AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Archive for the ‘North Korea’ Category

Useless idiots

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, December 20, 2012

VLADIMIR Ilyich, AKA Lenin, was once so full of himself that he said the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them. It didn’t work out that way, in no small part because the system he implemented in Russia was so dreadful it was incapable of generating enough of the capital they would have needed to buy the ropes to begin with.

But that isn’t to say capitalists — or parasites — of that type didn’t and don’t exist. Then again, perhaps parasites is not what they are, judging from the NK News.org website. Maybe they’re more along the lines of the useful idiots of Joseph Stain, who included H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw.

This comes from their About page:

NK NEWS aims to be the internet’s No.1 source for breaking North Korean news, analysis, culture and curiosities + professional, academic and student resources. We know how keen the world is to learn about daily life in North Korea, and we’re determined to show you it.

They’re so determined to show us they omit this part:

Nearly a third of children under age 5 show signs of stunting, particularly in rural areas where food is scarce, and chronic diarrhea due to a lack of clean water, sanitation and electricity has become the leading cause of death among children, the [U.N.] agency said. Hospitals are spotless but bare; few have running water or power, and drugs and medicine are in short supply, the agency said in a detailed update on the humanitarian situation in North Korea.

“I’ve seen babies … who should have been sitting up who were not sitting up, and can hardly hold a baby bottle,” Jerome Sauvage, the U.N.’s Pyongyang-based resident coordinator for North Korea, said in Beijing before presenting the report to donors.

The report paints a bleak picture of deprivation in the countryside, not often seen by outsiders, who are usually not allowed to travel beyond the relatively prosperous Pyongyang, where cherubic children are hand-picked to attend government celebrations and a middle-class with a taste for good food have the means to eat out.

Sauvage’s report provides not only further evidence of North Korea’s inability to feed its people, but also bolsters critics who say the government should be spending on food security instead of building up its military, testing rockets and pursuing a nuclear program denounced by the U.N., the United States and South Korea.

But let’s get back to the boys and girls walking on one of the few sunny sides of the street:

We aim to offer perspectives and insights that challenge the think-tank orthodoxy of Washington DC and promote a better understanding of North Korea at all levels, as well as aggregating the sum total of news and opinion elsewhere on the web, making NK NEWS a balanced source of information that we hope you’ll find indispensable.

Yeah, useful idiots sounds about right. They’ve also got good friends at Koryo Tours, which sell tours to North Korea for those people willing to challenge the orthodoxies of the DC think tanks and whichever bureau is in charge of propaganda in Pyeongyang.

Koryo Tours is so friendly, in fact, they offered the website these pictures of the Ryugong Hotel, where construction work has resumed after 20 years. Kim I wanted to make it the tallest building in the world, but he ran out of money before they could finish. It’s been sitting there rusting since 1992. But wait!

Work resumed in 2008 after heavy investment from Egypt’s Orascom group, who are also responsible and heavily invested in North Korea’s mobile telephone industry.

Egypt and North Korea — now doesn’t that sound like a winning combination? Then again, Pyeongyang’s been down so long that Cairo probably looks like up to them.

The website thinks the work will be done in two or three years, at which time “it will…contain the country’s premier restaurants, hotel accommodation, apartments, and business facilities.” Of course Koryo Tours will offer you a package that includes the Ryugong as lodgings. NK News asks us all to “stay tuned for further details”.

Speaking of travel details, here’s an article that appeared in the Daily NK this March describing how travel for North Korean citizens to Pyeongyang for any reason was prohibited a month in advance of the Chosun Workers’ Party Delegates Conference:

They have been strictly controlling the entry of people from the regions into Pyongyang since the General passed away, but since the 1st of this month entry they have almost completely prohibited it.” According to the source, provincial residents are no longer able to obtain vacation transit permits. Irrespective of purpose, entering the city normally requires an approval number from the 2nd Department of Pyongyang City People’s Committee, with which the 2nd department of the applicant’s province, city or county people’s committee or individual enterprise can then issue a permit to travel for vacation or work. ‘2nd Departments’ are responsible for the movement of people in a given administrative area.”

And:

Similarly, Pyongyang residents themselves cannot go very far, since it is only possible to get a permit for daytrips.”

Maybe if they got in touch with the friendly folks at Koryo Tours…

*****
If they’re so anxious to make money off North Korea, here’s a better idea: Send Cho Ok-cho abroad for a concert tour. She and her audience will learn a lot more about the world that way than anyone who tours North Korea with Koryo.

Posted in North Korea | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is read

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, December 9, 2012

THE following are excerpts from The Economic History of Korea, by Myung Soo Cha of Yeungnam University.

Under the heading of Dynamic Degeneration, which refers to the Chosun Dynasty:

“Population growth came to a halt around 1800, and a century of demographic stagnation followed due to a higher level of mortality. During the nineteenth century, living standards appeared to deteriorate. Both wages and rents fell, tax receipts shrank, and budget deficits expanded, forcing the government to resort to debasement. Peasant rebellions occurred more frequently, and poor peasants left Korea for northern China.

“Given that both acreage and population remained stable during the nineteenth century, the worsening living standards imply that the aggregate output contracted, because land and labor were being used in an ever more inefficient way. The decline in efficiency appeared to have much to do with disintegrating system of water control, which included flood control and irrigation.”

