Why Does South Korea Hate Japan?

Japan and South Korea's relations have left unhealed wounds stemming back to the 19th century. So why does South Korea hate Japan?

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Earlier this month, a man in South Korea lit himself on fire as a means of bringing more awareness to Japan's human rights abuses in Korea. It's the latest act of protest that highlights the long-lingering tensions between the two countries. Many in South Korea maintain Japan is not doing nearly enough to acknowledge and apologize for egregious acts carried out by the Japanese military in World War II.

Before that, though, Japan essentially dominated Korea, starting in the late 19th century. It's worth noting that, around this time, Japan really laid the foundation to bring Korea into the modern age. Korea became a Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945 and, during WWII, there were some horrible crimes committed against South Koreans, particularly women. The Japanese military forced Korean and Chinese women into sex slavery to work at brothels frequented by Japanese soldiers. "Comfort women" were often kidnapped, forced into work, and suffered traumatic injuries until the war ended. It wasn't until the 1990s when Japanese leaders really began acknowledging this chapter in history. Even today, it's still a controversial topic in Japanese society and there's a growing movement in Japanese politics that's growing tired of apologizing for these acts.

In addition, there are territorial disputes that have added to the tension. Both countries have laid claim to a string of islands, rich with fishing reserves and natural gas deposits. Japan refers to the body of water as the Sea of Japan, while Korea prefers to call it the East Sea. The diplomatic issue is essentially at a standstill.

Reports indicate that at the heart of these tensions is a general resentment toward Japan always coming out on top. Even in 2015, the consequences of colonialism on people's minds still weigh very heavy in Korea.

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