Troubled Apologies Among Japan, Korea, and the United States

Alexis Dudden

Columbia University Press

Troubled Apologies Among Japan, Korea, and the United States

Google Preview

Pub Date: April 2014

ISBN: 9780231141772

184 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $32.00£27.00

Pub Date: June 2008

ISBN: 9780231141765

184 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£75.00

Pub Date: June 2008

ISBN: 9780231512046

184 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $31.99£27.00

Troubled Apologies Among Japan, Korea, and the United States

Alexis Dudden

Columbia University Press

Whether it's the Vatican addressing its role in the Second World War or the United States atoning for its treatment of native Hawai'ian islanders, apologizing for history has become a standard feature of the international political scene. As Alexis Dudden makes clear, interrogating this process is crucial to understanding the value of the political apology to the state. When governments apologize for past crimes, they take away the substance of apology that victims originally wanted for themselves. They rob victims of the dignity they seek while affording the state a new means with which to legitimize itself.

Examining the interplay between political apology and apologetic history, Dudden focuses on the problematic relationship binding Japanese imperialism, South Korean state building, and American power in Asia. She examines this history through diplomatic, cultural, and social considerations in the postwar era and argues that the process of apology has created a knot from which none of these countries can escape without undoing decades of mythmaking.

What does it mean for a country to apologize for sins committed in the past? Who gets to decide whether sufficient apology has been offered? This important work of international history addresses what such apologies mean and for whom. Alexis Dudden explores the subject with great care and specificity, and her analysis of multiple issues is splendid. I know of no other book like it.

Marilyn B. Young, New York University, author of The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990

Alexis Dudden makes a powerful case for the ways in which the practices of 'emptying' history allow states and peoples to elide the complexities of the past and evade its often inconvenient truths. Dudden carefully explores the cultural politics that shape these elisions and the contradictions that emerge from them. Her convincing argument elucidates the sources of unease, as well as the fictions necessary to sustain the national narratives that have so profoundly shaped the twentieth-century histories of Japan, South Korea, and the United States.

Mark P. Bradley, Northwestern University, author of Imagining Vietnam and America: The Making of Postcolonial Vietnam

With a deceptively plain touch, Alexis Dudden offers a fascinating, uniquely accessible, cogent account of the turn of the century milieu that continues to entrench the relations among Japan, Korea, and United States within the complex struggles over their torturous pasts. Conversant in the extensive scholarship on historical memory, Troubled Apologies Among Japan, Korea, and the United States is an important study of transnational history that should be read by anyone concerned with the current diplomatic politics of East Asia and beyond.

Lisa Yoneyama, University of California, San Diego, author of Hiroshima Traces: Time, Space, and the Dialectics of Memory

Issues of apology and historical responsibility have become topics of impassioned political controversy in East Asia. Alexis Dudden's insightful and immensely readable study takes the reader beyond the conventional cycle of blame and counter-blame, offering brilliant new insights into the memory politics of the region. Above all, by highlighting the key role of the United States in regional 'history wars,' Dudden provides a new framework of interpretation which reshapes the parameters of the debate. This is a must-read book for anyone interested in questions of historical justice in East Asia and worldwide.

Tessa Morris-Suzuki, Australian National University, author of Exodus to North Korea: Shadows from Japan's Cold War

Troubled Apologies is a passionately argued and beautifully written account of Korea's ties to Japan and the United States. The book is especially important for episodes that have largely been forgotten in the United States but still burn in the collective memories of the Korean people. This book is a must-read for anyone trying to understand contemporary Asian history and Korea's role in the global community.

Tim Shorrock, author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing

Dudden engagingly explores how the nexus of politics, war memory, and apology shapes contemporary trilateral relations between Korea, Japan, and the United States.

Jeff Kingston, Japan Times

Richly and eloquently written.... Recommended.


A significant contribution on the issue of historical apologies... This book should be required reading.

Matthew Penney, Pacific Affairs

Rich with insights... for specialists, for twentieth-century historians, and for general readers interested in a deeper understanding of the politics of history.

Sarah Kovner, University of Florida, Journal of World History

Dudden traces the intricacies and ironies of history in Northeast Asia in a compelling narrative that indicts many governments and political figures in the process, providing essential reading for anyone wishing to learn more about these complex issues.

Elizabeth S. Dahl, ID: International Dialogue
List of Illustrations
1. An Island by Any Other Name
2. Apologies All Around
3. Illegal Japan
4. History Out of Bounds
Conclusion: And Now
Web Features:

About the Author

Alexis Dudden is professor of history at the University of Connecticut. She has written extensively on Japan's international relations and is also author of Japan's Colonization of Korea: Discourse and Power.