Monday, July 26, 2004

test - posting with ecto

this post was generated by ecto, a lovely piece of software for managing blogs.
If you post a lot it will save a lot of time - or at least allow you to generate more posts in the same ludicrously long time you already spend online. It's cheap shareware with fantastic support - the author emailed me back within minutes to answer some questions I had.
It's available for Mac OS X and now for Windows - you get the message... (I have no ulterior motive for this, shares in the company... I'm just really pleased with ecto and, particularly, the support.)

Subway strike ending in South Korea

From Wednesday to Friday there was a strike on the underground system in four Korean cities, Seoul, Pusan, Inchon and Taegu. The strikes in Pusan and Taegu continued on Saturday and policemen were called in to help run trains in Seoul, according to Reuters.
The Korea Times reports today that the strikes are coming to an end with negotiated settlements in which management has promised higher pay in Pusan and better pay and conditions in Inchon. Details of the settlements in Seoul and Taegu are not given.
There are often strikes at this time of year in Korea. "This summer's labor disputes... started with the action of the hospital workers' union on June 10" according to the Korea Times. Workers have also taken action at KorAm Bank, Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors, Ssanyong Motoer and GM Daewoo Auto and Technology, as well as on the underground.
One strike is continuing, at LG Caltex, a joint venture between the huge Korean LG group and US oil company Chevron-Texaco, where workers have been out since 16th July. Korea has very determined unions who were a large part of the struggle that won democracy in the 80s and 90s, but labour laws are also formidable, a legacy of the dictatorship, still on the books like much of Korea's post-war public order legislation. Thus workers in the LG Caltex dispute face the prospect of being sacked legally:
Amid the developments in the labor disputes... unionized workers of LG Caltex have continued their walkout since July 16, even though the authorities Friday proposed settlement arbitration, which is legally binding.

The National Labor Relations Commission decided the company and the union should accept a 4.5 percent wage increase and 40 working hours per week. But the authorities' arbitration did not include labor's demands for the abolishment of discrimination against irregular workers and the establishment of social contribution funds.

The commission's arbitration is valid from midnight yesterday and any continuation of the walkout will be regarded as illegal by labor laws. However, as the union is pledging to continue the strikes in opposition to the arbitration, the striking workers are likely to face legal action.

The company ordered the striking workers to return to work by 8 a.m. Thursday. It plans to give lenient measures for those complying with the deadline, but those refusing the order may face dismissal in accordance with company regulations.
Article in the Korea Times dated 25/07/2004.

Of course this is not enough for investors, who have criticized the current government (which came out of the democracy movement, but now acts in a respectable manner, sending troops to Iraq for example). This is how Reuters puts it - making clear where their sympathy lies:
The wave of strikes has posed a test for President Roh Moo-hyun, a former labour lawyer who has been criticised by employers and foreign investors for being soft on the militant labour unions. South Korean authorities have had to deploy hundreds of substitute workers to try to maintain public services.

Target North Korea: Pushing North Korea to the Brink of Nuclear Catastrophe, by Gavan McCormack

Gavan McCormack, Professor of Japanese History at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, ANU, argues for what I will call the sensible view (to pick a neutral term) of the standoff between North Korea and the US, which is held, with minor variations, by academics specialising in East Asia across the political spectrum (from Selig Harrison to Bruce Cumings, for instance). An alternative is what I will call the uninformed and potentially catastrophic view (again, not wanting to prejudge the debate) held mainly by newspaper columnists, for example, Johann Hari in the UK, who writes in The Independent:
The nations of the world united through the UN (and we can all surely agree that Kim Jong Il is the last person alive who we'd like to have his finger on a nuclear button) must take out the North's nukes with a targeted use of special forces, intelligence and bombing. This is not as dangerous as it sounds. As Chris Bellamy, The Independent's military expert, explains, "A nuclear weapon won't detonate if bombed. If it goes off accidentally, the worst that will happen is that the conventional explosives will go off. The chances of a nuclear explosion are negligible."

North Korea - if the regime doesn't implode - can then be invaded and liberated.
Read the whole article at Hari's website.
To be fair, Hari has changed his mind, in an article on his website: "I do not believe in invasion: I simply propose that along with the food aid we offer, we should also try to undermine the regime by flooding the country (as some brave human rights activists currently do) with transistor radios and information" he wrote last December. But he still thinks that the sensible view (which he caricatures and attributes to the peace movement, and which we are coming back to, I promise) is wrong:
It is, I would have assumed if I had thought about it, impossible ? simply impossible ? to make this particular situation fit the [John] Pilger tune of Blame America. For once, they would be forced to admit, I would?ve thought, that ? sometimes, just sometimes ? there is an alternative source of wrong-doing to the United States in this world. Yet I underestimated the extent to which their world-view has calcified and hardened so that they cannot see beyond it even when the evidence is whacking 20 million North Koreans in the gut. So how do they contort themselves to say that America is responsible for a regime it has opposed for its entire existence?

?Ekk? [a contributor to a discussion on the Medialens site] makes the first claim: that despite publicly opposing the regime, offering funding to its enemies, maintaining a massive demilitarised zone to prevent the regime from expanding, actually the Americans wanted to keep Kim Jong-Il in place! ?If the USA did not have a very selfish interest in keeping the/those bad bogey men in power there then helpful economic/trade and cultural/humanitarian mutually beneficial links would long ago have been opened from the South,? he explains. ?But without having an excuse of a threat to keep the most massive US military force in place there, the American hold on that whole rapidly developing economically important region would be immediately severely weakened.?

At what point were these options of North/South co-operation quoshed by the US? Er, never. This is nonsense. Indeed, the US has worked to foster just those very links, and spent ages building a ?Sunshine Policy? peace process between the two countries, which only collapsed when it was clear that the North was not keeping its side of the bargain when it came to nuclear weapons. But ? hey ho! ? what do facts matter, when you have a pickled dogma to uphold?
A good question, since Hari seems to be happy to ignore the facts - and the scholarly consensus on their interpretation - in order to preserve his own views from change. One does not have to believe that the US administration sees keeping Kim Jong-Il in power as the best option to think that nonetheless, their actions have tended to prevent Korean unification and strengthened the hand of hardliners on both sides of the DeMilitarized Zone, and that those consequences suit them just fine. (Just as they wanted Saddam Hussein gone from power after 1991 but imposed sanctions that tended to strengthen his power over Iraq, preferring a coup with minimal regime change to a popular rebellion and the democratic government it might bring - and the example that it would be in a region where the US's best friends are dictators.)
I have previously quoted the US official in charge of negotiations with North Korea during the crucial period in the 90s admitting that the US had broken its obligations while North Korea had mostly or fully conformed to the treaty. Perhaps Hari isn't aware of what Robert Galluci has said. But you would think that before writing a piece in a national newspaper calling for the bombing and invasion of another country (war crimes by Nuremberg standards) he might have read some of the standard texts on that country. If he had, he would have encountered the sensible view in one form or another. So let's see what it is, taking it as it is advanced in Gavan McCormack's new book (as reviewed by Jeff Kingston in The Japan Times). The first point of consensus is that the US is pouring oil on the fire, quite unnecessarily:
"Target North Korea" argues that the threatening posture of the U.S. and demonization of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has stoked suspicions and tensions in the region. Gavan McCormack believes that the DPRK "harbors no aggressive or fanatical threat to the region or the world and that its defiance masks an appeal to normalize relations and 'come in from the cold.' "

Another commonly agreed point is that:
"...the insistence on North Korean nuclear disarmament as a precondition for normalization is a recipe for deadlock."
Like other analysts of East Asia, McCormack is not happy about the current plight of the North Korean people, and like other analysts, he rejects violent solutions in favour of negotiation:
Clearly, McCormack is no fan of the DPRK and acknowledges its shortcomings in detail, but in his view, "to label North Korea 'terrorist' is neither to grasp the burden of the past, nor to offer any prescription for the present or future." He points out that "as the record in Afghanistan and Iraq shows, the attempt to resolve complex problems of violence and terror by counterviolence and counterterror offers no prospect of a lasting solution."

He sees more hope in the thickening web of negotiation and cooperation between South and North Korea and an alternative regional order that is not subservient to the "American imperium."
Many analysts, including McCormack, have suggested that the current situation is in some ways favourable to US hawks because it serves as an excuse to keep forces in the region containing and putting pressure on Japan.
"Paradoxically, Japan is easier to rein in as long as North Korea is a threat," McCormack points out. One reason that the Japanese government is resigned to dispatching Self-Defense Force troops to Iraq is its perceived need for U.S. protection from North Korea. In McCormack's view, though, this threat is actually elevated due to U.S. policies. The North Korean threat is especially useful to the U.S. in generating pressures on Japan to shed its Article 9 military allergies and become, in the words of U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, the "Britain of the Far East."
The reference to Armitage is to a speech he made last week in a 'private' capacity where he presented his personal opinion that Article 9, the clause in Japan's constitution rejecting aggression and projection of military force beyond its borders, made it impossible for Japan to play a full role in the international community, so that it would have to be renounced for Japan to join civilized nations as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Is there any hope for North Koreans and inhabitants of the region generally? Well, again, the consensus view is that there is hope since there is evidence that the North Korean regime is anxious to work towards better relations with Japan and the US and that Japan (along with China, Russia and South Korea) has been putting pressure on the US to back down and find a diplomatic solution, knowing that the alternative would be disastrous for the region:
McCormack argues that Kim Jong Il sought to advance normalization by taking the bold step of admitting that DPRK security forces had abducted Japanese nationals. ... [but] Kim's attempt to promote a thaw in relations ended with ties in the deep freeze, in no small part due to [Japanese] Foreign Ministry miscues.
Japan is playing a constructive role, urging the U.S. to negotiate, as it knows "all too well from its own experience what a desperate, isolated leader-worshipping and highly militarized regime will do if threatened by a blockade and the cutoff of vital resources."

Brinkmanship generates too many chances for miscalculation in a situation where the consequences could be catastrophic; this helps explain why the Bush administration sensibly flip-flopped on negotiating with the DPRK.

I would be less optimistic about the Bush administration's motives than Jeff Kingston seems to be. (I think the last comment is pure Kingston rather than Kingston paraphrasing McCormack.) I think that they have held back from launching attacks on North Korea partly, as I have said, under pressure from the other major forces in the region but largely to avoid military overstretch and because they have not prepared the US public for it with the kind of disinformation campaign we saw directed against Iraq. A strike against Korea will be a possibility if these factors can be overcome - by neo-cons or by the Democrat heirs of Clinton's close approach to military action in 1994.

Something beautiful for a change

200 million yen lottery ticket given to Fukui flood victims

FUKUI (Kyodo) The winner of a 200 million yen [about ?2 million or $2 million] lottery prize has donated the lucky ticket to victims of the recent heavy rain in Fukui Prefecture [which has caused massive devastation and killed several people], Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa said Saturday.

The ticket for the grand prize in the June 15 Dream Jumbo lottery was received through the mail Friday at the Fukui Prefectural Government office with a note saying it is a donation, Nishikawa told a news conference. The letter was postmarked Thursday with a fictitious sender's name and address.

"I've learned of the damage from the Fukui heavy rain through newspapers and the (TV) news," the note read. "I hope this will prove of some help to those who have unfortunately incurred damages."

Nishikawa said, "I'd like to express my appreciation by publicizing this, because we can't confirm who made the donation."
(from the Japan Times)

Commercial whaling likely to be approved at IWC

Two reasons: Japan has been buying the votes of small countries (Taiwanese-style diplomacy, lately practiced by China also...); secondly, the US has just given its support to Japan's proposal to reintroduce commercial whaling of minke whales according to the Japan Times.

Before that development, Alex Higgins of Bring on the Revolution had already written about the probable resumption of whaling in his most recent post. (I reproduce the whole item here because I can't link directly to it.)

Whales are once again under threat from rogue states – the states in question being Japan, Iceland and Norway who are set to defy international opinion and ram harpoons into some of the world’s most intelligent creatures to make products out of their body fat.    
   Whales have been protected to an extent by an 18-year international moratorium on their slaughter by the International Whaling Commission – but it looks like this is about to change as the rogue states are set to get the votes they need to rev up the harpoons once more.
   For once, the US, Britain and Australia are on the right side of an international issue and their representatives have kept the ban in place, but the pattern of votes is changing.  Originally the IWC had 30 members, now it has 57 and new countries such as the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu and the West African semi-state of the Ivory Coast are joining.  Many of these smaller, poorer nations do not engage in whaling of any kind and have no intention of doing so, but they are voting to lift the moratorium.  Something smells, and it’s not the dead whales.
   Rather, the Japanese government has been engaged in intensive efforts to persuade poorer countries to help break the international ban on whaling.  They have done this with the same method the US used to get such countries to support the Gulf War - a mixture of bribery and blackmail.  Poorer countries are often at the mercy of economic aid for the G8 states, and this is the Japanese government’s tool of choice to win them round on the whaling issue.
   In Japan, the right to kill marine wildlife has become a nationalist issue.  The pro-whaling lobby is led by Masayuki Komatsu who regards whales in roughly the same way as Margaret Thatcher regards the Irish Republican Army.  Komatsu is described in the London Independent (July 19th) as “an ultra-nationalist and career diplomat at the Ministry of Agriculture”.  He once advised the captains of whaling ships that they should “blow Greenpeace boats out of the water” (as French intelligence once did).
   Mr. Komatsu argues not only that there are sufficient whales to hunt them, but that there are so many they are endangering fish, and that whales are “the cockroaches of the sea”.  This view prevails within Japan’s Liberal Democrat Party (which is almost always in power).
   Japan currently kills around 500 whales each year in the Antarctic Ocean by using a legal loophole which permits the killing of whales for scientific research.  Quite what research is being done by eating whales in restaurants is anyone’s guess – this is probably illegal but it’s what happens.  The hunting looks set to extend into the North Pacific next year.
   It is curious to see the argument about eating fish come up again, as it did when the Canadian government went ahead with the Spring seal slaughter.  Again, aside from the fact that many species of whale do no eat fish, it is people who are eating the fish, and furthermore doing so out of choice rather than necessity.  Blaming whales for eating fish is discredited here.
   Whales are not cockroaches – they are among the most intelligent creatures on the planet.  The means of hunting them – firing harpoons with explosives into a whale’s body – is, to say the least, outrageously cruel.  They literally bomb the whale.  And as Sir David Attenborough points out, “the hard, scientific, dispassionate evidence [shows] there is no humane way to kill a whale at sea.”  In its 2002 hunt, Norway found that 1 in 5 whales failed to die instantaneously, while Japan found this to be the case for 60% of harpooned whales in 2002-3.
Don't bomb the whale!

   This is not just bad news for whales, as the International Fund for the Welfare of Animals says: "This isn’t just about whales. It’s about fighting for the right of smaller nations to make informed choices without being bullied."
  So. it looks like we have to bring those Save the Whale T-shirts out again.  Sigh… but then we might not have expected to have to argue against torture either – it’s a strange century.  No rest for the wicked, as some say.
Excellent stuff from Alex as always. I want to add a few brief footnotes. First, the Liberal Democratic Party (Jiminto: 自民党) may soon be out of power, since Japan seems to be moving towards a two-party system like France, Germany, the US or the UK, with the rise of the DPJ (民主党, Minshuto), which is somewhat more liberal overall. I don't think it's going to help whales much, unfortunately, since Japanese elites seem set on pleasing nationalists by catching whales (this is the second point) despite reported lack of demand. Apparently not all of the whale-meat produced now can be sold. Perhaps (third point) it will be forced on children in their school dinners as it used to be before the moratorium on whaling. People I've met who experienced this were not generally very keen on repeating the experience: whale-meat is reportedly fatty and chewy, not a winning combination.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Hong Kong newspapers raided by government agency

On the front pages of leading Hong Kong newspapers today: raids on their offices carried out on Friday by an arm of the Hong Kong government.
(AP) - Anti-graft officials raided six Hong Kong newspaper offices over news reports that identified a protected witness, and media on Sunday accused authorities of threatening press freedom.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption said in a statement that its officers searched several newspapers' offices, seized some documents and talked to newspaper employees on Saturday, in relation to the corruption probe of a listed company.

The ICAC didn't name the newspapers.

But the South China Morning Post, the Apple Daily, the Oriental Daily News, the Sun and the Sing Tao Daily splashed details of the raids on their newsrooms across their front pages Sunday.

The Ta Kung Pao said it was also raided in a story on its back page.

