Three Types of International Reconciliation
Even after forty years, the image of former German Chancellor Willy Brandt kneeling down at the monument to the victims of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising still serves as a symbol of Germany’s repentance and reconciliation with Poland. Reconciliation between nations is not always so obvious or moving, however. Whether true reconciliation has been accomplished is determined differently according to the observer, and this fact accounts for the continued controversies frequently seen among Northeast Asian countries. Everyone knows what the term “reconciliation” means, but few can provide a proper answer to the question, “Have Korea and Japan achieved reconciliation?” This irony arises partly from the conceptual definition of “reconciliation,” but it also springs from considering reconciliation to be a single fixed state.
International reconciliation is the “international process of resolving and overcoming problems generated by hostile acts committed between countries.” It refers to the process of confronting and solving physical and emotional issues generated during past periods of colonial rule or war. Given that reconciliation is a “process,” it is impossible to explain certain aspects of reconciliation if it is viewed as a fixed state. Just as international relations are not static but rather marked by dynamic ties that are subject to change, international reconciliation can also take various forms at different times. It can be classified into three types: Procedural, Substantial, and Ideational reconciliation. Procedural reconciliation refers to the institutional recovery of relations, such as the normalization of diplomatic relations; Substantial reconciliation refers to the economic restoration of relations, such as provision of war indemnity or individual compensation; Ideational reconciliation refers to the psychological restoration of relations based on shared historical understanding and mutual trust.
Procedural reconciliation is the most common form of reconciliation achieved between countries, while ideational reconciliation is difficult to accomplish as it requires thorough reflection on the part of the assailant country. All three types of reconciliation are theoretical and ideal, and they are transformed according to various circumstances in reality. The Germany-Poland case is an example in which both procedural and substantial reconciliation are achieved; it can thus be evaluated as the closest case of ideational reconciliation. Reconciliation was achieved because Germany repented for its past action completely and remembered what it afflicted on Poland. However, in the case of the Korea-Japan relationship (the most controversial relationship in Northeast Asia), on which this essay will focus, the subjects of Japanese commemoration and the methods used by Japan in remembering are inappropriate. This essay will reveal the problems Japan faces, and explain what is required in order to achieve ideational reconciliation in the Korea-Japan relationship.
- Harry & Helen Gray Culture & Politics Program