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Call For Papers: The Koreas between Japan and China
Date: 16 December 2008 

HKU Department of Japanese Studies

Sino-Japanese Relations Research Symposium 2009 (II)

Council Chamber, HKU 26-27 May 2009

Call For Papers: The Koreas between Japan and China

The trajectory of Sino-Japanese relations over the past decade has left many concerned scholars and policymakers wondering if there could be any issue of strategic importance that Japan and China can agree upon. These two East Asian giants have disagreed on almost every single issue that has cropped up between them in the past decade – China's nuclear tests in 1995; the Taiwanese independence movement and the Taiwanese straits crisis in 1995/6; the annual disputes over Senkaku/Diaoyutai islands; the demarcation of their sea border; sovereignty and drilling rights in East China Sea from 1999 onwards in addition to a host of issues to do with history, ranging from textbooks to apologies. Given the volatile political nature of Sino-Japanese relations in the past decade, it is difficult to perceive how Sino-Japanese relations can move concretely beyond diplomatic niceties to substantive co-operation on items of significant strategic importance.

There is however emerging consensus in the literature that there exists one issue that China and Japan do not have significant differences over – that is the security situation on the Korean Peninsula. Technically, North and South Korea are still at war. Their 1953 ceasefire has produced an abnormal situation as the uneasy tension belies the facade of peace and tranquility on the Peninsula and the general prosperity in Northeast Asia continues to build up. North Korea has shown that it is increasingly willing to disrupt this fragile peace with its nuclear belligerence throughout the 1990s; it's firing of the Taedopong-1 missile over Japan and its incursions into South Korea. Almost two decades have passed since the Berlin wall collapsed, but all the predictions of the Communist regime of Kim Jung-Il imploding have not materialized, and Kim Daejung's sunshine diplomacy seems to have had little effect. On the other side of the 38th parallel, South Korea has spent a disproportionate amount of resources preparing for the reunification across all scenarios – for a collapse of the regime in North Korea to reunification with a "one country two systems" scenario; from a peaceful political settlement to all out war. At the same time, it has also ambivalently sent aid worth billions of won to North Korea annually.

In practical terms, any security scenario or political solution between the North and the South is never just the business of the two Koreas. Any negotiation, conflict or settlement will involve the great powers in the region – namely the US, China, Japan and Russia. Out of these four powers, China and Japan stand to be most affected by any settlement as the Korean peninsula effectively straddles the strategic location between China and Japan. As such, they are intimately concerned as neither wishes to be dragged into a war started by Korean belligerence, South Korean aspirations or US adventurism. The situation of Korea thus brings the same critical salience to both China and Japan and hence, this is one of the most pressing issues which could upset both their developmental agenda and political aspirations.

The HKU Department of Japanese Studies is proud to present an international symposium to explore the role Japan and China play on the Korean Peninsula, and in turn, how the Koreas affect Japanese and Chinese foreign policy-making. The organisers invite submissions from social scientists working in the field of East Asian International Relations and Security, Chinese, Japanese and US foreign policies and other related disciplines to re-evaluate and re-assess the current assumptions and thinking within the symposium theme. Some of the sub-themes that could be scrutinised are as follows:

1. The Korean War in historical perspective and the legacies of the War in wider East Asian International Relations.

2. China and Japan's major interests and concerns with regards to both South Korea and North Korea before and after the Cold War. How is the brinksmanship exhibited by the North today understood from Beijing's and Tokyo's perspective.

3. The state of China and Japan's current relations with North and South Korea, both at the governmental and "people to people" levels.

4. Japan and China's respective interests and concerns with regards to the potential reunification of Korea. How do their view their own role (especially with regards to the US) in the event of Korean reunification.

5. What are their cost and benefit analysis for each of the different scenarios for reunification, and how do the various countries view these scenarios:
a) Political Settlement by UN and/or Six-Party talks (US, Russia, China, Japan, North Korea and South Korea).
b)The Collapse of the North Korean regime either through the concerted efforts by external powers (US intervening covertly, PRC  shutting down their own supplies and crippling their economy) or through internal means (a coup d'état by the Army).
c) Use of Force (by the US most likely).

6. Scenarios of Post reunification Korea and the implications for NE Asia, especially for Japan and China.

The organizers are keen to invite established academics, young scholars and concerned officials working in the field of Sino-Japanese Relations for this two-day symposium. The 2008 Conference ( was relatively successful, in that the research proceedings of the conference are in the process of being published by a UK-based publisher in English and a China-based publisher in Chinese. The organizers hope to build on this success in 2009 by getting more scholars from the wider community involved, and have the research outcome from the conference published as well, most likely in 2010. The book would be published in English in the first instance, and subsequently translated into Chinese and Japanese.

The organizers have to subject any applications/proposals to an internal peer review process before they can be accepted. Given limited resources, only a small number of proposals will be funded, and scholars are encouraged to source for partial and/or alternate funding to attend this meeting.

To Apply
We intend that the proceedings of the Symposium be published. We will therefore require participants to send us the title of their paper, a 200 word abstract and a short bio by the 10th Jan 2009. Please send the documents to with the subject line (The Koreas between China and Japan Conference). The organisers will require a draft "working" paper (not more than 7000 words) by the 15th April 2009 for inclusion into the Symposium pack. Participants will be given time to revise their paper after the conference before the proceedings could be submitted for the peer-reviewed volume. Please direct all academic enquiries to Dr Victor Teo (mailto:, and logistical enquiries to Mr Samuel Wong (

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