The next heading is Colonial Transition to Modern Economic Growth:

“Less than two decades after having been opened by Commodore Perry, Japan first made its ambitions about Korea known by forcing the country open to trade in 1876. Defeating Russia in the war of 1905, Japan virtually annexed Korea, which was made official five years later. What replaced the feeble and predatory bureaucracy of the ChosǑn dynasty was a developmental state. Drawing on the Meiji government’s experience, the colonial state introduced a set of expensive policy measures to modernize Korea. One important project was to improve infrastructure: railway lines were extended, and roads and harbors and communication networks were improved, which rapidly integrated goods and factor markets both nationally and internationally. Another project was a vigorous health campaign: the colonial government improved public hygiene, introduced modern medicine, and built hospitals, significantly accelerating the mortality decline set in motion around 1890, apparently by the introduction of the smallpox vaccination. The mortality transition resulted in a population expanding 1.4% per year during the colonial period. The third project was to revamp education. As modern teaching institutions quickly replaced traditional schools teaching Chinese classics, primary school enrollment ration rose from 1 percent in 1910 to 47 percent in 1943. Finally, the cadastral survey (1910-18) modernized and legalized property rights to land, which boosted not only the efficiency in land use, but also tax revenue from landowners. These modernization efforts generated sizable public deficits, which the colonial government could finance partly by floating bonds in Japan and partly by unilateral transfers from the Japanese government.

“The colonial government implemented industrial policy as well. The Rice Production Development Program (1920-1933), a policy response to the Rice Riots in Japan in 1918, was aimed at increasing rice supply within the Japanese empire. In colonial Korea, the program placed particular emphasis upon reversing the decay in water control. The colonial government provided subsidies for irrigation projects, and set up institutions to lower information, negotiation, and enforcement costs in building new waterways and reservoirs. Improved irrigation made it possible for peasants to grow high yielding rice seed varieties. Completion of a chemical fertilizer factory in 1927 increased the use of fertilizer, further boosting the yields from the new type of rice seeds. Rice prices fell rapidly in the late 1920s and early 1930s in the wake of the world agricultural depression, leading to the suspension of the program in 1933.

“Despite the Rice Program, the structure of the colonial economy has been shifting away from agriculture towards manufacturing ever since the beginning of the colonial rule at a consistent pace. From 1911-40 the share of manufacturing in GDP increased from 6 percent to 28 percent, and the share of agriculture fell from 76 percent to 41 percent. Major causes of the structural change included diffusion of modern manufacturing technology, the world agricultural depression shifting the terms of trade in favor of manufacturing, and Japan’s early recovery from the Great Depression generating an investment boom in the colony. Also Korea’s cheap labor and natural resources and the introduction of controls on output and investment in Japan to mitigate the impact of the Depression helped attract direct investment in the colony. Finally, subjugating party politicians and pushing Japan into the Second World War with the invasion of China in 1937, the Japanese military began to develop northern parts of Korea peninsula as an industrial base producing munitions.

“The institutional modernization, technological diffusion, and the inflow of Japanese capital put an end to the Malthusian degeneration and pushed Korea onto the path of modern economic growth. Both rents and wages stopped falling and started to rise from the early twentieth century. As the population explosion made labor increasingly abundant vis-a-vis land, rents increased more rapidly than wages, suggesting that income distribution became less equal during the colonial period. Per capita output rose faster than one percent per year from 1911-38.

“Per capita grain consumption declined during the colonial period, providing grounds for traditional criticism of the Japanese colonialism exploiting Korea. However, per capita real consumption increased, due to rising non-grain and non-good consumption, and Koreans were also getting better education and living longer. In the late 1920s, life expectancy at birth was 37 years, an estimate several years longer than in China and almost ten years shorter than in Japan. Life expectancy increased to 43 years at the end of the colonial period. Male mean stature was slightly higher than 160 centimeters at the end of the 1920s, a number not significantly different from the Chinese or Japanese height, and appeared to become shorter during the latter half of the colonial period.”

It concludes with the heading South Korean Prosperity:

“In the quarter century following the policy shift in the early 1960s, the South Korean per capita output grew at an unusually rapid rate of 7 percent per year, a growth performance paralleled only by Taiwan and two city-states, Hong Kong and Singapore. The portion of South Koreans enjoying the benefits of the growth increased more rapidly from the end of 1970s, when the rising trend in the Gini coefficient (which measures the inequality of income distribution) since the colonial period was reversed. The growth was attributable far more to increased use of productive inputs — physical capital in particular — than to productivity advances. The rapid capital accumulation was driven by an increasingly high savings rate due to a falling dependency ratio, a lagged outcome of rapidly falling mortality during the colonial period. The high growth was also aided by accumulation of human capital, which started with the introduction of modern education under the Japanese rule. Finally, the South Korean developmental state, as symbolized by Park Chung Hee, a former officer of the Japanese Imperial army serving in wartime Manchuria, was closely modeled upon the colonial system of government. In short, South Korea grew on the shoulders of the colonial achievement, rather than emerging out of the ashes left by the Korean War, as is sometimes asserted.”

The South Koreans have installed a billboard on Times Square in New York demanding that the Japanese Emperor get down on his knees and apologize for his nation’s crimes in Korea as Willy Brandt did in Warsaw. (It is coupled with a billboard for a bibimbap restaurant. Synergistic advertising.)

Getting down on one’s knees is the appropriate reaction, but they’ve got the actors confused. South Koreans should get down on their knees and thank the nation of the Japanese Emperor that the people in Seoul and Busan don’t live like the people in Pyeongyang. (At least the ones not sympathetic to the Kim Dynasty should.)

But that wouldn’t be necessary. The Japanese would probably be fine to let the dead bury the dead, look to the future, and just get on with it.

Posted in History, North Korea, South Korea | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Ichigen koji (253)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, December 8, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

Many of Abe Shinzo’s supporters are very passionate. That’s perhaps because he clearly spells out his policies. He declared he would conduct an assertive foreign policy when he was elected prime minister (in 2006). But the person who really tried to conduct assertive foreign policy was former Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio. We all know what happened with that. The national leader who conducts assertive foreign policy without technique and without the skill for indirect statements is quite the fool. It will cause a lot of trouble for the people. It’s the North Koreans who say whatever suits them, and they seem to have thought it through in terms of game theory.

