Posted by ampontan on Thursday, November 25, 2010
THE NORTH KOREAN artillery attack on a small South Korean island this week has already had one unexpected effect on Japanese domestic policy.
Not long ago, we had a post about the Democratic Party government’s intention to provide the high school tuition supplements received by the parents of students at Japanese schools to the parents of students at the 12 high schools operated by Chongryon. That’s a Pyeongyang-affiliated group known in English as the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan.
These high schools are not classified as Japanese schools because the institutions do not follow the standard Japanese educational curriculum. That means tuition supplements are in violation of a provision in the Japanese Constitution prohibiting the expenditure of public funds on educational institutions not under Japanese authority. In addition, roughly 60% of the Japanese public is opposed to the plan. The DPJ government’s idea was to give them the money anyway and ask the schools to voluntarily modify their curriculum without requiring them to do so.
That curriculum is based on the juche philosophy. The instruction is in Korean, and textbooks glorify the late Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. Some of the texts used deny that North Korea abducted Japanese citizens and claim that the Japanese are exaggerating. They teach that the planting of a bomb in 1987 by two North Korean agents on a KAL airliner, which blew up in flight killing 115 people, is a story fabricated by South Korean authorities. (The South Korean authorities caught the agents, one of whom said the intent was to scare people away from participating in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.) The schools’ history courses teach the Korean War was the result of South Korea attacking the North at the instigation of American imperialists.
After the North Korean artillery bombardment, Education Minister Takaki Yoshiaki suggested the government might suspend the planned provision of payments to the Chongryon schools. Here’s what he said:
“We might have to make a serious decision.”
Didn’t the DPJ already make a serious decision by backing an unconstitutional measure disliked by the people to publicly subsidize propaganda distributed in the form of education?
Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku Yoshito added:
“We are thinking of moving in the direction of stopping the process now underway, in view of the circumstances of yesterday and today.”
If the party does decide to make a serious decision and stop the process, it will not be because they’ve changed their views, and the decision will not be permanent. The DPJ government, which the Anglosphere press amusingly describes as “center-left”, is now massively unpopular and discredited in the public eye for its failure to defend the national interest against China. They cannot afford another black mark on that side of the ledger now.
Mr. Sengoku was first elected to the Diet as a member of the Socialist Party in 1990. In those days, the party charter still contained favorable references to Karl Marx. The party sponsored annual peace cruises to North Korea. It was their official position that Pyeongyang couldn’t possibly have abducted Japanese citizens. Before embarking on his career as a national legislator, Mr. Sengoku was an attorney who defended labor unions, activist Korean citizens of Japanese birth, and gangsters.
If tensions on the Korean Peninsula revert to the pre-attack level while the DPJ is in control of the government, they will restart the process. That is who they are.
The party will also continue to look for an opening to pass legislation allowing permanent resident non-citizens the right to vote, a measure specifically designed for the zainichi Korean citizens. That group includes a half-dozen Chongryon senior officials who are members of the North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly.
The divine wind
The North Korean attack gained a brief reprieve for Mr. Sengoku from being subject to an upper house censure motion by the opposition parties for his behavior in office. Most of the opposition was ready to submit the motion before the passage of the supplementary budget, but New Komeito wanted them to wait until the end of the current Diet session. All the opposition parties are likely to vote for it, with the exception of the Social Democrats. That party is the remnant of the old Socialist Party, whose Diet membership could fit into a minivan.
Mr. Sengoku is the man in charge of crisis management for the Kan Cabinet—such as it is—so the Liberal Democratic Party thought it would be better to hold off for the present.
Meanwhile, someone in the DPJ, identified only as a party executive, thought the reprieve might last longer. Word leaked out that he or she said at a meeting:
“For the DPJ, the artillery attack was like a divine wind.”
“Divine wind” in Japanese is kamikaze, and students of history will understand the statement refers to the storms that destroyed the invading Mongol armadas off Kyushu in 1274 and 1281, rather than the special attack squadron that flew suicide missions in the closing days of World War II.
Is there some sort of coded Esperanto hex embedded in the phrase “Democratic Party” that mesmerizes the members of all political groups worldwide with that name into believing that every event everywhere must first be analyzed from the perspective of how it affects their immediate political situation?
People were killed, homes were destroyed, and the world is holding its breath to see if war will break out on the Korean Peninsula, but a senior member of the ruling party is relieved that a repellent politician of the same party will be spared for a few days the censure his behavior in government deserves.
The party admitted that the statement was made, but said it was not their official position. The comment was made during an informal discussion, they said. They also refused to identify the official.
Maybe it isn’t a hex. Maybe it’s part of their DNA. That is who they are.
The latest weather forecast predicts the divine winds will have died down by the 26th, when the opposition plans to introduce the censure motion in the upper house.
The barbarians across the street
Yesterday I suggested that it was time to disabuse ourselves of the idea that the North Koreans were crazy like a fox in their behavior. Others hold that the North Koreans are acting rationally, from their perspective. I’m sure that’s true, but the same could be said of psychotics.
Victor Davis Hanson, in a post on his website that covers several topics, uses the perfect analogy in a section headlined Korea as the Proverbial Deranged Neighbor:
“I once had a deranged neighbor in the general vicinity out here in rural California. His pit bulls threatened us when we irrigated near the property line. His compound of various itinerant crashed trailers was an eyesore. His kids were near criminals. His message: “I am crazy with nothing left to lose; pay me obeisance or watch havoc ensue” (e.g., your good life will not be too good if you screw with me and my perennially bad life)….
“…Insanity is a force-multiplier in nuclear poker. North Korea is playing the Huns of the 5th-century AD to us, the tottering late Romans, who paid to avoid for a while the misery that was second nature to the barbarians. We are lectured, quite rightly, that Korea is grandstanding at a time of succession, that it is broke and wants a crisis to bring in some more bribe money (as if being unhinged were as good an asset as oil exports), that it shows off a new nuclear plant to garner more cash, and that it is close to implosion and has few choices….”
The next step is for the light bulb to go on in the thought balloons over our heads and to realize that not only are the Chinese delivering all the free liquor they can drink to the deranged neighbors, the delivery man is probably whispering a few suggestions on his way out the door.
Mea maxima culpa
Reader Roual Deetlefs wrote in yesterday to say that he was stunned to meet some Japanese on social networking sites who supported the Chinese (in the Senkakus Incident, I assume). I replied that those Japanese were no different from the blame-yourself-first Americans and Brits whose philosophy is informed by the wish to show how wonderful they are by proclaiming how terrible they are.
There are also plenty of the same type in South Korea. For verification, try this post by Joshua Stanton at One Free Korea, who reports that Incheon Mayor Song Young-gil tweeted the North Korean attack on Yeonpyeong was provoked by South Korean military exercises, and that a local market was shelled because it was a South Korean intelligence facility a decade ago.
Mayor Song later deleted his tweet.
Yesterday I wrote about my reasons for not reading fiction anymore. If you think I was overstating the case, wait till you read which South Korean municipality has jurisdiction over Yeonpyeong.
The initial report about the “divine wind” comment suggested that it was made in reference to the delay of the censure motion against Mr. Sengoku and another Cabinet minister.
Since then, however, an explanation has emerged that the discussion was not about the two ministers in particular, but about the Kan Cabinet’s reputation as a whole. Some in the party thought they could use the incident as a way to restore their reputation and their ratings. It took them until the next day, but they finally decided to use some strong language by criticizing the attack as “barbaric”.
If true, that’s even more noxious than the first explanation.