Besides, the women of Korea suffered great physical and mental tortures.  The women were turned into “Comfort Women,” sexual slaves for the Japanese soldiers. In 1939, Japanese authorities introduced the so-called name-change ordinance.[4]. The ordinance was to force the Koreans to adopt Japanese names, which resulted in over 80 percent of Korean people changing their names to Japanese.

During the colonial era, the Japanese government worked tirelessly to assimilate Korea through education, language, and religion.  The colonial administration forced Korean people to worship their gods. The Korean people were forced to worship Japanese spirits of war and dead emperors. Notably, Shinto shrines originally meant for Japanese worship were turned into places of forced worship, which was a sign of cultural genocide.[5]. In schools and universities, the Korean language was forbidden. The administrations emphasized manual labor and paying loyalty to the Japanese Emperor. Besides, all public places were adopted the colonial Japanese. Significantly, it was a criminal offense to teach history from non-approved sources by the Japanese.

Importance of Forgiveness

Reconciliation is one of the approved powerful tools to overcome historical injustices. However, several factors determine the success of reconciliation: genuine apology, justice to the victims, and compensation. Notably, the value of reconciliation is pegged on acting the wrong and forgiveness. Reconciliation between the British and the South Africans was just one of many successful peace treaties. Significantly, reconciliation has emphasized its value if effectively applied. For one, reconciliation creates enabling environment where both victims and infiltrators of injustices forgive. Drawing from the expression, “to err is to human,” acknowledging the injustices is the fundamental basis of forgives.

Additionally, voices of the victims of such historical industries should be noted. From the Korean side, the government failed to include the victims of forced labor and “Women of Comfort” (sex slavery) in the negotiation bill.[6].  Even though regional and global bodies such as the United Nations (UN) play an important role, much value is pegged on two warring nations.

Forging Regional Economic Block

Besides, reconciliation helps waring democracies to attain peace and unity. Conflicts and wars do destroy not only resources and people but also economic relationships. For instance, although Korea and Japan belong to the East Asian block, there is no significant economic prowess due to unsettled historical injustices.[7]. It implies that through reconciliation, the two countries will be able to forge regional economic block, thus mutual prosperity. Adoption of practical reconciliation also facilitates social integration between the two waring citizens. During the Korean annexation by Japan, social ties were destroyed. It implies that social relationships like peaceful sharing, rights, and marriages were broken. In essence, historical injustices without reconciliation eliminate the welfare of mainstream groups.  Moreover, reconciliation initiates the process of healing among the victim of historical injustices. Notably, for Korean people to start healing from the Japanese imperialism and political machinations, effective and comprehensive reconciliation is essential. Failures in the Korea- Japan Post Waring Era Reconciliation

Notably, efforts to reconcile Korea and Japan have failed to yield success. However, the significant failures have been contributed from the two dimensions; the Japanese and Korean perspectives. Reconciliation is a process guided by several principles. It implies that the process’s success is marked by: – two or three parties involved, victims of injustices, genuine apology and acceptance, forgiveness, and compensation. Most failed reconciliations have been characterized by a misunderstanding of compensation (monetary attached), lack of trust, and exclusion of the victims of injustices. Notably, the Korean administration facilitated the evidenced failed reconciliation with Japan. The administrated in past events have applied old mechanisms in the table of compensation. For instance, in 2015, a bill developed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs excluded significant elements on successful reconciliation.[8]. The Bill did not include the victims of forced labor and sexual assaults.

Korean Failures in Reconciliation Process

During the Japanese colonization, Korean people lost both land and labor to the Japanese factories. Besides, young Korean women were abused as sexual slaves under the “Women of Comfort” slogan. Unfortunately, even though some of the primary victims of such traumatic injustices are alive, they were not included in the reconciliation.[9]. It implies that the people who needed healing and justice were not brought on board. Consequently, the exclusion resulted in demonstrations among the Korean citizens against their administration. 

Moreover, the bill removed the essential responsibility of Japanese administration. The Japanese government proposed the use taxes to finance the reconciliation compensation. However, the Korean people felt it was not a genuine way of compensation.  The Korean administration made a “catch-all” proposal suggesting financial compensation. The proposal failed on the reconciliation table as they termed the compensation to be strictly in monetary terms. Drawing from Japanese imperialism, the victims of the harsh treatment need more than the money tag. Forgetting about the past trauma victims calls for genuine apology, justice, and perpetrators brought to book. 

Japanese Failures in Reconciliation Process

Conversely, Japanese administrations have repeatedly compromised the process of reconciliation with Korea. The government leaders in different eras significantly failed in their administrative roles since the end of colonization in 1945. Assertively, the leaders combined their failings with holding on to circumstances that were beyond their control. Additionally, the government administrations inherited failed treaties as well as ineffectual apologies during reconciliation. Similarly, the Japanese were significantly pressured to “win” in the reconciliation, which was unnecessary for the process.[10]. Collectively, the solutions adopted were the Japanese government were considered short-sighted, non-transparent, and elite-driven. Therefore, the Korean administration rejected the solutions.

