The East Asia region has witnessed phenomenal economic growth and democratization in recent decades; yet wounds from past wrongs committed in times of colonialism, war, and dictatorship are not yet fully healed. Historical animosities are still simmering between Japan and its close neighbors more than half a century after the end of WWII. Both Taiwan and the Republic of Korea have adopted measures to redress human rights violations under their military dictatorships. And China has yet to begin fully confronting its own troubled history in recent times.
Reconciliation–the restoration of friendship, harmony, and trust among former adversaries after a traumatic experience–is one of the major challenges facing East Asia today. If reconciliation within a country helps consolidate civil society and strengthen democracy, reconciliation with one’s neighbors is all the more urgent for a region undergoing major shifts in its security environment. These two types of reconciliation—internal and external—can reinforce each other since respect for human rights is a fundamental requirement for redressing historical injustice.
The project on Memory and Reconciliation in the Asia Pacific at the George Washington University is currently focused on China, Japan, and Korea. We begin with the history of Japanese colonialism and World War II because it is particularly entangled in current regional and domestic politics. We shall broaden our scope in the near future. Our goal is to connect individuals and institutions across the Pacific, increase awareness about efforts at conflict resolution and confidence-building in the region, and promote cooperative endeavors through conferences, joint projects, and commissioned papers. Instead of assigning blame among the parties involved, our ultimate goal is to identify factors that contribute to reconciliation.
Sharing reliable information about past wrongs as well as efforts of redress, in our view, is the first step toward developing and sustaining a constructive dialogue, a prerequisite for lasting reconciliation. This website is dedicated to such a purpose. It makes available government documents, legal verdicts, scholarly works, as well as information about current events. Through the internet, we hope to provide basic data to students, journalists, policy makers, and private citizens interested in these issues. Your input is always welcome.