Reasons for the trade war may go back to the Second World War and the fight over the refusal of Japan to acknowledge their wartime activities and make amends. And Japan's understanding that it was an issue that was settled years ago. Japan's economic retaliation was without a hitch. It must have been a carefully planned attack. People blame Korea for not having been able to cope with the crisis.
The origin of totalitarianism according to Hannah Arendt is still valid. When the balance of power between nations is broken and economic difficulties arise, the imperialism of the “strong man” rather than rational thinking paralyzes the rationality of a democratic society. Today's world is an era of the 'Strongman'. Like the domino phenomenon, Trump began retaliation towards China and Abe towards Korea.
Followers of imperialism do cause concern. Japan in the process of forming a modern state, the undemocratic elite joined forces with the political elite to begin the revolution into imperialism. The fact that not one civil revolution succeeded in Japanese history proves this. Followers of empire thinking easily disregarded the order of society and carried out their imperialistic enlightenment of the neighboring countries of China and Korea. Ruth Benedict in her book Chrysanthemum and the Sword published in 1946 recognized the nature of Japanese imperialism.
This remained in the DNA of the Japanese right-wing even after the war. Only three times in postwar Japanese political history have the Liberal Democratic Party had problems. Professor Arthur Stockwin of Oxford University says Japan is the only country that maintains a one-party dominance among the five countries that were one-party dominance countries surveyed in 1990.
Media control is also worsening. According to the World Press Freedom Index, Japan's free speech rank has worsened from 32th in 2011 to 67th in 2019. The one-party governance system is likely to develop a top-down social engineering policy and with the control of the press to produce the citizens they want.
Followers of the empire showed their nature because Korea's economic growth and political democratization were a big challenge for Japan: in the successful hosting of the US-North Korea and North-South talks. The Abe regime stigmatized the Moon government as an anti-Japanese government to assemble domestic support.
Like it or not, the relationship between Korea and Japan has entered the new normal era. South Korea should prepare with a new way of dealing with Japan, not with internal criticism and animosity. The past dealings were a zero-sum game marked by extreme opposition and antagonism. The time has come for Korea to find a relationship as companions even though it may be early. We must firmly respond to Japan's provocations and rearm ourselves with a cold intelligence and not a revival of nationalism.
One solution that Korea can choose now is to restore active democratic citizen solidarity and communication between the two countries. It may be difficult, but the government-to-government confrontation must be resolved by the democratic citizens of both countries. Japanese society must be the center of change. The subject of the new Korea-Japan relationship should be the meeting of the democratic citizens of both countries.