Elements Necessary for Successful Reconciliation in Korea- Japan Post Waring Era

Two democracies, Japan and Korea, for a long time have deployed many numerous efforts towards reconciliation.  However, vexed in several comprised factors, effective negotiation is yet to be attained since 1945[11]. Notably, the Japan-Korea reconciliation over time has been hindered by three main mistakes. The mistakes have been; lack of ambition, long-term commitment, and exclusion of victims’ voices. It implies that for effective initiation of the process, key elements should be incorporated in the process.  The world War II legacies demand future-oriented and education-based peace strategies with victims of the historical injustices on board.  Therefore, the successful reconciliation in the Korea- Japan post warring era is possible through deployment and utilization of several elements.

The Role of Women in Realizing Total Reconciliation Between Korea And Japan

Significant historical injustices marked the Korean colonization era under Japan’s protectorate. The Korean were turned into slaves to work and meet the sexual desires of the Japanese. Notably, young Korean women were abused under the umbrella of “Women of Comfort.” In elaboration, the women were assaulted as sexual objects by the Japanese soldiers. Similarly, other women were forced to the male laborers in the Japanese factories. In essence, women are a vital component in attaining successful reconciliation in the Korea-Japan post waring era. The gender did not also suffer forced hard labor but also sexual assaults by Japanese soldiers. As articled by Ch’ae Min-Sik in the Turbid Rivers, Korean suffered under Japan’s imperialism and colonization. The suffering was symbolized by marriage between Taesu, the banker, and Chobong. The family of Chobong was enticed with good fortune that translated to financial independence and security.

Similarly, drawing to the case of the Korea-Japan post-waring era, women have been overruled on the table of reconciliation. It implies that the reconciliation principle of primary victims was omitted.  Significantly, the inclusion of women in the negotiation is crucial. Notably, it will help forget the dark and atraumatic experiences the female gender suffered especially sexual slavery. Additionally, Korean women’s inclusion will give room for a genuine apology. Previously, Korean people have accused Japan of lacking a sincere apology.[12]. However, victims of Japanese imperialism and political machinations are critical determinants of worthy apology. Therefore, based on women’s attached role in realizing total reconciliation between Korea and Japan, negotiation is essential.

The Role of Regional and Global Negotiation Bodies

In man’s history, in areas where two waring entities have failed to find a mutual negotiation ground, third parties have played a vital role. Similarly, the process of negotiation and reconciliation demands a neutral body, a mediator. Drawing to the case of the Korea-Japan post-waring era, the process of reconciliation has failed several times.[13]. Even though the failures have been marked by critical factors such as lack of victim’s voices, lack of long-term commitment, and monetized compensation, regional and global mediators are essentially needed.  The post waring era between Japan and Korea has constantly ignored the importance of mediators. However, regional and international bodies like the United Nations should have been given a mediation role.  The United Nations will guide long-term solutions and create enabling environment for effective compensation negotiation.


Reconciliation is essential among post warring countries. The significance of reconciliation is emphasized by its attached short-term and long-term benefits. However, the fruits of such negotiations are pegged on the available components. Drawing from Korea’s colonization by Japan, although several efforts have been made, no practical reconciliation has been attained. Notably, the process has been comprised by both democracies involved. Korean administration has failed to include primary victims of forced labor and sexual assaults. Additionally, the Korean government’s monetization of compensation limited the essence of compensation, which is beyond money. Conversely, Japan included personal failings in the negotiation table, which in turn lowered cooperation. Moreover, the Japanese government inherited failed treaties and ineffectual apologies during reconciliation. Evidently, reconciliation is essential among post warring nations as it stimulates social integration, forges economic prowess and peacebuilding. Notably, practical reconciliation between Korea and Japan calls for victims’ voices, women inclusion, and comprehensive negotiation through mediation.


Lewis, Michael, ed. ‘The History Wars’ and Reconciliation in the Japan and Korea. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

Duus, Peter. “The Introduction: History Wars in the Postwar East Asia, 1945–2014.” In ‘The History Wars’ and Reconciliation in the Japan and Korea, pp. 1-16. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2017.

Weber, Torsten. ” The Apology Failures: The Japanese Strategies in Dealing with Imperialist past Towards Korea.” In Palgrave Handbook of State-Sponsored History After 1945, pp. 801-816. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2018.

Jeong, Young, and Johanna Vollhardt. “The Koreans’ collective victim beliefs about the Japanese colonization.” The Peace and Conflict: Journal of the Peace Psychology (2020).

Le, Tom Phuong. “The Negotiation in Good Faith: In Overcoming Legitimacy Problems in Japan-South Korea Reconciliation Process.” The Journal of Asian Studies 78, no. 3 (2019): 621-644.

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