From Memory War to Trade War: The Drastic Deterioration of Japan-Korea Relations
Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - 5:00pm

From Memory War to Trade War

The Drastic Deterioration of Japan-Korea Relations

WED NOV 13  
SMSU 327/8/9

1825 SW Broadway
Portland OR 97201


In June of 2019, the Japanese government announced that South Korea would no longer enjoy preferential status in the trade of certain chemicals—most importantly—hydrogen fluoride, fluorinated polyimides, and photoresists. Most citizens may not have known of these chemicals' importance or existence, nevertheless, this decision became the latest flash point in a rapidly deteriorating relationship between Japan and South Korea, two of Asia's most economically crucial and vibrant democracies. The backlash from both the South Korean citizenry and its government resulted in a grassroots boycott of Japanese goods, the removal of Japan from key trade statuses, and the cancellation of a shared military intelligence pact, important to the region because of North Korean provocations. Beyond economics—the heart of this dispute lies in a contentious and ever relevant debate over history, reparations, apologies, and public memory. Join PSU faculty Ken Ruoff, Danny Kim, and moderator Bob Innes as they discuss how history has shaped the current trade war and political strains between Japan and South Korea. 


Kenneth Ruoff is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Japanese Studies at Portland State University. In 2004, he was awarded the Osaragi Jirõ Prize for Commentary, Japan’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, for the Japanese translation of his book The People’s Emperor (Harvard East Asia Monographs, 2001). His book Imperial Japan at its Zenith: The Wartime Celebration of the Empire’s 2600th Anniversary (Cornell University Press, 2010) was awarded the 2012 Frances Fuller Victor Award for Nonfiction. His account of the Heisei Monarchy, Tennõ to Nihonjin (“The Emperor and the Japanese”), quickly gained a wide readership in Japan after its publication by the Asahi Newspaper Company in 2019. The text of his 14-hour debate about the emperor with the commentator Kobayashi Yoshinori, Tennõron ‘Nichibei Gekitotsu’ (“No-Holds-Barred Japanese/American Clash about the Emperor”), was published by Shogakukan in October 2019.  His book Japan’s Imperial House in the Postwar Era, 1945-2019 is due out in November 2019 from Harvard University Press.

Danny Kim is Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Portland State, specializing in Korean history. Fluent in Korean and Japanese, he has published several translations in both languages for Yale University and Slavica Press (Indiana University) and he is currently writing a manuscript on the largest women’s rights organization during the period of Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945) which draws from his work as a researcher at Seoul National University and Waseda University.



Robert Innes is an Adjunct Professor of History at Portland State. He has taught the History of Vietnam, and will be teaching Modern East Asia in winter-term 2020. He retired to the Portland area in 2007 after a Foreign Service career that included nine years in the U.S. Embassy, Tokyo. A Portland native, he received a B.A. from Oregon State, an M.A. in Asian Studies from Oregon, and a Ph.D. in Japanese and Southeast Asian history from Michigan. He attended Waseda University's International Division as an undergraduate and did dissertation research at Tokyo University's Historiographical Institute as a graduate student. In the Army, he completed basic and advanced Vietnamese language courses before being sent to Vietnam in 1971-72.