- Financial advisor Baba Masahiro, who supports constitutional reform, nuclear weapons for Japan, and the draft

Posted in International relations, North Korea, Politics, Quotations | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Daytime soba opera

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, November 18, 2012

ONE analogy used when politicians abandon a party that’s dissolving as quickly as a mudboat is that of rats leaving a sinking ship. True to the vapidity of some of its members, however, the Democratic Party of Japan’s dissolution is starting to resemble daytime soba opera.

At last count, nine DPJ MPs have left the party in the last three days. Here are some screenshots of a video broadcast on the national news when first-term member Hatsushika Akihiro of Tokyo went to the DPJ headquarters in the Diet building to turn in his resignation. In a scene that must have been staged, Tanaka Mieko, another first-term DPJ member, briefly (and slightly tearfully) tried to stop him. It was over in a few seconds.

The entertainment it provided isn’t over for the Japanese Net, however. They’re still passing the photos and video around. Here’s the sequence:

The caption at the top left says that it happened before 11:00 a.m. The one at the bottom identifies Mr. Hatsushika. The one at the top right quotes LDP chief Abe Shinzo as promising an election victory and notes that the DPJ has already lost its lower house majority

No change

The third quotes Ms. Tanaka as saying, “I came to stop you. Don’t go.”

This quotes what seems to be a smiling Mr. Hatsushika replying, “I understand your feelings, but I’ve decided. Let me through.”

No caption necessary.

Still no caption necessary.

And now for the backstory (or at least the publicly known part of it.)

Mr. Hatsushika told the reporters why he was leaving:

The DPJ has clearly changed its policies from the time it assumed control of government. It’s become a different party.

Either the reporters were just doing their jobs, or they don’t do their jobs thoroughly to begin with, because they asked him a really dumb question: Will you be joining the Japan Restoration Party or Ishihara Shintaro’s Sunrise Party? He said no, and added:

I want to devote my energies to consolidating the strength of “liberal” political forces.

He used the English loan word for liberal. That means left-of-center nowadays in Japan too, but the extent of the leftward lean depends on the user. In Mr. Hatsushika’s case, that means being Pyeongyang’s pal in the Diet.

Yes, the Democratic Party of Japan certified this man in 2009. Yes, the Anglosphere media described the DPJ government as “center-left”. They really should have reversed the words and used some imaginative typography instead. It was “LEFT of center”.

One wonders what Hatsushika Akihiro expected of the Democratic Party when he ran in 2009.

The story gets better. Boy, does it get better.

Tanaka Mieko is another one of the DPJ MPs whose first term is likely to be their last for the forseeable future. The holder of a master’s degree in political science from Meiji University, she was recruited by Ozawa Ichiro to run against former LDP Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro in 2009, setting up a battle between the young Beauty and the old Beast. She lost by just 4,000 votes, but managed to slide into the Diet anyway as a PR representative for the Hokuriku bloc.

Ms. Tanaka held several jobs before turning to electoral politics. She was an aide to Kawamura Takashi when he was a DPJ Diet member. (He later quit the party, resigned his seat, won election as Nagoya mayor, and formed the Tax Cut Japan party that might still join Hashimoto Toru’s Japan Restoration Party.) Before that, she was a company employee and tour conductor.

And before that, she wrote a column in the magazine Bubka with the title, “Beautiful cosplay writer Arisu interviews sex workers: A real battle of beauties”. Explained an employee of the publishing company:

“She would interview women in the sex industry while she herself was outfitted in some kind of costume. It became something of a topic of conversation because no one knew why she had to dress up like that.”

One of the magazine’s editors said that Ms. Tanaka approached them about doing the articles. While the articles were well-written, he said, the series ended after 10 pieces when she couldn’t think of any more costumes to use. In the photos above, you can see she chose the elegant basic black costume with a string of pearls to barricade the door on her last day in the Diet.

And sometimes, she wore very little at all. She got a bare naked chest massage in the cult film Moju Tai Issunboshi (The Blind Beast vs. the Dwarf). You can tell it’s a cult film from the low budget, amateurish direction, and the even more amateurish acting.

Of course there’s a YouTube. Isn’t there always?

Some people criticize the new regional parties because they’re not impressed with the caliber of people they’ve recruited to run for the Diet.

Ha, ha, ha!

Posted in I couldn't make this up if I tried, North Korea, Politics, Popular culture, Sex | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Ichigen koji (233)

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, November 18, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

So accustomed are North Koreans to the lack of light that when I asked a North Korean who had settled in an American city if there was anything she missed from home, she replied, “the darkness.”

- Melanie Kirkpatrick, Escape from North Korea

Posted in North Korea, Quotations | 1 Comment »

Ichigen koji (223)

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, November 8, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

An American says, “I voted in the morning and I knew who the next president would be that night.” A Chinese snorts and says, “I knew who the next CCP Chairman would be five years ago.” A North Korean laughs and says, “I’ve known who the next leader would be since I was a child.” A Japanese sadly says, “I vote regularly, but I still wonder who the current prime minister is.”

- A Chinese Tweet quoted by Furumai Yoshiko

Posted in China, Government, North Korea, Quotations | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Ichigen koji (217)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, November 2, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

If (the South Koreans and the Chinese) wish to create an East Asian entity based on an equal partnership (such as the EU), they’ll have to reduce the level of their nationalism to that of Japan. As (political scientist and historian) Maruyama Masao once pointed out, Japan is the only country in Asia to have lost the virginity of its nationalism. The defeat in the war threw cold water all over it. But no cold water has been thrown on that of South Korea, North Korea, and China.

