GSDF troops in Haiti. Ministry of Defense photo.

Here’s a guest post by Corey Wallace, author of the blog Sigma1. Corey is both friend of JSW and wise counsel as I learn about Japanese security issues. This is Corey’s first post for JSW. –Kyle Mizokami.

Yesterday the Yomiuri Shimbun reported (ja) on a promising development where the GSDF and ROK Army have been steadily increasing collaborative efforts through the contingents sent to help with the rebuilding of Haiti in the aftermath of last year’s disastrous earthquake . As Japan and Korea look for ways to increase cooperation with each other in the security domain given the mutual concerns about the North Korean threat, the collaboration in Haiti is seen as setting a valuable precedent for future cooperation. From late January 20 members of the GSDF and the ROK Army have been working together on the banks of the Rouyonne River which runs through Léogâne. Their main duty is to ensure that if there is significant rain the flow of the river will be not impeded by rubbish, dirt and so forth, thus avoiding dramatic flooding (as is the river is prone to do). A ROK Army digger digs up the material of concern and the GSDF transports the refuse to the dump. While language is a significant issue, the two groups decided before hand on a series of signals using a horn to indicate the actions to be taken.

As part of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) the GSDF has been involved in 70 operations, of which 3 have included the ROK Army. Significantly, between the 18th and the 28th of January the GSDF has been staying at the ROK Army camp in Léogâne and the two groups have been sharing facilities.1 While translation is available the group members have been quite eagerly communicating with each other using a mix of what Japanese, Korean and English that they know to get across their ideas.

One GSDF member said that he had much respect for the abilities and experience of the ROK Army given that Korea is more active than Japan in the security arena. On the other hand a ROK Army member was quoted as saying that while “at first we had problems communicating after working together we are now able to communicate much more smoothly – by sharing living quarters together outside of operations we have also come to feel that Japan and Korea are actually quite close in culture.”

Ultimately while it is MINUSTAH command that decides who works together, the contingents themselves do have informal input into the level of cooperation and engagement with other contingents. The head of the Japanese relief effort in Haiti, Sasaki Toshiya, said that collaborative efforts such as these are extremely significant and that they will contribute greatly to the development of friendship between Japan and Korea.

1 Or in the words of the article they have been working together while sharing “food from the same pot”「同じ釜の飯」

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Corey Wallace joined Japan Security Watch in 2011. He writes on Japan security-related topics, focusing on issues and stories that may not find their way into the English language media. He also hosts the blog Sigma1 where he writes on Japanese domestic politics and broader issues in international relations. Prior to taking up a PhD Corey was a participant on the JET program (2004-2007) and on returning to New Zealand he worked at the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology from 2007-2010 as a policy adviser. Corey lectures two courses at the University of Auckland. One is on the international relations of the Asia-Pacific, which contains a significant focus on East Asia security issues. The other is a course on China's international relations. His primary academic interests before his current Japan focus were science and technology politics/policy, issues of ethnic identity, and Chinese modern history and politics. He carries over his interest in issues of identity and history into his PhD where he is looking at generationally situated concepts of national identity and their impact on foreign policy ideas in Japan.
Corey Wallace has 51 post(s) on Japan Security Watch