Identity and Security: Identity Distance Theory and Regional Affairs in Northeast and Southeast Asia

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Identity and Security: Identity Distance Theory and Regional Affairs in Northeast and Southeast Asia

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Title: Identity and Security: Identity Distance Theory and Regional Affairs in Northeast and Southeast Asia
Author: Ryu, Yongwook
Citation: Ryu, Yongwook. 2011. Identity and Security: Identity Distance Theory and Regional Affairs in Northeast and Southeast Asia. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Research Data: http://hdl.handle.net/1902.1/17411
Abstract: The dissertation explores the relationship between identity and international security, and tests the effect of the former on the latter by analyzing a set of puzzling phenomena in East Asia—the emergence of mutual threat perception in Sino-Japanese relations; increasingly conflictual relations between Korea and Japan after Korea’s democratization; the establishment of a regional human rights mechanism by ASEAN; and the settlement of key territorial disputes by Southeast Asian nations. Coupled with the diverging frequency of militarized interstate disputes between both regions, these phenomena suggest that Northeast Asia (NEA) has become a region of conflict with high tensions, while Southeast Asia (SEA) has increasingly developed into a region of peace with decreasing tension. The dissertation advances a new theoretical framework, namely, identity distance theory, to understand these puzzling phenomena. Identity distance refers to perceived socio-psychological differences between groups, and its widening (narrowing) is hypothesized to increase (decrease) the likelihood of intergroup conflict. Using a variety of methods—content analysis of newspapers; political elite survey; and a controlled case study on territorial disputes—the dissertation shows that it is the contrasting evolution of identity distance in the two regions that is the key to explaining the cross-regional differences. The root cause of the widening identity distance in NEA is the rise of the so-called history problem (lishi wenti) in the 1980s, influencing China’s threat perception of Japan and altering the effect of Korea’s democratization on its relations with Japan. In contrast, the narrowing identity distance in SEA due to the construction of a regional identity and community since the 1990s enabled thorny issues such as human rights to be discussed more freely by raising the comfort level among regional countries, and resulted in the resolution of two key territorial disputes in SEA through the arbitration of the International Court of Justice. Identity distance theory proposes a connection between identity and security, and contends that identity-related issues are an important factor affecting different regional dynamics. The findings of the dissertation suggest that the relations of enmity and amity between states are socially constructed through interactions between actors, which engender certain social identities and relations favorable for peace or conflict.
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Other Posted Material, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#LAA
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10121969
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