- Furuta Hiroshi

Posted in China, International relations, North Korea, Quotations, South Korea | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

Ichigen koji  (209)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, October 26, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

The question of how difficult life is for the people of North Korea seems not to be such a big issue for the zainichi Koreans (Japanese-born Korean nationals). The problem is that the zainichi who are close to ethnic activist groups and the zainichi community tend to avoid the North Korean issue. They’ve been making the excuse that “the issue will be used by the right wing” for several decades. I’m tired of hearing it.

- Go Ang-gi, on Japanese Twitter

Posted in Foreigners in Japan, North Korea, Quotations | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Dim

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, October 25, 2012

He was the opposite of Dr Watson, who saw but did not observe: he observed, but did not see. He was the archetype of the man, so common among intellectuals, who knows much but understands little….A man may smile and smile and be a villain. A man may read and read, and experience and experience, and understand nothing.
- Theodore Dalrymple on Isaac Deutscher

One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.
- George Orwell

EVERYONE now knows the futility of prying loose the truth and nothing but out of horsenbuggy journalism. Obtaining a glimpse of undistorted reality on a particular subject requires the reader to play Rashomon and compare several accounts from radically different perspectives. Few people have the time or the patience for that, which is the primary reason the remnants of the guild manage to stay in business.

One of the pixel-stained wretches’ preferred methods of self-justification is to cite on-call academics to buttress whatever case they want to make at the time. But that’s another ploy whose efficacy is evaporating, as the awareness is also growing that the professorariat as it presents itself and is presented in the news media is nearly as corrupted as the journos, if not equally so.

As the events known as Climategate involving the University of East Anglia and Michael Mann demonstrate, that is just as true for professionals in the hard sciences as well as social studies (the word “science” is incompatible with the latter). The EU cuts off funding to climatologists who publish research suggesting that global warming might not be a problem after all. It is now possible to publish scientific papers based on the claim that “the evidence-based movement in the health sciences is outrageously exclusionary and dangerously normative with regards to scientific knowledge, (and) constitutes a good example of microfascism.” The field of social studies has become infected by the ideas of deconstructionism and post-structuralism, which hold that reality is unknowable and we should “delight in the plurality of meaning”.

Less recognized is that this plurality of meaning often exists because some people can’t be bothered with basic research to begin with, or are only interested in discovering facts that fit their worldview.

Then there are the priests of the inner temple convinced that their guild status, endowed chairs, and publishing contracts bestow on them the privilege to sermonize on matters they know little or nothing about, based on a casual drive through the neighborhood. One of these bodhisattvas is Walter Russell Mead, who’s been spotted driving through the East Asian neighborhood every once in a while. He passed through again last week after unloading one-a-day observations on Russia, Pakistan Sunni radicals, the German economy, the Methodist Church, fracking in the Rust Belt, the third presidential debate, and the Wall Street scandal of Rajat Gupta. (Today he’s talking about higher education costs.) Quantity is never a substitute for quality, particularly when the quantity is a planet wide and a centimeter deep.

On his website last week, he dashed off another “Quick Take” on Northeast Asia. The only takeaway is that he knows dashed all about this part of the world. Copy-paste is not kosher, but this case warrants an exception, and it’s website policy to save links for those on the legit. Let’s start with the title:

Japanese Nationalists Rattle the Cages

Ah, the nationalist beasts of Japan are losing their patience at being held under lock and key, are they?

Last week it was China; this week it’s Japan where nationalists are raging against the country across the sea . And unlike in China, this time it isn’t just hotheaded micro-bloggers; it’s former prime minister and opposition leader Shinzo Abe, who is widely expected to become PM next year. Abe has decided to visit the controversial Yakusuni war shrine.

It isn’t just Chinese micro-bloggers: Communist Party-controlled newspapers and media outlets in China have for several years been openly threatening military action against any country that would oppose its claims in the region. The claims include Okinawa as well as the Senkakus, as well as open threats to “smash small Japan”. The micro-bloggers and the street rioters are so rabid because their government encourages it.

Mead needs to turn that telescope around and look through the small end.

Meanwhile, all that Mr. Abe, two Cabinet members, and some other MPs did was to attend the fall festival at a Shinto shrine in Tokyo that is the Japanese equivalent of Arlington National Cemetery. For Mead, this constitutes “raging against the country across the sea”.

Then again, Western academics have a taste for this false equivalence between the behavior in modern China and South Korea on the one hand and Japan on the other.

He continues by offering some Sunday supplement insights:

Nationalism is on the rise in Japan, as it is elsewhere in Asia.

Let’s do some deconstruction of our own.

* The nationalism of China and both Koreas is limited to two gears: idling and overdrive. The Chinese shifted into overdrive after the Democratic Party of Japan and the United States took control of the governments in their respective countries in the same year. The South Koreans grab the stick whenever their economy or the government’s approval ratings head south. The North Koreans never let it go.

* The nationalism of China and both Koreas has ethnocentrism as a core component of their conception of their modern states. One aspect of this component is a tendency to define themselves in terms of the “other”. For those three states, the other is the Japan of the first half of the 20th century. That country no longer exists.

The nationalist ethnocentrism of these countries, that in its modern manifestation demonizes a country which no longer exists, is both an embedded feature and bug. Absent a critical shock to their systems, it will not go away. Japan’s exemplary postwar behavior among all the nations of the G-whatever has not changed their attitudes. It is not possible for them to change those attitudes because it is part of the psychological foundation of their states.

* Ethnocentrism was a core component of Japanese nationalism in the first half of the 20th century, but the Americans crushed that out of them. It would be difficult to find any overt references by the Japanese government, mass media, or citizenry to national exceptionalism and cultural superiority on the scale at which the Chinese and Koreans habitually indulge. Exclude Ishihara Shintaro (whose prominence is widely misunderstood) and it might be impossible.

Extreme examples of these references are commonplace in China, the two Koreas, Russia — and the United States and Europe.

Mead, by the way, has argued that every age needs a “liberal empire”, and thinks the Imperial power for our age is the United States.

* What Mead supposes to be Japanese “nationalism” would be unremarkable in any other country of the world. It is indistinguishable from the more innocuous strain of patriotism common in the West two or three generations ago.

Rather than alarming, it is a sign that Japan is recovering its equilibrium from the anti-nationalist overcompensation of the postwar period.

For example: A forum on regional affairs was held earlier this month in Seoul with participants from South Korea, China, and Japan. Among the participants was Prof. Mun Jeong-in of Yonsei University. One of his statements was typical of the Korean-Chinese approach at venues of this sort:

“Both South Korea and China have the historical experience of Japanese rule and subjugation. Japan is the core of the problem.”

The Japanese participant was Tanaka Hitoshi, a former deputy minister for foreign affairs and now a senior fellow at the Japan Center for International Exchange. He replied:

“The war has been over for more than 67 years. How long is Japan supposed to keep a low profile?…In the past, Japan would have not said anything (to actions such as the recent South Korean behavior regarding Takeshima), but now we will. Japan has become a normal nation.”

There is no sign that Mead is aware of the ABCs of the attitudes in any of these countries. His view of East Asia is as much a prisoner of the past as that of the geopolitical rent-seekers in China and the Koreas.

Mr. Abe’s visit drew attention because it is the first that he has made to the shrine since winning an internal party election last month. During that election, he took the hardest line in a field of five conservative candidates, calling for expanding the limits of Japan’s pacifist Constitution to allow a full military, and supporting patriotic education that teaches a more sympathetic view of Japan’s actions during World War II.

Making this statement requires one to be ignorant of the fact that it is the official position of the Liberal Democratic Party — not just Mr. Abe — to amend the Constitution to allow “a full military”. They’ve already written and presented a draft Constitution.

It also requires one to believe there is something intrinsically “hardline” about establishing a military for self-defense, both individual and collective. That would go without saying for any other normal country. Does Mead actually believe the Japanese are incapable of maintaining a military without succumbing to blood lust? Is he aware that the threat comes from China and is independent of anything Japan might or might not do?

As for supporting “patriotic” education, does this mean that Mead would favor education of the sort that would include the Howard Zinn approach to history as an alternative view in all American textbooks? Note also that Mead cites no details for his charge that a new curriculum would be more sympathetic toward Japan’s actions during World War II, nor what that would mean.

Then again, one American president of an earlier generation didn’t think the Japanese were entirely to blame. Refer to the first Mead link for Herbert Hoover’s opinion.

If Shinzo Abe continues to visit the shrine as prime minister as he has promised to do, Japanese companies in China would be well advised to hire more security guards, as angry Chinese are likely to make their disapproval clear to Japanese interests wherever they happen to find them.

Mead thinks a former Japanese prime minister is being foolhardy because a visit to certain places in his own country will anger the neighborhood geopolitical malefactor. But Abe Shinzo was the second chief cabinet secretary in the Koizumi administration. He already knows what might happen in China and South Korea as a result of Yasukuni visits.

Abe doesn’t plan on just stopping by the shrine. According to the Times, he will also revise an official apology regarding sex slavery in World War II, a move sure to upset the South Koreans as well as the Chinese. Further, Abe has said he would consider deploying Coast Guard to the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.

While it is true that Mr. Abe would repudiate the Kono Statement, among the other things Mead doesn’t know are the circumstances behind the statement itself. It should never have been issued to begin with.

That Mead would also make a reference to the “disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands” shows that he hasn’t taken the time to do much reading about the subject. (Nicholas Kristoff columns don’t count.) Deploying the Japanese Coast Guard to the Senkakus would be no different than the Americans sending their own Coast Guard to Key West, even if the Cubans had taken it into their heads to claim that island for the first time in 1971.

Is there some reason Japan should not defend its own territory that is visible only from Mead’s perch in La Tour Ivoire?

But the Japanese seem only dimly aware of the fact that they live in a very precarious neighborhood, surrounded by strong nuclear powers with long memories of past conflicts with Japan.

This is the most preposterous statement I’ve read by a supposedly serious author all year — and this is an American election year when preposterous statements are as common as dandruff on the shoulders of an academic’s corduroy sport coat.

Let’s not mince words: To hold forth on what anyone in Japan knows about circumstances in the region when one knows so little of them oneself is beyond patronizing.

With the Russians deploying to the Far East, the South Koreans incensed by the Dokdo island dispute, the Chinese burning Japanese cars and flags, and always-volatile North Korea, the Japanese could probably use a lighter touch in their politics and diplomacy.

That Mead would refer to the islands as “Dokdo” instead of Takeshima can only mean the following:

* He is unaware or doesn’t care that when the Americans forced Japan at the end of the war to relinquish the territory it had seized in the region, they thought Takeshima belonged to Japan — despite Korean objections, and despite originally siding with the Korean position.

* He is unaware or doesn’t care that the American government told the Koreans more than once that they thought Takeshima was Japanese (here and here) and recommended that the Koreans submit their case to the International Court of Justice.

* He is unaware or doesn’t care that the Japanese have twice made the request for ICJ mediation, and the Koreans still refuse.

* He is unaware or doesn’t care that the Japanese incorporated the islands on the principle of terra nullius. Or the Koreans have yet to make a plausible claim without a triple ricochet of logic, factual inaccuracies, photoshopping, or outright fabrications that they islands were ever theirs.