Some condemned the operation as a threat to press freedom.

The Post said the ICAC raided the offices in response to local media reports that named a woman who was under the commission's witness protection program.

Identifying a protected witness without ``lawful authority or reasonable excuse'' is illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison under Hong Kong law.

The named witness was involved in a probe that's led to the arrests of six people, the reports said.

The ICAC said the six - including two lawyers and the chairman of a listed company - were arrested for alleged conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice, perjury and violation of witness protection laws.

The Oriental Daily News said 10 ICAC officers on Saturday searched its court reporters' desks and computers, and seized some documents. It said that they later searched its sister publication, the Sun, and that the two raids together lasted more than five hours.

The Apple Daily said the ICAC searched its office and the home of one of its reporters. The Post said the officers interviewed some of its reporters at its office on Saturday, and later asked them to go to the ICAC office, where they answered questions until late at night.

Some of the newspapers accused ICAC of disrupting their operations.

``Hong Kong's shame: ICAC infringes on press freedom,'' read a headline in the Oriental Daily News.

The ICAC was ``engaged in a massive overreaction,'' the South China Morning Post quoted its Editor-in-Chief David Armstrong as saying.

Hong Kong Journalists Association Chairwoman Cheung Ping-ling said the raids were unnecessary and harmed press freedom.

``They could have just invited the reporters involved to aid their investigation,'' Cheung said in comments broadcast by Hong Kong network Cable TV.

ICAC spokeswoman Valentina Chan declined immediate comment on the accusations Sunday.
I have no idea if the raids really have anything to do with cracking down on corruption: they may well. Hong Kong, like all other East Asian countries, suffers from systemic gangsterism with connections inside government, the police and most major industries - at a similar level to southern Italy. So there's plenty of corruption to investigate.
But given recent events in Hong Kong, particularly the resignations of three talk-show hosts following threats and last month's arson attack on pro-democracy politician Emily Lau, it's natural to see the hand of the mainland Chinese government in these raids. They are doing everything they can to stifle the massive pro-democracy movement ahead of elections in September, following the huge march on July 1st this year, the first anniversary of an equally huge march.

Japan terrorism bill ignores non-citizens' rights

A clause making protection of foreigners a legal duty during an emergency has been dropped from Japan's proposed new 'anti-terrorism' law. This Japan Times article makes the connection to the lack of constitutional rights non-citizens have in Japan owing to a similar, deliberate omission from the constitution and the continuing lack of a racial discrimination law.

Bill of rights

Military law ignores gaijin rights violation danger

(Platitudinous first paragraphs omitted...)

It's ... important to examine rights protection of Japan's foreign population in an emergency, at a time when government-sponsored crackdowns on immigration violators and police campaigns against foreign criminals have reached hysteric levels.

However, by not seriously considering the importance of including the foreign population in the terms of the new law, Japanese officialdom has once again signaled its desire to deny equal constitutional rights protection to the growing foreign population, even at a time when they are potentially most vulnerable to discrimination.

Last month, a package of seven security-related bills, or military emergency legislation, received final approval. One of these bills, the so-called "Citizens' Protection Law" ("Kokumin Hogo Hou") provides measures for citizens of Japan to be prepared for and to deal with any attack on Japan by giving statutory form to their rights and duties in an emergency.

The law also stipulates the roles of the central and local governments, the Self-Defense Forces and appointed public organs in organizing and aiding citizens.

However, foreigners cannot automatically be protected by this law in a time of heightened national security, since they are not included under its terms, or those of the Constitution.

This situation has its roots as far back as the drafting of the Constitution by the Allied Occupation Force in post-war Japan.

When the Allied force presented its draft of the Constitution to the Japanese government in February 1946, it included two quite visionary provisions.

Article XIII stipulated that "All natural persons are equal before the law. No discrimination shall be authorized or tolerated in political, economic or social relations on account of race, creed, sex, social status, caste or national origin."

The second, Article XVI, declared that "Aliens shall be entitled to the equal protection of law."

However, both provisions were revised by the Japanese government. It removed Article XVI and phrased the subject of the Constitution as "kokumin (Japanese citizens, or those of Japanese nationality)."

As a result, though Article 14 (I) of the Constitution stipulates that "All (kokumin) are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin," since the word "kokumin" does not include foreigners, the Constitution provides no legal basis for the protection of foreigners against discrimination.

The issue was dangerously reflected in the evolution of the new law which is also for "kokumin."

When the first draft of the bill was presented to governors in October 2002, it included "prohibition of unfair discrimination against foreigners" as a matter of importance.

However, when the government presented the second draft a month later, the provision was gone.

Assuming the provision was originally included because there was a fear that foreigners may face discrimination in an emergency situation, its removal means there is now no automatic guard in place to prevent discrimination.

"If the prohibition provision was taken out intentionally, two reasons could be thought of; first, there were people who wanted to exclude foreigners from the subject of this law; second, people who were talking about the law couldn't fully understand why foreigners would have to be protected," believes Makoto Teranaka, of Amnesty International, Japan.

When asked if foreigners were to be included in the terms of the new law, the government replied "No, but foreigners will be protected."

Though the term "kokumin" does not include foreigners, the government said, the protection of human rights stipulated in the Constitution has been interpreted to include the foreign population; this interpretation of the scope of rights protection is also applicable to the citizens protection bill.

But how these rights can be protected remains unclear.

There is currently no law on the Japanese statute books that prohibits racial discrimination indeed Japan is the only OECD country without one. The government's habit of relying on "interpretation" is not satisfactory in cases where abuses may occur.

Moreover, even though Japan ratified the U.N. International Convention on Eliminating Racial Discrimination in 1996, it has since been reprimanded by the New-York based body for its failure to adopt "specific legislation to outlaw racial discrimination."

And historical precedent suggests good reasons why foreigners would need to be protected in an emergency situation.

When a huge earthquake struck the Kanto region in 1923, rumors abounded of Koreans starting fires, rioting and poisoning wells.

The central government subsequently ordered local governments to "watch and control Koreans strictly." Furthermore, Japanese vigilantes were organized in each area, which led to the torturing and lynching of thousands of Koreans.

And in 1995, when the Hanshin earthquake struck, rumors of "Chinese looting" and "Asian laborers stealing," circulated. Foreigners also had difficulty obtaining housing after losing their homes.

On the other hand, there were some positive developments for foreigners. Volunteer groups were organized to offer foreigners medical assistance and information, and the Hyogo Prefectural Office came out and denied the rumors of foreigners looting and stealing.

The issue was raised again more recently when popular rightwing Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara warned that foreigners could be expected to riot in Tokyo in the event of a major disaster in the city.

"The Kanto earthquake is not just history," says Teranaka.

But lawmakers dismiss the idea that discrimination and targeting of foreigners may happen again.

"We have learned from the past," says Seiji Maehara, a member of the Lower House committee that discussed the military contingency legislation. "In making these laws, we considered that the rights of minorities in Japan would easily be threatened in a military contingency. When there was a disaster in the Kanto region back in 1923, the rights of minority people were violated. We are making these laws also to prevent this kind of thing happening again," says Maehara.

"Foreign residents in Japan will not be treated differently from Japanese because of their race or nationality. That situation should not be worried about in Japan."

However, recent official policies suggest otherwise.

"Considering the police and especially the Tokyo Metropolitan government's vilification of foreigners, even in peacetime, we cannot expect them to act fairly in a military contingency as Hyogo officials did," says Terenaka.

"Rather, they may even abuse the situation to control foreigners."

As both the police and the government foster the image of foreigners as a threat and the media propagates this message, it may be that at a time of heightened danger to Japan, foreigners will be viewed and treated not as victims, but as terrorist suspects, with no basis, other than vague legal "interpretation" to defend rely on.

The article doesn't explain who the vast majority of the 'foreign' population are: Japanese-born descendants of Koreans shipped to Japan in the colonial era, who hold Korean rather than Japanese nationality. There's an excellent summary of the situation on Japan Policy Research Institute page:
In a reverse flow of migration between 1910 and 1945, successive waves of migrants arrived in Japan from its imperial colonies, mostly from Korea, which had been annexed in 1910. As colonial subjects, all Koreans were granted Japanese nationality and were therefore able to move freely from Korea to Japan in search of jobs. What began as a trickle of colonial workers grew to a large influx in the 1920s as the expanding Japanese economy demanded more inexpensive, unskilled labor. By 1925, 150,000 Korean immigrants worked in jobs shunned by Japanese in such labor intensive and dangerous industries as mining, construction, and arms manufacturing. This number had risen dramatically to 800,000 by 1937, the year Japan initiated war with China. By this time Japan had instituted a policy of assimilating Koreans completely into Japanese culture, as a result of which Koreans were forced, beginning in 1938, to follow the Japanese school curriculum and, in 1940, to adopt Japanese names. At the height of the Pacific War (1942-45), Korean men and women, as Japanese nationals, became an important source of conscripted, and later forced, labor working under extremely harsh conditions. By the end of the war in 1945, the Korean population in Japan had grown to 2 million.

Japan?s surrender in 1945 liberated its Korean colonial subjects, the majority of whom soon returned to their homeland. One fourth of them (600,000), however, chose to remain in Japan for political, economic, and familial reasons. The looming threat of war in the Korean Peninsula further deterred their repatriation efforts. For six years, between 1945 and 1952, the Japanese state (then under allied occupation) regarded its former Korean born nationals as foreigners, excluding them from political participation and requiring them to register as foreign residents. In 1951, Japan signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty and the country was restored to full independence and reentered the international community. In April of the following year, when the treaty took effect, the Ministry of Justice issued a communication formally depriving the 600,000 resident Koreans of their Japanese nationality. In 1950, when the Nationality Law was revised, Japan had adopted the principle of jus sanguinis (law of blood) in defining Japanese citizenship. As a result, descendants of non-Japanese nationals, including Koreans, are to this day defined by law as foreigners no matter for how long or how many generations they have lived in Japan.

In 1965, the Japan-Korean Peace Treaty imposed South Korean nationality on most ethnic Koreans in Japan, but granted them permanent resident status in the country. Both the Japanese government and leading Korean organizations regarded Koreans in Japan as foreigners or sojourners despite the fact that their lives had already taken deep root in the country. By 1990, the Korean population had increased to 700,000, constituting Japan?s largest foreign population. The loss of Japanese citizenship had denied Koreans most of the benefits of public services to which Japanese citizens are entitled, including national health insurance and workers? pensions?this despite their obligation to pay taxes on their earnings. This institutional discrimination was eliminated only in 1981, when Japan ratified the United Nations Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (hereafter the Refugee Convention), which required its signatories to grant equal treatment to foreign nationals in the areas of social services, social security, and welfare.

