This paper examines why and how political leaders in South Korea are constrained by domestic politics with respect to a territorial dispute with Japan. While Korean leaders desire to employ a low-key position vis-à-vis Japan’s territorial claim, the public in South Korea increasingly demand that their leaders confront Japan more firmly. This creates a dilemma for leaders in Korea. Maintaining a calm diplomacy toward Japan infuriates the Korean public while employing a tough policy toward the neighboring state, in response to the public demand, leads the government of Tokyo into bolder provocations. This makes it difficult for South Korea to foster cooperation with Japan on various issues that are not directly related to the territorial problem.