Letter bombs (15): Flagrant fouls
Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, February 2, 2011
READER Andrew in Ezo sent in the following to the Comment section. It deserves wider reading:
“I was interested in seeing the reaction from the Asian press (and the inevitable Western mirroring of opinions) about the winning goal scored by Lee Tadanari in the Asia Cup football finals. Being that Tadanari is a naturalized Japanese of Korean descent, it would generate more than usual interest from non-fans, I assumed. Sure enough, here is an article from Straits Times:
Headline: “Japan embraces ethnic Korean star but many face discrimination”
“But there is no mention of said discrimination in the article body, and there is a weak caption mentioning “a minority of Japanese netizens were unhappy that the winning goal had come from a naturalised Korean player”. I guess that’s evidence that Japanese hate Koreans and discriminate relentlessly against Zainichi, kind of like how white Americans are all secret racists, based on the number of US-based extremist hate groups and their web presence.
It’s worth reading the article, if only to remind oneself of the egregious nonsense published every day throughout the world masquerading as serious journalism about Japan. (That sentence works just as well without the last two words.)
This article in particular is remarkable for its incoherence, starting with the headline.
Another article in the Dong-A Ilbo is only marginally better. As is typical with South Korean newspapers (and rather unlike the Japanese mass media), they’ll never pass up an opportunity to complain about their neighbors. The article gets off to a promising start, however, by citing an example of positive discrimination:
“Keikyu Aburatsubo Marine Park, an aquarium located in the southern part of the Miura Peninsula in Kanagawa, Japan, started a unique event Tuesday to celebrate Japan`s win in the Asian Cup soccer finals. The event allowed free admission to the aquarium by people who have “Ri” or “Lee” in their names to honor Tadanari Lee, who scored the winning goal against Australia in the tournament final.”
They quickly revert to form by following up with an interview of the soccer player’s father. A great deal seems to have been lost in translation, but Lee the Elder is a bit lost himself:
“Many in Japan are still unaware of why ethnic Koreans live there.”
Considering that 90% of the forebears of the ethnic Koreans in Japan came voluntarily–economic opportunity beckoned–one wonders who is unaware of what.
“Negative sentiment prevails in Japan on ethnic Koreans because they`re considered poor and violent. I`m happy that my son contributed to breaking down such prejudice.”
We all share his sentiments about his son. But the Straits Times article did mention the most common perception of ethnic Koreans in Japan:
“The ethnic Korean Japanese player…turn(ed) the spotlight once again on Japan’s ethnic Korean community and their strong presence in sports and entertainment.”
Yet there’s another side to the story. In the September 1996 issue of the monthly Ronza, the late Takayama Tokutaro, the ethnic Korean head of the Aizukotetsu gang (birthname: Kang Oe-su), was quoted as saying:
“About 30% of yakuza are Koreans. My group is 20% Korean.”
In those days, ethnic Koreans accounted for 0.45% of the Japanese population. When that interview took place, Takayama’s group was engaged in a feud with Japan’s largest gang, the Yamaguchi-gumi. It involved gunplay in the streets. The membership of ethnic Koreans in the Yamaguchi-gumi in those days was estimated to be 10%.
The author of an article for the monthly Gendai in January 2001 reports that the National Police Agency told him seven of the 33 designated yakuza groups from 1993 to 2000 were led by ethnic Koreans.
Perhaps there is a reason for the perceptions Mr. Lee mentioned. If those perceptions have a basis in reality, it will take more than a flash of athletic glory to erase them.
That reality is inconvenient for the Dong-A narrative, however–as are the sentiments of Lee Tadanari himself:
“I was born in Japan and brought up in Japanese culture. To win as a member of the Japanese team is the supreme happiness.”