* He is unaware or doesn’t care that a Korean monthly reported the two countries agreed to disagree about the islets in 1965, and that another Korean politician destroyed the Korean documents so they would never come to light.

* He is unaware or doesn’t care that the only reason the Koreans have the islets now is that they took them by force, killing some people when they did so.

* Even Google Maps recently switched from “Dokdo” to “Liancourt Rocks” for the name of the islets (drawing the predictable response from the Koreans).

From this, we can only conclude that Mead believes “might makes right”.

The Japanese could probably use a lighter touch in their politics and diplomacy.

How much lighter can they get without bending over?

Japanese government actions regarding Takeshima have been to ask South Korea to submit the case to the ICJ and to insert a passage in their textbooks that they think Takeshima is theirs. Japanese government actions regarding the Senkakus have been to purchase the land from the Japanese owners, who had been harassed for decades by the Chinese, and prevent the Tokyo Metro District from buying the land and building a much-needed ship basin and radio tower. That step was taken so as not to provoke the ever-ready-to-be-provoked Chinese.

Or does Mead think even the mildest expressions of the national interest are off-limits for Japan? Should Japan limit itself to playing Our Lady of Perpetual Atonement and writing checks when the Western powers are short of money for whatever fine military or economic mess they’ve gotten themselves into this time?

But Mead has a solution: the Global Liberal Imperium will dispatch its fleet to the region and pacify the cage rattlers:

These disputes may be a headache for the U.S., but they also demonstrate the continuing need for a strong U.S. military presence in the Pacific. The American naval presence in the region has been one of the major reasons these conflicts haven’t erupted since the end of the Korean War. Don’t expect large budget cuts for the Navy anytime soon.

Is that last sentence dependent on Romney winning the election, or Obama — for whom Mead supposedly voted, and who still can’t spit out a straight answer on the sequestration of Defense Department funds — getting reelected?

Can Japan depend on the United States to keep the peace in the region? Hah!

Japan and the US are dropping plans for a joint drill to simulate the retaking of a remote island from foreign forces amid a row between Tokyo and Beijing over a disputed archipelago, a report said.

The governments are set to cancel the drill as it could provoke further anger from China after a row escalated when Japan last month nationalised some of the disputed islands, also claimed by Beijing, Jiji Press reported late Friday.

The decision to cancel the drill, which would have involved an island that is not part of the disputed chain, was in line with the views of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s office, the news agency quoted government sources as saying.

Neither country had concerns of that sort when it conducted a similar drill last month in Guam. China didn’t behave any more obnoxiously then than it always does. Was this a Japanese idea — or an American idea?

Mind you, the Americans don’t seem concerned when the Chinese conduct military drills. Just a week before the Mead Quick Take:

The joint exercise involving the PLA Navy and civilian law enforcement ships conducted Friday in the East China Sea came as a surprise for Japanese media, which believe the move is due to the deteriorating situation between the two countries over Japan’s “nationalization” of the Diaoyu Islands.

There is no need to object to the speculation by Japanese media. The exercise has sent a clear message to the outside world, that China is ready to use naval force in maritime conflicts.

It was no surprise to anyone in Japan, much less the media. If you thought that was inflated belligerence, now read this:

(China) will only become more skillful in dealing with more provocations. What’s more, the Chinese people have increasingly begun to think that some countries have been underestimating the consequences of angering China, and China needs to teach them a lesson. This growing public sentiment may pressure the government to change its diplomatic policies.

Chinese people believe there is unlikely to be any major war in the Asia-Pacific region, because China has no intention of starting one, nor will the US, we believe. A conflict in this area would be a brief brawl, in which the weaker country is more likely to suffer.

China, the most powerful country in this region, has in the past been the strongest voice urging parties to “set aside disputes.” The Philippines, Vietnam and Japan, on the contrary, were more bellicose. This is not normal.

Japan has to realize the fact that it has always been a small country compared to China, and in the future it will still only be another Vietnam or Philippines. It is better for Japan to show some respect, or it is asking for trouble.

True, that was from the Global Times, whose editors consider the light touch in diplomacy to be the application of a blowtorch. Their rhetoric is so intemperate the editorial staff might soon undergo a shakeup. But it is affiliated with the People’s Daily, and as that article at the link notes, the Chinese-language version is even more extreme.

Need I mention that no one in Japan talks or writes anything remotely like that?

But other Chinese weren’t convinced that the Americans would intervene anyway:

“There is a danger of China and Japan having a military conflict,” said Yan Xuetong, one of China’s most influential foreign policy strategists, and a noted hawk. “I do not see either side making concessions. Both sides want to solve the situation peacefully, but neither side can provide the right approach.”

And:

“Generally speaking, according to the theory of international relations, unless one country makes concessions to the other, the escalation of a conflict between two countries will not stop until there is a military clash,” he said.

He said that China was tolerant with smaller powers. “But the case of Japan is different. There is history between us. Japan is a big power. It regards itself as a regional, and sometimes a world power. So China can very naturally regard Japan as an equal. And if we are equal, you cannot poke us,” he said.

The only country doing, or threatening to do, the poking is China. But if Japanese become more impertinent than the Chinese can bear?

Mr Yan predicted that if there was a military confrontation, the United States would not intervene physically.

Both presidential candidates say the American military will be out of Afghanistan by 2014, which means the country will revert to the status quo ante of 2001. The Americans couldn’t come up with a status of forces agreement for Iraq to help maintain peace in that part of the world. They can’t figure out what to do with the soon-to-be nuclear Iran, except cover their eyes and hope it goes away. The Obama administration has, however, figured out what to do with Israel – cut it adrift.

