South Korea’s Partial Withdrawal from the 2015 Korea–Japan Comfort Women Agreement: Changed National Role Conceptions via Increased Social Influence (2015–2018)

  • Bohyun Kim (Autor/in)


Why did Moon Jae-in’s South Korean government (2017–2022) show highly ambivalent foreign policy behavior around the 2015 comfort women deal with Japan, one of its most important economic and political partners in the East Asian region? This paper pays attention to the possibility of increased social influence on South Korea’s foreign policy around the period of the candlelight movement in 2017, investigating whether this social influence affected South Korea’s national role conceptions. By doing this, the research delivers an empirical contribution to the academic discussion of domestic influence on Korea-Japan historical conflicts. The analysis identifies how the national role conception of South Korea has changed between Park Geun-hye and Moon Jae-in administrations and analyzes which national roles were vertically addressed during the period after the agreement until its de facto withdrawal. To conclude, it demonstrates that domestic contestation had influence on the change of the Moon government’s national role conception as “civil collaborator” and “diplomatic position re-shaper” simultaneously, which eventually led to South Korea’s ambiguous diplomatic position.


2015 Korea-Japan comfort women agreement, South Korea, state- society relations, national role conception, vertical role contestation