Because they were defined as foreigners, and despite their permanent resident status, Koreans were subject to surveillance under the Alien Registration Law which, until 1992, required finger printing as well as an alien registration card. Most private companies and public positions (such as school teachers and city and state officials) have continued to exclude Koreans on the basis of their nationality. As a result, they are mostly self-employed as small business owners and family business workers. In the mid-1980s, for example, in Kanagawa Prefecture, more than 40 percent of the Korean residents were self-employed, compared to 20 percent of Japanese residents. Today, most young Koreans have adopted the Japanese language and education, thus identifying themselves as culturally Japanese. Widespread discrimination and deep-seated prejudice also cause the majority of them to use Japanese names in order to ?pass? in ordinary social contacts. As a result, many report experiencing serious internal conflict between their Korean ancestry and Japanese upbringing.

I've been planning to write something about racist Tokyo governor Ishihara Shintaro (note- I have corrected this: I wrote 'mayor' previously) for some time. For now, I'll just say that he has a colourful past and is apparently intelligent enough to know exctly what effect will be generated by his racist comments and use of terminology associated with Japan's imperial period. It's an ongoing disgrace that a neo-fascist should be the political leader of one of the great world cities.

More Japanese WWII 'orphans' sue Japanese government

Sometimes it seems that all the activism in Japan is focussed on suing the government or corporations for abuses of human rights and the environment. The cases all turn into epics, lasting years, and often decades, because of the glacial speed of the Japanese legal system, and it must take considerable dedication to get involved. So I salute the people who have kept on the agenda sex slavery organised by the Japanese government in the 1930s and 40s ('comfort women'), censorship of school textbooks by the government in recent years, and a bunch of other things that elites in Japan would rather no one mentioned.
Here's the latest example, from an article in the Japan Times. The case has been brought by people now in their 50s, 60s and 70s who allege that the Japanese government abandoned them after they were separated from their parents as the Japanese occupation of China ended in August 1945.

18 more war orphans sue for redress

Eighteen Japanese separated from their parents in China at the end of World War II filed a lawsuit Friday with the Kyoto District Court to seek compensation from the government for failing to help them come to Japan earlier and to properly support them after they resettled here.

They follow 90 other so-called war orphans who filed a similar suit with the Kyoto court last September. Additional suits have been filed at 11 other district courts nationwide.

The latest plaintiffs range in age from their 50s to 70s. Those actually born in Japan hail from Mie, Shiga, Kyoto, Nara and Osaka prefectures. The 18 are each seeking 33 million yen in compensation.

"We could not come to Japan for a long time because of the state's negligence, and we have not been able to receive its full support after coming to Japan," they said in the complaint.

The government defines war orphans as Japanese nationals who, at the ages of 13 or younger, were separated from their parents or guardians in China in the chaotic days in August 1945.

Documentary about effects of Japanese chemical weapons in China

In my last post I mentioned brave people who take the Japanese government to court, often for offenses committed during the Japanese colonial period and invasion of China. I said that their cases typically drag on for many years. One reason is that whenever a court finds against the Japanese government it appeals to a higher court, which delays any compensation payment and brings the case in front of judges who are closer to the higher echelons of the Japanese elite and far less likely to rock the boat than a judge from a district court.
This is exactly what has happened in the case of Liu Min, Li Chen and eleven others who are suing for compensation for injury to their relatives from Japanese chemical weapons left in China after the Japanese retreated in 1945.
Now Japanese filmmaker Kana Tomoko has made a documentary about Chinese people injured this way, From the Land of Bitter Tears:
Kana said she decided to make the film after meeting 27-year-old Liu Min while touring China with friends last summer.

Liu, whose 40-year-old father was killed in 1995 when an abandoned artillery shell accidentally exploded in the city of Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, is one of 13 plaintiffs seeking compensation from Japan. Liu's father's limbs were blown off. He suffered massive burns and died 17 days after the blast.

Then a 19-year-old with hopes of becoming a schoolteacher, Liu has since been working at her relative's cafeteria without rest. And her family has little prospect of paying off her father's medical bills.

"I was shocked by the fact that a woman her age was suffering from the aftereffects of the war," Kana said. "While I initially had no intention to make a film on this issue, once I learned of her suffering, I had no choice."

Kana captured the emotional roller coaster Liu and three other victims from separate incidents has been on, including the scene of Liu giving a tearful hug to her mother while the mother burst into tears, confessing that it was she who pulled the plug on her husband.

The mother could not pay the medical bills and thus took him out of the hospital. He died the following day.

Kana's camera also caught Liu and fellow plaintiff Li Chen flying to Japan to take in the Sept. 29 ruling at the Tokyo District Court, and their excitement after the landmark decision to award the plaintiffs a combined 190 million yen in damages.

Their elation abruptly ended four days later when the government filed an appeal against the ruling.

Kana directed, shot and edited the documentary herself, paying most of the 4 million yen cost. Her filmmaking was zealously covered by Chinese media, and she was featured last month on a 30-minute prime time program by China Central Television, the national TV network in China.

The appeals court case by the 13 plaintiffs, including Liu and Li, is pending before the Tokyo High Court. A third session is set for Sept. 13.
Read the whole Japan Times article here.

The weapons left behind in China have received little attention in the Japanese press, but a lot in China. The court case may be one reason why the Japanese government has now finally paid for the chemical weapon sites in Heilongjiang (in north east China) to be cleaned up, as reported here by AFP and here by Xinhua.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

US administration lies about the UN, abortions and China

From the Daily Mislead, which will send you one email per day, meticulously researched, about the Bush administration's latest falsehoods:

For the third consecutive year the Bush administration has decided not to release $34 million appropriated by Congress to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The administration claims that the funds are being withheld because "the fund indirectly supports Chinese government programs that force women to have abortions."[1] Although this explanation is popular with Bush's conservative base, it is wholly unsupported by the facts.