The United States can’t even protect the lives of its own ambassador and three other embassy personnel in Libya. Despite the request of the ambassador for greater security, and despite the possibility that the ambassador was involved in some dangerous business by facilitating a gun-running operation to Syria through Turkey, the U.S. government outsourced the security of the consulate to foreigners, watched the attack from drones in real time without responding, and lied about the whole thing for weeks afterward.

The language blaring out of China every day (thoughtfully translated by them into English and put on the Web — removing all excuses) is more bellicose than that which emanated from the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The Chinese openly express their intent to grind several axes with other nations, including the United States.

But an American university professor thinks an America filled to the gills with Chinese-held debt and tired of international policery has to send a depleted fleet to keep order in the western Pacific because “nationalism is on the rise” in the region and Japanese politicians are “rattling the cages”.

Even the most inconsequential of Japanese politicians know more of what is stake in the region than any drive-by Western academic, yet Walter Russell Mead snarks about their “dim awareness”.

And some people will read what he writes and assume he has something worth saying about this part of the world beyond the obvious, the superficial, and the incorrect.

*****
May somebody shine a light on them all.

Posted in China, History, International relations, Military affairs, North Korea, South Korea | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Voter apathy

Posted by ampontan on Friday, October 19, 2012

ONE of the more controversial proposals of Japan’s Democratic Party government is to give people with permanent resident status the right to “participate” in local elections. The assumption they wish everyone to make is that this means voting. But the actual Japanese phrase used is “participation” rather than “voting”. That euphemism contains the implication of non-citizens being allowed to stand for office, which would surely be the next demand. Need it be mentioned that the agitation to further extend the privilege to national elections would start shortly thereafter? We’ve all seen how certain political elements behave once they jam their foot in the door. Indeed, jamming their foot in the door is an integral part of their strategy.

The opposition parties insist the Constitution prohibits this “participation”, and some of them have written proposed Constitutional amendments that would remove any ambiguity about citizenship being a prerequisite for political activity.

To clear up any possible ambiguity: This legislation is not intended to enfranchise people such as me — permanent residents with citizenship in countries outside the region. It is to enfranchise native-born ethnic Koreans who choose Korean citizenship.

The DPJ position is based on several factors. These include political contributions from ethnic Koreans, some DPJ members who have hung their Korean ethnic heritage in the back of the closet, and the antipathy of some in the party to the nation-state concept. A somewhat benign form of that third factor was manifest in former Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio’s peculiar claim that the Japanese archipelago did not belong exclusively to the Japanese people. Most of the Japanese archipelagians thought that was errant nonsense. But they knew Mr. Hatoyama was lighter than air, and discounted his notions in the expectation that the DPJ might deliver some of the domestic political reform they promised. That was, after all, the primary reason they were voted into office. It was only a matter of weeks before the voters realized the DPJ promises were lighter than helium.

The political commitment of the ethnic Koreans resident in Japan more closely resembles an inert gas. It would be a simple matter for those born in Japan to obtain Japanese citizenship, but many prefer to swear paper fealty to a country they’ve never been to. And as a recent Yonhap news agency report explains, they seem to have little interest in the privileges of citizenship bestowed by their passport of choice. Here’s the report in English. It’s every bit as entertaining as an article from the horsenbuggy news media from any other country, and short to boot:

*****
There are 578,135 Koreans living in Japan — 461,627 with permanent resident status, and 116,508 without that status. Interest among them is growing in the 19 December presidential election in South Korea.

The South Korean Central Election Committee estimates that 462,509 of these people in Japan, or about 80% of the total, are eligible to vote. This year, South Korean citizens living abroad will be eligible to vote in the presidential election.

The number of registered voters for the National Assembly election held on 11 April totaled only 18,575 people, or 4.02%. Of the registered voters, only 9,973 actually cast a ballot, or 52.57%.

The atmosphere has changed before the presidential election, however. Interest is rising in the possible winner of the the election as bilateral relations are chilled due to the Dokdo controversy. Some ethnic Koreans wonder which candidate will pull Korean-Japanese relations toward stability.

There are also many among those eligible to vote intensely curious about the issue of Korean citizens voting in Japan, and the ethnic education of Koreans there.

As of 1 October, with just 19 days left to register for the presidential election, the number of registered voters in Japan totaled 15,986, or an estimated 3.45% of those eligible. That is 1.7 times higher than the number who registered for the assembly elections in April.

(End translation)
*****

* Yonhap is excited because as many as 3.45% of those eligible in a particular district have done their civic duty at a distance and registered to vote. If the earlier election results are a guide, only about half of these will be able to muster the energy to fill out and mail in the ballots.

Why should it be cause for excitement that the number of overseas citizens interested in a presidential election is 1.7 times greater than the number of the same citizens interested in a legislative election? I’m an American living overseas with a better idea of the positions and accomplishments of both major presidential candidates than a lot of people in the United States. Yet I wouldn’t know who was running for the House or Senate in the four states that I once lived in if they walked up and bit me. If any of these South Korean “citizens” have ever lived in their district of eligibility, and are conversant about the candidates in that district, the number is miniscule.

* Is it possible for a South Korean news outlet to write any article about Japan without mentioning Dokdo/Takeshima, no matter how remote the connection? “With interest in Dokdo rising of late, Typhoon #18 struck the southern coast of Kyushu yesterday…”

* According to Yonhap, some ethnic Koreans wonder which presidential candidate in South Korea will contribute to stability in Korean-Japanese relations. I can answer that question: None of them.

There are two reasons for that. One is that none of them are interested to begin with. The other is that the South Korean polity will, by its nature, ensure that any candidate who might be interested will conceal that interest to ensure his political viability.

* Yes, the phrase “ethnic education” does have a tinge of the ein volk, doesn’t it? But the real issue, which Yonhap ignores, has nothing to do with “ethnic education”. Schools for ethnic Koreans already exist in those areas with a population sufficient to support them. The intense interest is in whether or not parents who send their children to these schools should receive the same government subsidies that parents who are Japanese citizens receive for sending their children to private schools teaching a Japanese curriculum. In other words: Where’s my free money!

Most of the schools for ethnic Koreans, incidentally, are operated by Chongryeon, the local citizens’ group associated with North Korea. Their curriculum is based on the glorification of the Kim Dynasty and the defamation of the country that allows them to operate.

Mindan, the group affiliated with South Korea, offers supplementary Saturday classes in “ethnic education”. Here is Mindan’s explanation for the reason they are disenfranchised:

(D)ue to the influence from the conservative wing, symbolized by ‘distortion of the history textbook’ and ‘worship of the Yasukuni Shrine’, the legislation has been delayed, and the law is still held under its pending state.

On the other hand, more than a few Japanese citizens have an intense interest in answers to their questions: Why should their tax proceeds be used to fund the “ethnic education” of the children of people born and raised in Japan who insist on maintaining Korean citizenship?

And: Why should they allow demi-separatists too lazy to exercise the privileges of citizenship in the country to which they pledge allegiance, to establish ethnic enclaves and vote in elections in a country to which they won’t pledge allegiance?

Other than the demand to satisfy a hypertrophied sense of entitlement, that is.

Posted in Education, Foreigners in Japan, Government, North Korea, South Korea | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

Ichigen koji (199)

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, October 16, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

The people of South Korea and China are now living our (Japan’s) unstable past. When I lived in South Korea from 1980 to 1986, the thinking of people my age in South Korea was just as out of date as that of our grandparents. Now, I sense they’ve gotten as far as our parents. It’s as if they came to a dead stop after that rapid growth.

In comparison, the people our age in North Korea are in a time stratum that predates that of our great-grandparents.

- Tsukuba University Prof. Furuta Hiroshi

Posted in North Korea, Quotations, Social trends, South Korea | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Ichigen koji (179)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, September 22, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

The Ministry of Education doesn’t conduct these hair-splitting investigations of other schools for foreigners the way they do for Chongryon schools. It’s just sophistry for them to keep saying they’re still conducting an investigation. We’ve been liberated from Japanese colonial rule for more than 60 years, but they deny us our schools. We will not permit the repudiation of our children as Koreans.

- The head of the liaison group for the mothers’ associations of Chongryon schools in Japan. Chongryon is The General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, and it is affiliated with North Korea. They operate schools in Japan with pictures of the Kim family dynasty on the walls and a curriculum that glorifies the juche system.

They’re complaining because they don’t receive the same financial subsidies from the Japanese government that other schools do.

The mothers’ associations are called omoni-kai. Kai is the Japanese word for an association, while omoni is the Korean word for mother.

*****
Speaking of omoni, in April this year the Chinese wax museum honoring great persons in history and the CCP donated a wax statute of Kim Jong-suk, the Great Mother (of Kim Jong-il), to North Korea’s International Friendship Exhibition House. The wax figure of the Great Mother is wearing a uniform of the anti-Japanese guerilla army and is placed next to azaleas with Mt. Paektu in the background.

In this video, the director of the Chinese museum, Zhang Molei, gave a speech in which he “bitterly grieved over the demise of leader Kim Jong Il, saying it was their wish to successfully represent the wax replica of Kim Jong Suk so they could please leader Kim Jong Il. Expressing the will to do more things to contribute to the building of thriving socialist nation in the DPRK, he expressed belief that the Korean people would overcome difficulties and win great victory under the leadership of the dear respected Kim Jong Un.”

The video is worth watching to see how services are conducted in the state religion. All you have to do is look.

Posted in Foreigners in Japan, North Korea, Quotations, Religion | 3 Comments »

Ichigen koji (178)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, September 21, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

The collapse of an authoritarian political structure will kindle ethnocentric or fundamentalist activism. There is a lot for Northeast Asian scholars to think about as they observe conditions in the Middle East.

- Kimura Kan, Kobe University professor

Posted in China, Government, International relations, North Korea, Quotations | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

All you have to do is look (37)

Posted by ampontan on Monday, September 3, 2012

Kim III inspects the troops on the “Eastern Front” on the 24th last month.

Photo from Yonhap

Posted in North Korea, Photographs and videos | Leave a Comment »

Ichigen koji (155)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, August 29, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

A de facto state of war still exists between North and South Korea, though the truce continues. The governments of both North and South say that unification is their heartfelt wish, and that continues to be their official line for the people….While the Koreans as an ethnic group seem to want to come together, the government and business leaders of South Korea, and the dictators of North Korea, do not appear to be sincerely interested in reunification….

…(Separation) has become the normal state of affairs, and the governing bodies of both countries have solidified that separation. In short, the concept of the state in both countries has been created on the premise of separation.

But the unifying force among the Korean people remains strong. To prevent that, and to continue the separation, requires a state of tension both at home and abroad. In South Korea’s case, that tension takes the form of anti-Japanese policies at home, and anti-Japanese demonstrations abroad….

…In all states, not just the divided ones, the concept of the state is formed through a thorough education of the people. The concept of the state in South Korea has become inextricably linked with anti-Japanese sentiment, and that has been taught through the educational system. As long as the divided state continues, South Korea will not lower their anti-Japanese banners. As long as North and South Korea remain divided, South Korea is unlikely to change its anti-Japanese policies.

- Ishida Masahiko, writing under the name of Red Dragonfly on the blog Agora

Posted in International relations, North Korea, South Korea | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

 
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