Charles K. Armstrong, Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies in the Social Sciences at Columbia University, delivered the keynote address “The Korean War and the East Asian Peace” on September 7, 2016 at the Joint East Asian Studies Conference (JEAS) at SOAS University of London.
The Joint East Asian Studies (JEAS) conference is a triennial meeting held by the three academic associations representing East Asian Studies in the UK: The British Association for Chinese Studies (BACS); The British Association for Japanese Studies (BAJS); and The British Association for Korean Studies (BAKS). Its coorganiser is the SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies. This conference provides a major venue for the dissemination of research on East Asian Studies in various disciplines for academics from both the UK and abroad.
Listen to Professor Armstrong’s speech here.
Following a century of nearly continuous violent conflict, the East Asian region has not experienced major inter-state warfare since 1979. At the same time, the divided Korean peninsula has been in a state of military tension and hostility just short of warfare since 1953. The co-existence of the “East Asian peace” and the Korean conflict may not be as paradoxical as it appears. The frozen conflict on the Korean peninsula has been at the centre of East Asian geopolitics since the early Cold War, in effect serving as a substitute for direct hostilities among China, the US, Russia and Japan. Ultimately however the Korean armistice, and hence the East Asian peace, is a fragile construct based on a military standoff that could easily break out into open warfare. The East Asian peace cannot last without a long-term solution to the “Korean question”: the problem of sovereign authority and external influence on the Korean peninsula that has been central to East Asian history since at least the nineteenth century.