In 2002, Secretary of State Colin Powell dispatched a team to China to investigate whether the UNFPA was assisting the Chinese government's coercive practices. The investigators reported that there was "no evidence that the UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization."[2] The investigative team recommended "that funds allocated by Congress be released to UNFPA."[3]
Read the whole story...

  1. "Citing Chinese Abortions, U.S. Refuses to Fund U.N. Program," Los Angeles Times, 7/17/04.

  2. "US again denies money to population fund," Boston Globe, 7/17/04.

  3. "UNFPA Regrets U. S. Administration's Decision Not to Restore Funding," UNFPA, 7/16/04.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Bland propaganda in the Japan Times about Dokdo / Takeshima

This short article, reproduced entire below, is a beautiful example of the bland propaganda which pops up in the Japanese press almost every day. Read on, and I'll explain what's wrong afterwards:

South Korean ship kicked out of EEZ

KYOTO (Kyodo) A Japanese patrol boat sent a warning Friday to a South Korean research vessel after the ship was spotted in Japan's exclusive economic zone off Takeshima Island in Shimane Prefecture, Coast Guard officials said.

The vessel, which was conducting a marine survey without permission, left Japanese waters after receiving the warning, according to the 8th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters based in Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture.

Under an international agreement, a country must receive permission to enter another country's exclusive economic zone to conduct marine research at least six months in advance.

South Korea had not submitted a request to enter the EEZ, the Coast Guard said.

The article entirely fails to meet the most basic standards of journalism. In particular, it doesn't even begin to explore the reasons why a Korean ship might be carrying out a marine survey without permission in Japan's economic exclusion zone. And that's because the answer is ideologically unpalatable: South Korea claims the island (identified in the article only by its Japanese name, Takeshima) and has a lighthouse and a port there. If the article mentioned these uncomfortable facts, it would have to take an implicit or explicit stance towards the validity of South Korea's claim to the island (which Koreans call Tokto or Dokdo) and more importantly, the surrounding waters, rather than effectively pretending that no such issue exists. And it would get worse for Kyodo news agency and the Japan Times, because the claims to the island are linked to the period of history in which Japan occupied and colonised Korea between 1905 and 1945, since Japan claimed the island in 1905 during a time when the Korean government was in no position to object, and it really wouldn't do to drag all of that up again...
Liancourt Rocks/Dokdo Islets/Takeshima
Dokdo/Takeshima - actually two large rocks with a total area of about five football fields

Both countries put their claims to the island much earlier than the colonial era, relying on documents that are supposed to show that the island has been a part of their territory for centuries. The Korean case is made here, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Gaimusho) has a page about it here, the regional government on the nearest part of the Japanese main island, Shimane prefecture, has a page on it here, and there's a report from a fairly neutral US perspective here. The best explanation of the whole issue available on the net, by a Mark S. Lovmo is here. I don't know which government is right, not being an international lawyer, nor do I much care, since the island has always been uninhabited - although since the 1990s there have been Korean coast-guards there, and in the past people from both Korea and Japan visited to carry out traditional activities such as gathering seaweed and abalone and slaughtering sea-lions.

Hunting sea lions near Takeshima

Hunting sea lions near Takeshima (Photograph: San-in Chuo Shimpo Newspaper Co., Ltd.)

The Korean case seems better to me, but regardless of that, I think the Korean claim should probably prevail, mainly because it would be a sign that Japan elites can recognise and reject Japan's imperial period. (Note on possible bias: I have lived in Japan. I have never visited Korea.) What is more important is that this issue should be taken out of the hands of nationalists on both sides, particularly the Japanese far-right, who are vocal and have strong connections in the governing LDP and main opposition DPP.
The only practical route to a solution to this, in my opinion, and to other territorial disputes in East Asia outstanding for the last 50 years, is through something like an East Asian version of the European Union and a consequent gradual weakening of antagonistic nationalisms that are still very strong. Unfortunately, this kind of regional rapprochement seems far off, partly because of periodic provocative moves by the Japanese government. This January, a week after angering people in all East Asian countries by visiting Yasukuni Jinja, a shrine to Japanese soldiers including war criminals, Japanese PM Koizumi said that "Takeshima is Japanese territory so Korea should act prudently". (See Seoul Times report here.) This was in reaction to a Korean government plan to issue a set of stamps with pictures of the island, and understandable in that context, but predictably encouraged nationalists in Japan and strengthened the hand of nationalists in Korea.
This issue is a glimpse of the way that international relations among East Asian countries have been dysfunctional since the end of WWII, and in some ways simply frozen, with bilateral relations between each country and the USA taking priority on security issues. In this period cultural exchanges and mutual understanding and interest have been depressingly low, especially between South Korea and Japan, although elites have established and deepened business links, all the while sheltering behind nationalist and often racist rhetoric.

There's a sadder story about Dokdo/Takeshima, connected to the issue of sovereignty.
On the evening of Tuesday, June 8, 1948, three Korean fishermen were rescued from a damaged fifteen-ton wooden boat in the East Sea/Sea of Japan. The men told of a horrifying ordeal they had endured earlier that day. They claimed that aircraft had bombed and strafed them while they and others in up to 80 other boats were harvesting seaweed at an island located off the East coast of Korea known as Dokdo. Of all the fishermen present at Dokdo that day, the three badly shaken men were among the few survivors.
(from page by Mark S. Lovmo)

The number of people killed was probably between 150 and 320.
US bomber crews based in Japan had used the islands as practice targets for live weaponry from 1947 and continued for another four years after the deaths of the Korean fishermen, finally stopping in 1953.
At this time both Japan and Korea were under military occupation by the US but the islands had been included in the area controlled by the US forces in Japan, not those in Korea. Warnings that were published in Japan were apparently not known even at the highest levels in Korea. Dramatic evidence for this came in 1952, in a near-repeat of the 1948 incident:
the United Nations Naval Commander in Pusan (an American), not knowing that the island was a designated bombing range and had been placed off-limits, granted permission to the Republic of Korea Navy on September 7, 1952 to allow a 300-ton Korean ship, named the Chinnamho, to travel to Dokdo on a scientific expedition. The expedition reported, upon safely returning, that an "unmistakably American" aircraft dropped bombs on the island on September 15th while they were there, forcing the expedition to cut short its activities.

