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A trade dispute has erupted between Korea and Japan, stemming from events that took place almost 75 years ago during WWII. On July 1st, Japan said they would restrict the export of three chemicals which are vital in creating semi-conductors. This was a targeted move as Korea needs these materials to make products such as smartphones and other technology, and Japan is widely known as their biggest supplier.

Japan’s official reason has been concerns over security. They stated that these materials could have military applications and were concerned that the Korean government was not properly overseeing its use. They also hinted that a portion of these materials were possibly being shared with North Korea. Korea has denied all of these allegations.

Many experts do not believe Japan’s reasoning as their actions have come after a Korean court ordered the Japanese company Nippon Steel to compensate certain Korean citizens $89,000 each. It is believed that this angered the Japanese government.

Japan occupied Korea from 1910-1945 and during this time, used forced labour on Korean citizens. This was an incredibly difficult time for Korean people. In 1965, a treaty was made between the countries which brought peace and trade agreements. As part of this treaty, the Japanese government paid Korea $800 million.

For many years, this money was thought only to be for helping Korea’s development as that’s how it was stipulated in the treaty documents. However in 2005, never before seen documents from the 1965 treaty discussions were released. The documents indicated that Korea demanded $364 million to compensate the 1.03 million Korean victims of WWII. Japan agreed and offered to compensate the victims themselves. However, Korea declined by saying that they would take responsibility for paying the victims using a portion of the money Japan had given them.

In 1975, Korea paid a total of $2.1 million to the families of 8,552 of the original 1.03 million victims. The Korean government has since claimed they have no legal responsibility to pay the victims because the money from Japan was officially given for economic growth. They have also said there is no official record of the victims, making it difficult to find every individual who is owed.

The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, has taken a strong stance against Korea’s demands and has escalated tensions in the past with his actions. He has insisted on sending ritual offerings to a controversial war shrine, angering South Korean people and adding fuel to the fire. Japan ceasing this vital trade route has taken tensions to an all-time high. Korean people are making moves to display their anger by refusing to buy Japanese products and spending their summer vacations elsewhere.

This new trade dispute is a continuation of a decades-old issue and although discussions are ongoing between the two countries, the anger does not seem like it will dissipate any time soon.

Difficult words

Erupt (v): To break out suddenly or dramatically.

Stemming (v): Originate from or caused by.

Overseeing (v): To watch over.

Allegation (n): A claim that someone has done something wrong.

Compensate (v): To pay someone for their loss.

Treaty (n): A written agreement between countries.

Stipulate (v): To state or explain.

Escalate (v): To elevate or raise something.

Add Fuel to the Fire (idiom): To make a situation worse.

Dissipate (v): For something to disappear.

Activities

For listening practise, listen to the recorded article here:

British English: Coming Soon!

American English: 

Match the Synonym!

1. Erupt A. Accusation
2. Stemming B. Explain
3. Overseeing C. Originate
4. Allegation D. Disappear
5. Compensate E. Agreement
6. Treaty F. Supervise
7. Stipulate G. Elevate
8. Escalate H. Break out.
9. Dissipate I. Pay back.

True or False?

1. Korea is refusing to send vital materials to Japan. T / F

2. Japan occupied Korea during the first world war. T / F

3. The materials that Japan is withholding is used to make smartphones. T / F

4. Japan has said they have security concerns about sending the materials.  T / F

5. A Korean court has said Japanese citizens are owed $89,000 each. T / F

6. The 1965 treaty brought peace between the country. T / F

7. The treaty officially stated that the money was meant to compensate the victims. T / F

8. In 1965, Japan refused to compensate the victims. T / F

9. There is no official record of all the Korean victims of WWII. T / F

10. The Prime Minister has refused to send offerings to a controversial war shrine. T / F

Unscramble the sentence!

1. between / trade / Korea / A / and / erupted / Japan / dispute / has

2. targeted / move / materials / This / was / these / a / needs / Korea / as

3. reason / has / over / official / security / been / Japan’s / concerns

4. of / denied / all / allegations / Korea / has / these

5. compensate / Japan / and / the / agreed / to / victims / offered

Listening and Vocabulary

Listen to the article and fill in the words OR practice vocabulary and fill in the words.

British English: Coming Soon!

American English:

Discussions Restrict Angered
Concerns Labour Responsibility
Indicated Shrine Development

A trade dispute has erupted between Korea and Japan, stemming from events that took place almost 75 years ago during WWII. On July 1st, Japan said they would __________ the export of three chemicals which are vital in creating semi-conductors. This was a targeted move as Korea needs these materials to make products such as smartphones and other technology, and Japan is widely known as their biggest supplier.

Japan’s official reason has been ___________ over security. They stated that these materials could have military applications and were concerned that the Korean government was not properly overseeing its use. They also hinted that a portion of these materials were possibly being shared with North Korea. Korea has denied all of these allegations.

Many experts do not believe Japan’s reasoning as their actions have come after a Korean court ordered the Japanese company Nippon Steel to compensate certain Korean citizens $89,000 each. It is believed that this ___________ the Japanese government.

Japan occupied Korea from 1910-1945 and during this time, used forced ___________ on Korean citizens. This was an incredibly difficult time for Korean people. In 1965, a treaty was made between the countries which brought peace and trade agreements. As part of this treaty, the Japanese government paid Korea $800 million.

For many years, this money was thought only to be for helping Korea’s ________________ as that’s how it was stipulated in the treaty documents. However in 2005, never before seen documents from the 1965 treaty discussions were released. The documents ___________ that Korea demanded $364 million to compensate the 1.03 million Korean victims of WWII. Japan agreed and offered to compensate the victims themselves. However, Korea declined by saying that they would take responsibility for paying the victims using a portion of the money Japan had given them.

In 1975, Korea paid a total of $2.1 million to the families of 8,552 of the original 1.03 million victims. The Korean government has since claimed they have no legal _________________ to pay the victims because the money from Japan was officially given for economic growth. They have also said there is no official record of the victims, making it difficult to find every individual who is owed.

The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, has taken a strong stance against Korea’s demands and has escalated tensions in the past with his actions. He has insisted on sending ritual offerings to a controversial war __________, angering South Korean people and adding fuel to the fire. Japan ceasing this vital trade route has taken tensions to an all-time high. Korean people are making moves to display their anger by refusing to buy Japanese products and spending their summer vacations elsewhere.

This new trade dispute is a continuation of a decades-old issue and although _______________ are ongoing between the two countries, the anger does not seem like it will dissipate any time soon.

Conversation Questions

Take turns speaking with a partner or try to answer on your own:

1. Did you find this article interesting? Why or why not?
2. Did you learn anything new from this article? If so, what?
3. What do you think of this story?
4. What do you think can be done to help the situation between Korea and Japan?
5. Do you think either country is right?
6. Does your country have a difficult relationship with any other countries?
7. Have you ever been to Korea or Japan?
8. Do boycotts work?
9. How important is trade to your country?
10. Where is the most popular place for people in your country to travel to?
11. What is the most important export for your country?
12. Should countries be punished today for things they did a very long time ago?
13. What is the worst thing to happen in your country?
14. Should politics between countries affect how the countries people interact with each other?
15. Does your country have anything in its history that people are not proud of?
16. Is it important to teach today’s children the faults of a country’s past?
17. Are there any countries that you wouldn’t visit for political reasons?
18. Have you ever participated in a boycott?
19. What is an import that your country couldn’t go without?
20. Do you think trade is a positive thing or should countries be more independent?