USC Professor Addresses Territorial Disputes in East Asia

On the evening of February 13th, the Center for Asian Business welcomed Dr. David Kang as its first guest speaker of the spring semester. Considered one of the top Korean experts in Los Angeles, Kang is Director of the Korean Studies Institute and Professor of International Relations and Business at USC, with appointments in both the School of International Relations and the Marshall School of Business. His lecture, titled "Whose Land is This? East Asia's Territorial Disputes," addressed the pending territorial disputes involving Korea, China and Japan over the Dokdo and Senkaku Islands.

Kang began his presentation by explaining the key differences between a border and a frontier. For example, land borders are much easier to pinpoint than maritime borders, which is why there continues to be so much conflict over these particular islands. Though Korea, China and Japan are battling it out over who owns what, Kang doesn’t believe their conflicting opinions will result in war. He argues that each country won’t back down because they’ve already staked their claim and, in the end, it’s really all about national pride.

Finally, Kang explained how this territorial dispute impacts the business and politics of these East Asian nations. In particular, he discussed how the U.S. is being affected. Up until now, he says, the U.S. has done a great job of taking a neutral stance on the issue. The U.S. is not only allies with all three countries, but is a significant trading partner, so it’s in our best interest not to get involved. Kang doesn’t know if this problem will ever be resolved; a potential solution would be joint ownership of the islands and territories. But again, national pride seems to matter most in the end.

Kang’s latest book is called "East Asia Before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute." He’s also the author of "China Rising: Peace, Power and Order in East Asia," "Crony Capitalism: Corruption and Development in South Korea and the Philippines", and "Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies" (co-authored with Victor Cha). Kang has published numerous scholarly articles in journals such as International Organization and International Security, and his co-authored article “Testing Balance of Power Theory in World History” was awarded “Best article, 2007-2009,” by the European Journal of International Relations. Kang has also written opinion pieces in The New York Times, the Financial Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as writing a monthly column for the Joongang Ilbo in Korean. He received an A.B. with honors from Stanford University and his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley.