South Korea-China Mutual Perceptions: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, by Tze Chin “Alvin” Wong

Despite a growing political and economic relationship after the normalization of diplomatic ties between China and South Korea in 1992, irritants emerged and friction developed over this period as well, at both the official and people-to-people levels. While it would be difficult to isolate a single causal factor to account for the downward spiral of mutual public sentiment in recent years, dormant historical baggage was reawakened and worsened by economic and cultural frictions after 2000, and significant recent events such as the Goguryeo history dispute from 2004 and the Olympic Torch Relay incident in Seoul in 2008 combined with South Korean insecurities about economic overdependence on China has created a complex situation of negative mutual perception and public sentiment from both China and South Korea. A point of concern is the difficulty of calming hostile feelings, especially if such perceptions become entrenched among the public on both sides or accepted as conventional wisdom. At the moment, the leadership of both countries understands the gravity of the situation and the importance of strengthening people-to-people exchanges in order to build mutual confidence.

“South Korea-China Mutual Perceptions: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” is an excerpt from Part I of the 2009 SAIS U.S.-Korea Yearbook.

Alvin Wong is a mid-career professional currently pursuing an M.I.P.P. degree at SAIS. He holds an M.Sc. degree from the National University of Singapore. Alvin is currently on academic leave from the Singaporean government after serving five years in the foreign service at the Singapore Embassy in Beijing. Prior to his posting in Beijing, Alvin worked in Taipei for two years at the Singapore Trade Representative Office.