Saturday, May 5, 2018

Irredentism Redux!

Funny how old research agendas never die--they just find new cases.  Long ago, in a country far away, I used to write about the international relations of ethnic conflict, and my second book focused on irredentism--efforts to unite "lost territories" with one's homeland.  The book with Bill Ayres compared the dogs that barked in the 1990s--Greater Armenia, Greater, Croatia, and Greater Serbia with those that did not--Hungary, Romania, and, oops,  Russia.  We got to provide a new intro for the paperback version of the book (only a penny more expensive than the kindle version!) to cover Russia's renewed romance with irredentism in the 2010s. 

Anyhow, the reason why I raise this now is that I was amused to discover that South Korea has a Ministry of Reunification.  Yep, an office o' irredentism, not unlike the ones I found in Eastern Europe--Hungary's Office of Hungarian Minorities Abroad had a somewhat less overtly irredentist name.  Of course, I am sure there is a dueling office up north.  The Southern version focuses on settling defectors and perhaps imagining what a peaceful reunification would look like.  It is also in charge of N-S negotiations, apparently, when those arise, and, well, arise they have lately.

When I was briefed by many offices in Tokyo two years ago, one of the places we visited was the Office of Territory and Sovereignty (or something like that), which was also an irredentism office, focused on both what Japan has (Senkaku Islands) and what it laid claim to--pieces of the Kuriles the Soviets took and the Russians kept AND the Takeshima Islands (more in a second) that the South Koreans grabbed during the Korean War when Japan had no navy.  

This last dispute was illustrated nicely for me as I have seen signs about the Dokdo Islands (what the Koreans call Takeshima) around town, but most clearly at the War Memorial:

 This display is in the middle of the entry way on the main floor.  My only regret is that I had no one with me to take a picture of me as I stood on the Dodko Islands (no porgs, appparently).

To be clear, the Takeshima/Dodko Islands is not likely to be a center of real conflict (the Senkakus are different story).  But, yes, as if South Korea and Japan needed more irritants.  Indeed, in one interview I had this week, the person was talking about the need for South Korea to adapt to the various threats, such as China and .... Japan.  I didn't push back because I was collecting info, but, jeez, Japan ain't a threat.  But history is really hard to shake around here.  In interviews with military types, they get it that Japan is an ally against China and North Korea. But in the public?  Not so much apparently.

Anyhow, my old nationalism/ethnic conflict stuff may apply here, and I am now thinking of comparing all these offices o' irredentism some day. 

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