When Words Become Weapons : Embarking on the soft/hard power debate with the case of the ROK-Japanese territorial dispute over the Dokdo/Takeshima Islands

University essay from Försvarshögskolan

Abstract: With the aim to embark on the theoretical debate on soft and hard power, this study uses the territorial dispute between the ROK and Japan over the Dokdo/Takeshima Islands to illustrate how the common scholarly understanding of the two power concepts are incorrect and misleading. While soft power and hard power are commonly recognized as two antithetical types of power within the theoretical debate, I argue that they are in fact linked and cannot be divided into separate forms of power. Using a Foucauldian approach to discourse analysis, the thesis replaces the concepts of soft power and hard power with the concepts of representational force and physical force to showcase how representational force can enable and legitimize the use of physical force. The thesis is able to identify how the governments of the ROK and Japan exercise representational force and legitimize the use of physical force against each other, despite them being in a trilateral security cooperation with the U.S. Consequently, the study illustrates how the concepts of soft and hard power should be better understood within the theoretical debate.

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