Including Japan in South Korea's "Trustpolitik"

Leif-Eric Easley (Assistant Professor, Ewha University / 2013 JIIA Visiting Fellow)

How can Seoul and Tokyo break their current cycle of mistrust? President Park Geun-hye has been in office over a year, and her administration has kept her campaign promise of framing South Korean foreign policy according to the concept of “trustpolitik.”2 The Park administration has taken a principled approach toward North Korea and made some progress on economic and social exchanges with Pyongyang, even while strengthening military deterrence. Outreach toward China has been reciprocated by Beijing, and Seoul’s alliance with Washington remains strong. But South Korea’s relations with Japan have suffered a notable decline in trust. Park long refused to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, citing the need for Japan to deal with history issues.3