After the deaths in 1948 US authorities promised compensation.
...a representative of the Commanding General, USAFIK, issued a statement to Chang Myun, of the Foreign Affairs Committee, assuring him that an investigation was being conducted and that if U.S. forces were responsible, "the United States would do everything possible to compensate and comfort the bereaved."
[However] The bombing survivors, Gong Du-Up and Jang Hak-Sang, along with the son of one of the bombing victims, Kim Chan-Soo, recalled in 1995 that they and their families had either received nothing from U.S. officials, or that all of the money that was received had been spent on erecting a memorial monument for the victims.

...four years after the bombing, at the behest of Koreans living on [nearby] Ullung Island, the Korean Government sent a letter of inquiry through its Air Force liaison to the U.S. Fifth Air Force on April 25, 1952 in an effort to ascertain the status of the island in the wake of the bombing incident that had taken place almost four years previously. On May 4, 1952, the government received a reply from Fifth Air Force Headquarters, essentially stating that there had been no prohibition on fishing around Dokdo, and that the island had not been a FEAF [US Far Eastern Air Force] bombing range.
As noted above, the US stopped bombing the island in 1953, partly because of the fuss caused by the near-disaster in 1952. 1953, the U.S. military had officially excluded Dokdo as a practice area for American forces in the region. The decision to stop using Dokdo as a bombing range seemed to be the result of a growing realization among American authorities of the possibility that the continued use of the island as a bombing range would have, in the words of American embassy personnel, "potentially explosive political implications" for the United States. Embassy officials were fearful that the U.S. would be unhappily forced into choosing sides in a territorial dispute between Korea and Japan [still ongoing in 2004, as explained above], in addition to facing possible "adverse publicity and/or legal action in the event that fishermen, who use the Island occasionally, are killed or injured by bombs."(from

As the author of this excellent report implies, we learn something about the US view of Koreans at the time:
[US] military intelligence authorities assessed the bombing incident, especially the initial Korean reaction, as an instructive example of the Korean "susceptibility" to propaganda:

"The reactions to the bombing...illustrate Korean ability to unite spontaneously in the face of external developments construed to be detrimental to the welfare and prestige of the Korean people. Any news, accompanied by the flimsiest of substantiation, merely suggesting the possibility of...[an] infringement...upon the rights of the Korean people rapidly welds the heterogeneous and bickering factions in Korea. This susceptibility is and will continue to be fully exploited by the Soviets and their Communist propaganda machine."(from

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Chiang Kai-Shek to be buried, finally, along with his son

Chiang Kai-Shek (aka Jiǎng Jièshí - in Mandarin romanised in pinyin, 蔣介石 in Chinese characters), leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party from 1926 and dictator of Taiwan from the late 40s until his death in 1975, is finally to be buried in Taiwan, along with his son, Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國: in pinyin, Jiǎng Jīngguó).
July 8, 2004 — TAIPEI (Reuters) - Nationalist Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek will be buried at last -- three decades after his death and after his successors failed to realize his dream of reclaiming the Chinese mainland from Mao Zedong's communists.

Chiang fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the mainland in a bloody civil war and died on the island in 1975.

His remains lie embalmed in a "temporary" mausoleum in the northern Taiwan city of Taoyuan, awaiting a proper burial on the mainland.

His son and successor as president, Chiang Ching-kuo, also lies in Taoyuan awaiting a permanent resting place.

The Defense Ministry said on Thursday that descendants of the Chiang family had asked the government to hold a state burial for the late presidents and to entomb them in a military cemetery in Taipei.

From a Reuters report on ABC News.

I mentioned this to a Taiwanese friend who said:
Why bury him? Why not dump him into the sea to feed the fish. No, wait, the fish would get food-poisoning.
That's how much he is loved in Taiwan. From his death in 1975 until after the end of martial law in 1987, schoolchildren were taken to the mausoleum to walk past the embalmed bodies, just as Soviet citizens used to have to visit the tomb of Lenin until he was finally buried a few years ago.

Feelings towards his son and successor as dictator are more mixed, as the Reuters piece mentions:
Chiang Ching-kuo is respected for ending martial law in 1987, shortly before his death, thus unleashing the democratic forces that broke his family's dynastic grip on power and eventually ended the Nationalist Party's half-century rule in Taiwan.

It's politically significant that the two Chiangs are to be buried - a recognition from the nationalist camp of Taiwan's de facto independence. The Guomindang officially believes that the government in Taiwan is the legitimate government of China as a whole and therefore opposes Taiwanese independence. (Making them uneasy allies of the Chinese Communist Party against pro-independence movements in Taiwan). This is the background to these comments in the Reuters piece:

Chen Shui-bian of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), once a lawyer for rag-tag underground dissidents, swept to power in the 2000 presidential election and was narrowly re-elected for a second term in March this year.

"We will let history judge the deeds of the two Chiangs. But we welcome the fact that the Chiang family now sees Taiwan as their eternal and only home," said DPP spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang.