Japan from the inside out

Posts Tagged ‘South Korea’

Ichigen koji (226)

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, November 11, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

The colonial legacies in (South Korea and Taiwan), however, are markedly different, and this difference is essential to understanding why these countries have developed as they have since the end of World War II.

With this in mind, how did the experience of Japanese colonialism contribute to the subsequent success of Asian countries in their state and economic development? What implications did these developments have for subsequent democratization?

Upon initial inspection…the countries that experienced the Japanese colonial system — one that was more intrusive and more focused on complete modernization and transformation than other systems — appear to have been the most successful countries in developing modern states and economies (namely, South Korea and Taiwan). In comparison, the former French Indochina colonies (i.e., Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos), the former British colony of Malaya (which included Singapore), and the former Dutch colony of Indonesia have each experienced varying levels of success in state development, economic growth and democratization; yet none has reached the success of South Korea and Taiwan in any of these areas.

While there are undoubtedly many reasons for these results, this paper will show that the Japanese colonial influence played a key role, by completely altering the trajectory of modernization in Korea and Taiwan, to the creation of successful modern, industrial states.

– from an academic paper by Andres Aviles

Posted in Government, History, International relations, Quotations, South Korea, Taiwan | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Letter bombs (25): The origins of stake terror!

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, November 11, 2012

READER Ken sent the following YouTube video of a segment that was presented on the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS-TV) during its 8:00 a.m. program. There was no information about the year, but it might have been 2007. In any event, the activities described in the video continue today. It has Japanese subtitles, which I’ve translated into English.

Female anchor: Do you remember that Japan drove metal piles into the ground throughout our country during its forced occupation to disrupt the vitality of our race? Recently several large wooden piles were discovered on Mt. Gaehwa in Seoul. These are presumed to have been driven in by Japan.

Male anchor: It’s the first time wooden and not metal piles have been discovered…used for a feng shui invasion. This reminds us once again of the intensity of the Japanese desire for domination.

Male reporter (Kim Hak-je): Sixteen wooden piles, 27 metal piles, and two piles made of stone were discovered on Mt. Gaehwa. They managed to remove the metal and stone piles, but the wooden piles discovered later were quite large, and the removal work has so far not been easy. We set out to discover who drove in those piles, how they did it, and for what reason.

Voiceover: Mt. Gaehwa is about 130 meters above sea level on the other side of the Han River from the Haengju Fortress. Thick wooden piles of indeterminate form rose on the summit of the mountain.

It’s 2.85 meters high and has a circumference of 83 centimeters. Does it get thicker the further down it goes?

There were 16 in all, each of slightly different lengths and thicknesses. A specialist in the hexed metal piles began the work to remove them last month.

Seo Yun-yeong, Chairman of the Committee to Promote the Vitality of the Race: I’ve already removed a lot of these hexed metal piles. But this is the first time I’ve seen so many wood ones…The purpose of these piles was probably the same as the metal and stone ones.

Voiceover: On the day we visited the site, the real size and shape was revealed of the long wooden pile that was deeply buried in the earth.

Seo: Ah, it’s out! Your role is now finished. This poison pin!

Voiceover: The metal and stone piles that were discovered last September have all been removed. Also discovered was a thick wire coiled around the metal and stone piles to connect them.

Seo: So we Koreans would find it difficult to live…so no great people would be born in Korea…for this wicked objective, they used nature. It’s frightening.

Voiceover: Here is the place where what are thought to be hexed piles were buried. Twenty-seven metal piles, two stone piles, and now 16 of the wooden piles have been discovered for the first time in the country. But the people who lived in the vicinity had no suspicions about the real nature of the wooden piles, unlike those for the metal piles. It had been said for many years that they were used for military drills.

Lee Jeong-hun, Seoul: They say there was a military drill area here in the past. I heard there were no wooden piles, but they carried ropes for training.

Voiceover: But after suspicions began to surface, the squad conducted the work for confirmation at the site three times. We received a reply from military sources that the wooden piles on Mt. Gaehwa had no connection with a military facility. The location was unsuitable for military training purposes. They explained military technology at the time was incapable of burying the wooden piles in such a sophisticated way.

Seo: Cement and rock, cement and rock. There are 12 layers of rock and 12 layers of cement, 24 altogether. Just who buried these piles with this sophistication and with these numbers in mind?

Voiceover: There was also a space intentionally created between the lower part of the wood and the bottom. It was filled with oil, which seems to have been to prevent rot.

Seo: The odor is gross. It was filled with oil.

Voiceover: Scholars of feng shui geography have noted that Mt. Gaehwa on the other side of the Han River from Haengju Fortress was an important control barrier

Shin Sang-yun, Head of the Asia Feng Shui Geography Research Institute: This was to prevent good fortune from moving to the northwest. The metal, stone, and wooden piles were put in a place in the mountain to prevent the fortune from rising.

Voiceover: A large quantity of piles resembling this have been discovered throughout the country at sites of maximum good fortune (from a feng shui perspective).

Prof. Seo Gil-su, Seokyeong University: There have been at least several hundred of these found throughout the country. One person isn’t capable of doing the amount of work involved. This was planned and thoroughly prepared, and the theory of feng shui geography was used for the piles as a kind of invasion of our vitality.

Voiceover: How many places and in what forms do piles such as those discovered at Mt. Gaehwa remain as the residuum of the Japanese forced occupation period? The things we want to know and the concerns are growing.

An excerpt said to be from the 21 April 2006 edition of the Dong-a Ilbo:

The answer is that these were benchmarks or triangulation points for surveying, piles for civil engineering use, or for climbing mountains. From this excess of hatred for the Japanese, the result of going around and digging up these piles has been the loss of 60% of the benchmarks and triangulation points in one year.

Note that the reporter in the story wonders how they were all driven in. One wonders if he thinks pile driving technology is all that complicated.

This first came to public awareness during the Kim Young-sam administration in 1995 as part of the 50th anniversary of liberation, and the tabloid press was instrumental in keeping it there. Typical storylines:

* “Imperial Japan’s feng shui conspiracy to eliminate the vitality of our race and cause disasters for our country!”

* “Imperial Japan feared Korea, and they drove in all these metal piles in lines that would sever energy flow to destroy Korean superiority and strength.”

The work to remove the piles began at the urging of the government, it was officially sanctioned, and there were rumors of the sale of pile removal rights to certain large companies.

Some of the piles that were removed are exhibited at the Wonju Municipal Museum as important historical artifacts.

It is still possible to read the advice of some of the oh-so-well-intentioned and the oh-so-superficially-knowledgeable in academia and thinktankeria that Japan must “face up to history”, don the hair shirt, and enter perpetual apology mode.

Apart from the fundamental errors on which those assumptions are based, such behaviors would have no effect.

Nothing will have any effect until some people on the Korean Peninsula grow out of their enthrallment with the East Asian equivalent of dancing for rain with snakes in their mouths.

Posted in History, I couldn't make this up if I tried, International relations, Science and technology, South Korea | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

War memorial

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, November 4, 2012

SOME people memorialize wars by prolonging the anger as long as possible, all the better to infect the innocent of younger generations with the same poison. Within that sickness, there is one benefit: It provides an artificial sense of meaning and life to people unable to find it in more productive activities.

But there are better memorials, and one of them was demonstrated in Itoman, Okinawa, on Saturday last week. The prefectural branch of Mindan, the South Korea-affiliated organization for Japanese-born Korean citizens, and the prefecture’s Japan-Korea Friendship Association held a commemorative ceremony at the Mabuni War Memorial for those Koreans who died in Okinawa during the Second World War. About 100 people attended.

Said the Mindan representative: “It is our responsibility to prevent the memories from fading and to never again wage war.” The chairman of the friendship association expressed similar sentiments: “It is our wish that the lessons of war be conveyed forever to the future, and for lasting peace to extend from Okinawa to the world.”

The event featured three performances of music and dance. One performer was Terukina Choichi, a national living treasure (an official designation) who played Nakafu-bushi on the sanshin. Here is his recording of it with Kinjo Kumiko singing.

Matsuda Akane performed the Karaya-bushi dance with a short song. The reports say the dance has Korean elements, but they weren’t specified. Also called the Moon Viewing Dance, the 450-year-old song-and-dance originates in a story told about a Chinese man who came to Okinawa and began to make roof tiles. This was a new technology for the Okinawans, and they were so impressed the King asked him to stay. He agreed on the condition that he be allowed to marry a woman who had caught his fancy.

She was already married, but when a king speaks, commoners listen, so she had no choice in the matter. The lyrics of the song are about climbing to the top of the roof, standing on the tiles, and looking to the south. The singer can see the inlet, but she cannot see her town; i.e., her husband.

This seems to have been a true story. They know where the Chinese man built his kiln on top of a hill. This hill:

Here’s the dance:

Finally, Kim Sun-ja performed the traditional salpuri dance. That’s her in the photo at the top of the post. Salpuri originated in the southwest part of the Korean Peninsula, and was performed to send the spirits of the deceased who can’t let go of this world to the world beyond. It has shamanistic aspects.

Here’s an idea: Apply that sentiment to those memories of the war which keep the poison circulating.

And here’s the salpuri:

Posted in South Korea, Traditions, World War II | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

All you have to do is look (96)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, November 3, 2012

South Korean junior high and high school students demonstrate in front of the Japanese embassy in September, demanding that history be properly taught to Japanese youth.

Posted in Education, I couldn't make this up if I tried, Photographs and videos, South Korea | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Ichigen koji (217)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, November 2, 2012

– 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 (214)

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, October 30, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

My faculty advisor prohibited me from taking a class from another professor whom he hated. If you take classes from professors associated with the New Right (in South Korea), some people will hate you.

– A Seoul University student quoted in the Chosun Ilbo

Posted in Education, Quotations, South Korea | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

PSYched out

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, October 27, 2012

SOME people have caught on that the Japanese seem impervious to the delights of the Gangnam Style Youtube video by PSY, which has now become one of the top ten most-watched Youtubes ever. That’s a matter of degree, because the song did make it into the lower level of the iTunes top 30 in Japan. It didn’t mirror the success that it’s had in the United States and Britain, however, or the lesser success in China.

Those folks are puzzled because Japan is perhaps the country most open to South Korean pop culture in the form of K-Pop, television shows, and certain types of movies (i.e., the ones middle-aged women like). Different theories are being offered for the limpness of the interest, but they’re ultimately unsatisfying because they miss another reason for the relative popularity that might be the most important of all.

One theory floating around is that Facebook postings gave a boost to the PSY video in the West, and that with only 30% of Net users, Facebook has a lower penetration in Japan than elsewhere. That might have something to do with it, but the Japanese are just as aware of Youtube and use it just as frequently.

Another theory is that the K-Pop performers regularly release Japanese-language versions of their performances, and PSY’s song is only in Korean (as far as I know). Foreign language pop songs for the teen and early 20s demographic in Japan are unlikely to be much more popular than a foreign language pop song in the United States, for example. There are some exceptions, but all of them are in English, the language everyone studies for six years in secondary school.

As this report points out, however, PSY was slated to release a Japanese-language version of the tune (called Roppongi Style) earlier this year, but his plans came a cropper. That post quotes a translated opinion from someone in the Japanese television industry:

PSY had already begun to be featured on Japanese morning variety news programs back in July, but the reaction from viewers was horrible. This was right around the time when Japanese media were under fire for over-promoting K-pop while attitudes toward Korea were souring, and the reason K-Pop became so popular in Japan in the first place is because Korean artists are known for being beautiful, so PSY looked completely out of place on screen. Even if he debuted in Japan, I don’t think he would have sold very much.

The industry insider raises some important points, and it’s not just the one about beauty. PSY first appeared in July, and the problems with South Korea didn’t erupt until August, but it was natural for those problems to dampen the enthusiasm for Korean pop culture. Lately I’ve been quoting and featuring excerpts here from a book by Tsukuba University Prof. Furuta Hiroshi, who is fluent in Korean. He studied for a time at a South Korean university and had a Korean roommate while there. He later returned to teach Japanese at another South Korean university from 1980 to 1986. He says his hobby is watching South Korean and North Korean movies and collecting them on DVD.

In a current edition of one of the Japanese monthlies, however, Prof. Furuta dashed off an article in which he declares that after the events of this summer, he will not visit the Korean Peninsula again until attitudes there change. The behavior of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, combined with the frothing-at-the-mind articles in South Korean newspapers (which they conveniently translate for their Japanese-language websites) has poisoned the well of Japanese goodwill. A connection has been snapped.

There might be an attempt to start restoring those connections by the end of the year. Every New Year’s Eve since 1954, NHK TV has broadcast live a program called Kohaku Utagassen, which presents the most popular singers in the country. The show’s concept is a singing contest between the men’s team and the women’s team. The results are judged by celebrities, the audience at NHK Hall, and now on the Internet.

While greater affluence and the resultant increase in disposable income and decentralization of culture have lessened the program’s impact, it is still the touchstone for identifying the performers the mass audience most want to see, with demographic differences taken into account. Three K-Pop acts performed on last year’s program. As of last month, it was starting to look as if none would be invited this year. Said one person affiliated with the program’s production team:

“President Lee’s problematic statement about seeking an apology from the Emperor had a serious impact. Many Korean performers do not refrain from shouting “Dokdo is our land” at the top of their lungs. Their appearance would elicit a negative reaction from viewers.”

That now seems to have changed. The question was raised at a meeting of department heads at NHK on Wednesday, and reports say a network official answered: “We are considering this from the overall perspective and will separate politics and culture.” That could mean that some K-Poppers will appear after all.

Given the South Korean predilection with taking everything that happens in Japan the wrong way, an overreaction to the Japanese ambivalence toward the global cultural success of the Korean Nation was to be expected. Some Japanese music bloggers suggested the South Koreans used bots, or automated viewing programs, to pump the Youtube viewing totals. Others started calling the song “F5 Style”, referring to the keyboard key for refreshing a browser window.

Those witticisms detonated a small explosion at the premises of the Korean Wave Research Institute. That organization is a non-profit established in 2010 to conduct research into and promote Korean culture, particularly the pop variety. (They also display the seals of the Presidential Council on Nation Branding, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Korea Tourism Association on their website, which suggests government funding.)

Anyone in Japan could have scripted the response of KWRI President Han Koo-hyun in advance:

Denouncing the “conspiracy theories” of YouTube chart manipulation, KWRI president Han Koo-Hyun said the “outrageous” Japanese argument was “tantamount to doubting a world record in an Olympics marathon.”

Skepticism about the song’s worldwide popularity on YouTube “should be viewed as a primary school kid’s jealousy and envy”, Han said in a press release.

Not content with defending the success of “Gangnam Style,” Han launched a vitriolic attack on the only Japanese entry in YouTube’s chart of the 30 all-time, most-viewed videos.

Currently ranked 29th with more than 237 million views, the video shows a young Japanese woman engaging in the popular Internet meme activity of dropping some mentos candy in a bottle of diet coke so that it sprays soda everywhere.

Mocking what he described as the “most grotesque and preposterous content” on the entire chart, Han said it was “another lowly example showing the video-related preference of the Japanese.”

And some people would have you believe the attitudes of the Japanese are the biggest obstacle to improved bilateral relations.

“A primary school kid’s jealousy and envy”? I put it down to collegiate spitballing — it’s the Internet, dude. “Grotesque and preposterous” are terms that should be reserved for the continuing Korean ban on Japanese performers on Korean terrestrial TV and radio. If South Korea has a television program resembling the Kohaku Utagassen, Japanese singers are prohibited from appearing on it by law.

The extent of Japanese popularity aside, however, there is another aspect to the intense interest in the video that people tend to reference obliquely. Brian Ashcraft, the author of the piece at the first link cited, wrote:

Online in Japan, however, some seem to think that the idea of a fat Asian guy wearing sunglasses and dancing about is probably humorous to Westerners—hence the song’s popularity.

Last month in the Guardian of Britain, Arwa Mahdawi took that one step further in an article titled, What’s so funny about Gangnam Style? The subhead:

The South Korean pop video taking the internet by storm does little to overturn tired stereotypes of east Asian men

She concluded:

The last time the west laughed so uproariously at a Korean singer was when an animated Kim Jong-il bewailed how “ronery” he was in the film Team America, and how nobody took him “serirousry”. The puppet had a point: popular western media doesn’t tend to take east Asian men seriously – even when they’re brutal dictators. The stereotype of a portly, non-threatening Charlie Chan-type who speaks “comical” English is still very much alive, apparent in everything from hungry Kim Jong-un memes to Abercrombie and Fitch T-shirts. And it’s hard to escape the uncomfortable feeling that this stereotype is contributing something to the laughter around Gangnam Style.

I’ll take that another step further. Consider:

* The only people who understand the social commentary of PSY’s lyrics are the Koreans. Everyone else is working off the music and the video.

* The music, while catchy, is not that compelling. I sent a link of the Youtube video to a friend in England before it caught on there. One of his three income sources is his work as a DJ at pubs on weekend nights and at wedding receptions. (He’s also a big technopop fan and has played piano since childhood.) He thought the video was fun, but commented that the music reminded him of 20-year-old European disco.

* The video features several attractive Korean women. The Japanese are already familiar with northeast Asian pulchritude. But in the United States and Britain, where the video is especially popular, such a free concentrated shot of exotic beauty is seldom seen all at once in the same place.

* PSY is variously described in English-language accounts as “portly”, chubby”, or “dumpy”. He performs a goofy horse-trot dance; a moonwalking Michael Jackson he isn’t. I can see junior high school kids clumsy with the initial rush of puberty trying it out as a joke at a dance party, but that’s less likely for high school students and not at all for college men and women. (If someone did that at a party where I attended university, guys would have either hooted him out of the building or asked where he got the mushrooms.)

* One of the first places I saw the video referenced on the Internet was at an American site for the fans of the baseball team I follow. A frequent poster used the video to create a short gif file to accentuate a humorous reference in a point he was making. He didn’t use the scene with the women covered in feathers or that Korean yogini with the pert and shapely butt. He instead snipped several seconds from the scene near the beginning with a shirtless PSY sitting outside in a lounge chair and a boy doing the dance in the foreground.

There you have it: This video has become an example of Weird Koreana in the same way that Westerners incapable of taking successful East Asians seriously have for years found Weird Japan stories and photos as entertaining as the dickens. I’ve seen English-language websites focused on politics and world affairs whose only links or mentions of affairs in Japan are limited to goofball stories. Now it’s Korea’s turn.

They’re not laughing with PSY. They’re laughing at him. PSY himself may be laughing all the way to the bank, but that doesn’t alter the reason he’s got the cash in hand to begin with.

This is an observation that Westerners do not like to hear. To see how they usually respond, try some of the commenters on Arwa Mahdawi’s article at the Guardian. “What’s the problem with you Guardianistas,” they ask. “This is all in fun.”

My worldview is about 180° away from that attributed to the Guardianistas, but I agree with Ms. Mahdawi. I’ve made the same point about Weird Japan by commenting on one or two Western websites (with less politico-cultural stridency than she uses) and the outraged backlash is the same. Telling people in the Anglosphere to their cyberface that they really aren’t as clever, classless, and free as they like to think they are does not earn hits on the Like button.

I suspect PSY is hip enough to know that he’s seen as a clown in the West, but he’s now so rich that he probably doesn’t care. The question he’ll have to come to terms with is whether he’ll want to work against the typecasting in the future, and, whether he does or doesn’t, if the creators of his video can keep coming up with ideas as striking as the one for his Big Payday.

It’s understandable that the Gangnam Style phenomenon has generated excitement in South Korea about the potential for spreading Korean pop culture worldwide and creating cultural ties where few now exist. I hope they can and do.

It would be most unfortunate, however, if their excitement causes them to overlook the ugly side of the Gangnam Style phenomenon.

The photo above is of the K-Pop song-and-dance team Shojo Jidai. The group has the same name in Korean. They were one of three Korean groups to appear on the NHK New Year’s Eve program last year. This electronic disco number is similar musically to Gangnam Style, and is sung in Japanese (with a bit of English). The Japanese-language version of their song has more than 66 million views on Youtube. So much for anti-Korean childishness.

Other than the language, the differences with Gangnam Style are obvious.

Posted in Foreigners in Japan, International relations, Japanese-Korean amity, Music, Popular culture, South Korea | Tagged: , , | 11 Comments »


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.”


“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 (200)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, October 17, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

Both China and South Korea have many museums that one-sidedly make Japan to be the villain. Taking vulnerable and exposed students to a place like that creates the danger of brainwashing. Japanese high school students have gone on school trips to South Korea and actually been made to get down on their knees and apologize. That’s education?

– Nishimura Kiyoshi, a director of the educational corporation that operates the private Reimei High School in Chiba. This year’s school trip will be to a location in Japan instead of either South Korea or China.

Posted in China, Education, International relations, Quotations, South Korea | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Ichigen koji (198)

Posted by ampontan on Monday, October 15, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

I’ve read the Japanese editions of the South Korean media online for more than 10 years. I have no memory of even one article making a positive reference to the support Japan extended South Korea during the Asian economic crisis, much less an expression of thanks. The reason the Japanese government was reluctant to provide assistance at first was because the Kim Young-sam administration did not fully disclose the amount of its foreign currency holdings and liabilities.

– The Tweeter known as Aceface

Posted in Business, finance and the economy, International relations, South Korea | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The New World Disorder

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sekimon Forest on Hahajima, the second-largest of the Ogasawara Islands

Now, we can see a new world coming into view. A world in which there is the very real prospect of a new world order. In the words of Winston Churchill, a “world order” in which “the principles of justice and fair play … protect the weak against the strong …” A world where the United Nations, freed from cold war stalemate, is poised to fulfil the historic vision of its founders. A world in which freedom and respect for human rights find a home among all nations.

– George H.W. Bush, 6 March 1991

IF the new world described by Bush the Elder ever came into view, it just as quickly receded from sight and was swallowed up by the darkness as the train of events sped through the night. Today’s new disordered world is the outward manifestation of disordered minds. Here’s a brief look at three disordered mindsets fixated on Japan that appeared in the East Asian media recently.


The Chosun Ilbo of South Korea earlier this month interviewed a Col. Kim (name not provided in Chinese characters) about his campaign claiming that the Japanese island of Tsushima should be part of South Korea. Even some Koreans think this is over the top, and the interviewer started the piece by quoting Prime Minister Kim Huang-shik:

“Even if there are historical grounds, claiming at this point that Tsushima is Korean territory lacks persuasiveness.”

Col. Kim is undeterred, however. Here’s the interview.

Q: Are you intentionally focusing on Tsushima as a way to resolve the Dokdo issue?

K: I am arguing from the premise that there is objective information verifying Tsushima as Korean territory. Japan knows this fact. They are being more firm than necessary about Dokdo to hide Tsushima.

Q: There are probably many historical documents that say Tsushima is South Korean territory. But there are also many documents and maps that are just as legitimate stating it is Japanese territory.

K: That’s right…Tsushima county appears on a governmental map of Gyeongnam Province from the 19th century. But the basis of my assertion is not these old maps or documents.

Q: What do you think is the decisive material?

K: Immediately after Japan’s opening to the outside world, the United States discovered the uninhabited island of Ogasawara (part of what are called the Bonin Islands in English) in the Pacific about 1,000 kilometers from the Japanese mainland. A dispute broke out between the two countries because the United States attempted to incorporate it as its own territory. At that time, the Japanese produced a map they had made of their country (1785) showing the islands.

Q: Japan had already prepared such a map?

K: It was made by Hayashi Shihei, who became aware of Japanese sovereignty issues early on. He wrote that Japan should incorporate into its own territory the uninhabited islands around the country with a view to maritime defense. He also wrote that Japan should conquer Korea and expand its territory as a means of national defense. He was the originator of the idea of conquering Korea. Hayashi surveyed Japan and the surrounding area and made five maps.

Q: During the discussions over territory, did the US give up its claim after seeing the maps?

K: The American government insisted that the Japanese version of Hayashi’s map was not objective proof. The Shogunate, in a bind, knew there was a translated French version of Hayashi’s map. They were able to conclude the negotiations successfully using this map as evidence. That map lists Tsushima as Korean territory. That was on the map that Japan used to for its territorial negotiations with the United States.

Q: Have you seen this map?

K: On the hand-drawn maps discovered until now, Dokdo was shown as Korean territory and Tsushima as Japanese territory. Prof. Hosaka Yuji, a naturalized Korean citizen (and head of Sejong University’s Dokdo Research Center) says that because this information appears on an internationally recognized map, it is decisive proof that Dokdo is Korean territory. But what we have overlooked is that (the French) map also shows Tsushima as Korean territory.

Q: This is a contradiction. Didn’t you just say that the hand-drawn maps show Tsushima as Japanese territory?

K: That’s right. But it’s very likely that all the hand-drawn maps are phony. Several years ago, a search at the special Dokdo display area in Room 2006 of the National Assembly library turned up an original copy of the French map. The color for Tsushima was the same color used for Korea. I believe that is the original map.

Q: I do not think it is logical to unilaterally claim that a map showing Tsushima as Korean territory is the original and maps showing otherwise are forgeries.

K: According to the records, a Dutchman brought one copy of the Hayashi map back to Europe in 1806. A European scholar of the Far East (name unidentifiable due to the Japanese spelling) used the map to survey the area, and after he returned, made the French map in 1832. The French map in the National Assembly library is indeed that map. An old document collector donated it to the library.

The interviewer followed up that conversation by speaking to the collector, named Han, over the phone. Han said the map was published in 1832, and he bought it in Australia in the early 1980s. But the interviewer also included his statement: “There are doubts that Tsushima can be claimed to be Korean territory just because it is the same yellow color as Korea.”


1. Col. Kim is not the first Korean to enjoy using the story about Ogasawara and the Hayashi maps for territorial claims. Unfortunately for them, as this source indicates, the American government was never interested in the Bonin Islands. Commodore Perry of Black Ship fame wanted his country to incorporate them, but they ignored him. The British were more keen, but backed off. The Japanese government says they have no records that the Shogunate ever negotiated with the Americans about the islands.

2. The Hayashi maps have never been “internationally recognized”, other than to the extent that they are internationally recognized for containing many inaccuracies regarding territory other than the four main Japanese islands.

3. Prof. Hosaka was born and raised in a zainichi neighborhood in Japan, and may or may not have been one himself. He married a Korean woman, became a naturalized citizen, and is often quoted in Korean newspapers for his support of the Korean side in territorial issues. His MO seems to be to speculate about the real meaning of documents and maps that are unclear, draw conclusions based on those speculations, and then cite the documents and maps as “definite proof”.

Okinawa and Japan itself

An article appeared in the 12 October edition of the weekly Shukan Post about the Chinese application of Sinocentric Culturalism to Okinawa and the rest of Japan. It starts with this excerpt from a paid advertisement in the Apple Daily of Hong Kong:

“During our time of powerlessness, we of the Chinese race heard the sorrow of our Ryukyu compatriots across the distant sea. But now, the Chinese race has become your powerful allies. These are the tears of the mother who gave you birth. O, Chinese Ryukyus!”

Explains an unidentified journalist in China:

“Chinese youth in recent years have passionately supported the idea of a restoration of the Ryukyu kingdom. Many Chinese think the Ryukyus are part of China. For them, the concept of the Chinese race denotes those people who live in places influenced by Chinese civilization. Okinawa was once the independent Ryukyu Kingdom, and after the Satsuma attack of 1609, paid tribute to the Qing Dynasty. They bring out that historical fact to claim that the Ryukyus are part of China…

“…Not only that, the Chinese who support Ryukyu independence go so far as to assert that the earliest ancestors of the Japanese are the Chinese who traveled to the Japanese archipelago from the continent in search of the elixir of eternal life as ordered by the first Qin emperor (second century BC).”

The magazine says that the idea of supporting Ryukyu independence spread on the net in China after the incident in 2010 in which the Chinese fishing boat captain rammed two Japanese coast guard ships. They then offer another excerpt from the advertisement:

“The Yamato race is part of the Chinese race, and Japanese are originally of Chinese blood…Until Japan is restored as part of the “China – Great Peace Family” (中華一大平和家族), entrust to Taiwan Province the maintenance of security and the development of the Diaoyutai and the Ryukyus, which are part of China.”

The name of the group that paid for the ad roughly translates to The Preparatory Committee for the Ryukyu Special Administrative Region of the Chinese Race. (Hong Kong is also classified as a special administrative region.) The group was formed late in 2010 after the incident. That’s one of their ads in the photo above. “Liuqiu” is the Romanization for what the Chinese call the Ryukyus.

Jackie Chan

The political opinions and statements of East Asian film stars can be just as disordered as those of their Western counterparts. The Record China website (a Japanese-language site offering news about China) quoted excerpts from a news conference with Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan on 2 October. Here’s some of what he said.

* “The Senkaku islands were Chinese, historically…judging from my perspective, we should ask the country that snatched someone else’s property to return it.”

* ”If I were Superman, I would pull the islands nearer China.“

* “Vladivostok should be returned to China and the Northern Territories (four Russian-held islands) to Japan.”

The Superman comment didn’t impress everyone in China. Retorted one person on the Net:

“The Senkakus are over there, which enables us to obtain territorial waters and undersea resources. They wouldn’t have any meaning if they were closer to the coast.”

It appears that someone in China understands the point of the Chinese claim better than Jackie Chan.

Chan’s stuck his foot in his mouth before. He once made a reference to Taiwan and Hong Kong as being out of control because they had too much freedom, so they needed to be managed by Chinese people. And this one didn’t please his Chinese fans:

“If you want to buy a TV, buy a Japanese product. Chinese TVs blow up.”


The Chinese knew Vladivostok as Haishenwei when it was part of some of their dynastic empires. Russia snatched it in 1860 in the Treaty of Beijing because the Qing Dynasty couldn’t defend itself. The two countries later fought over it.

Those with the eyes to see should now have sufficient evidence to be aware that we live in a state of New World Disorder that the presumed ruling elites are incapable of reordering. Indeed, they’re contributing to the disorder.

People are marching with swastika armbands in Greece, youth unemployment in Spain is approaching 50%, some are speculating that the French economy will be the next to blow, and the Eurocrats have congratulated themselves on their success by awarding themselves the Nobel Peace Prize. Daniel Hannan explains what they don’t want to see:

“Jamming peoples into a single state against their will is rarely conducive to either democracy or goodwill. It didn’t work for the Habsburgs, the Ottomans or the Soviets. Those polities survived only when they were police states. The moment their constituent peoples were free to choose, they opted for independence.”

The Russians have announced they will withdraw from an agreement with the United States to dismantle nuclear and chemical weapons. Known as the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program in the US, it had twice been renewed by both parties. But here’s Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov:

“The agreement doesn’t satisfy us, especially considering new realities.”

One of the new realities of the New World Disorder is that the Chinese no longer feel the need to disguise their intention to carve off some, or all, of Japan for themselves, and that some South Koreans are interested in snatching the scraps off the table while warily eyeing the Chinese.

The Japanese Constitution that the Americans so thoughtfully wrote for them long ago and far away in a world that no longer exists entrusts national security to “the peace-loving peoples of the world”. It effectively outsources national defense to the U.S.

That doesn’t look like a viable proposition right now. The U.S. is itself outsourcing the defense of its own installations located in a more disordered part of the world:

“The State Department outsourced security for the Benghazi consulate to Blue Mountain, a Welsh firm that hires ex-British and Commonwealth Special Forces, among the toughest hombres on the planet. The company’s very name comes from the poem “The Golden Journey To Samarkand,” whose words famously adorn the regimental headquarters of Britain’s Special Air Service in Hereford. Unfortunately, the one-year contract for consulate security was only $387,413 – or less than the cost of deploying a single U.S. soldier overseas. On that budget, you can’t really afford to fly in a lot of crack SAS killing machines, and have to make do with the neighborhood talent pool. So who’s available? Blue Mountain hired five members of the Benghazi branch of the February 17th Martyrs’ Brigade and equipped them with handcuffs and batons…There were supposed to be four men heavily armed with handcuffs on duty that night, but, the date of Sept. 11 having no particular significance in the Muslim world, only two guards were actually on shift…So, on the first anniversary of 9/11 in a post-revolutionary city in which Western diplomats had been steadily targeted over the previous six months, the government of the supposedly most powerful nation on Earth entrusted its security to Abdulaziz Majbari, 29, and his pal, who report to some bloke back in Carmarthen, Wales.”

Perhaps one reason the United States is cutting corners on defense expenditures is that it’s as broke as a country has ever been. Meanwhile, the man who did most of the heavy lifting to make it that broke is running for reelection.

The U.S. is faced with a worldwide reset inimical to its interests and skyrocketing debt at home, but it has yet to demonstrate the capability for dealing with either problem. It will have a presidential election in a little more than three weeks, and the principals are holding televised debates. The current president behaved like the empty chair of his caricature during the first one. In the next one, the current vice-president thought the proper way to discuss pressing issues with the American public was to conduct himself like a barroom buffoon. A not-insignificant number of Americans thought that was exactly what he needed to do.

Those with the eyes to see now know that the United States has been in a state of low-level civil war for some years, and that the civil war will continue to occupy the country for the foreseeable future. If the current government receives another four-year term, the world disorder will become more severe. If it is replaced, the party now in government will devote its primary energies as the opposition to preventing the new government from addressing the disorderliness, assuming that the new government is capable of it.

Japan can also see the new realities that the Russians see. They will increasingly wonder if a bankrupt and disorderly America will uphold an agreement it signed in a long-dead era to defend Japan from external aggression. We all know what conclusions they will draw — everyone one else is drawing the same ones.

It might be a lot sooner than anyone thinks that Japan gets wise, realizes that it’s on its own, and takes the steps required to defend itself.

The noise level from people outside the country opposing those steps will be in direct proportion to the level of the need for those steps to begin with.

Posted in China, Government, International relations, Military affairs, Russia, South Korea | Tagged: , , | 14 Comments »

Ichigen koji (194)

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, October 11, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

Some South Koreans say “Tsushima is South Korean territory”, but there are whackjobs in every country. That alone is not a threat. But when China says, “Okinawa is Chinese”, that’s a real threat. In that sense, South Korea and China are different. Shelving the Takeshima issue and shelving the Senkakus issue have different meanings. That’s the point from which we must start.

– Baba Masahiro

South Korean demonstrators in August. One of the slogans on the sign reads “Daemado (Tsushima) is our land).” Another opposes Japanese “rearmament”. The statue at the rear is of first South Korean president Yi Seung-man, who unsuccessfully lobbied the Allies to include Tsushima as Korean territory after the war.

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

New Japan-related controversies in South Korea

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A controversy has erupted in South Korea regarding the certification of junior high school history textbooks to be adopted for use next year by a panel from the National Institute of Korean History.

The Institute’s panel asked the nine publishing companies submitting textbooks for certification to remove the term “sexual slavery” in regard to the wartime comfort women. They also recommended that the term “King of Japan” be replaced by Tenno, the Japanese term for the Emperor.

Jeong Jin-hu, a member of the National Assembly’s Education, Science, and Technology Committee, said he had obtained the recommended revisions and analyzed them. The certification process was completed on 31 August. Declared Mr. Jeong, who is unaffiliated with a party and a PR member:

“In contrast to President Lee’s sudden visit to Dokdo and reference to the “South Korean-Japan History War”, the institute has adopted a Japan-friendly stance in the history textbooks junior high school students use…I cannot understand why the term “sexual slavery” used by the government is being omitted from the books”.

The table shown in the above photograph is a request submitted to one of the publishers to amend their text containing the expression “military comfort women (sexual slaves)” in two places. The screening committee asked that they remove the words “sexual slaves”. The phrase was initially removed, according to the Korean report.

But the group who wrote the textbook said that leaving only the expression “comfort women” prevents the inclusion of language that the Japanese military at the time subjected the women to immoral violence. They objected to the revision, and pointed out that the term “sexual slavery” has already been accepted internationally.

The institute compromised with the textbook authors and allowed them to use the phrase “forced to live a daily life of sexual slavery”. Some people objected to this phrase, too:

“The behavior of the Institute’s committee recommending the removal of the phrase “sexual slavery”, which is officially used in history textbooks both internationally and in South Korea, is a grave error.”

One publishing company made the requested changes to the expression “King of Japan” in three locations of its textbook. Another was asked to remove the word “protective” in The Eulsa Protective Treaty of 1905 in five places.

This is fascinating for several reasons.

* Those who objected to the changes did not cite historical accuracy as the reason. One of their concerns was that they had gotten sources overseas to buy into the concept of sexual slavery. Removing that phrase from the textbook undercuts their position.

* There is now recognition that the “King of Japan” expression is a petty indulgence they can no longer afford, and is an obstacle to restoring normal Japan-Korean relations. (It seems to have first come into common use 15-20 years ago.)

* The National Institute of Korean History is no longer willing to support the charge of sexual slavery compelled by the Japanese military. The historians at the institute evidently think this charge cannot be justified.

* The phrase they compromised on is very similar to the phrase now used by one of the original Japanese comfort woman historians, Yoshimi Yoshiaki. Mr. Yoshimi first said he had evidence that the Japanese military forcibly abducted women. His evidence was shown to be nothing of the sort. He has now modified his position to say that social conditions at the time forced the women to sign up.

* Tracking the future career path of the people on the panel who recommended the change might be educational in itself.

* Mr. Jeung referred to the “South Korea-Japan History War”. Those are his exact words. His attitude speaks for itself.

* The report in South Korea was immediately translated into Japanese. It’s all over the Internet now. This could mean the eventual end for the Kono Declaration.

In short, the toothpaste is out of the tube.

Meanwhile, another controversy has emerged regarding the repair and restoration of National Treasure #1 in South Korea. That’s the Sungnyemun, one of the Eight Gates in the Fortress Wall of Seoul. It surrounded the city during the Joseon Dynasty, and dates from the 14th century.

People are complaining that the adhesives used in the restoration are Japanese products. Supervising the work is the Cultural Heritage Administration. They said the use of Japanese adhesives couldn’t be helped because they were of superior quality. Much of the gate was destroyed by fire in 2008, and the reconstruction work began in 2010. Japanese paint is also being used.

The agency said they would have preferred to use Korean products, but they were of inferior quality, and they could not “experiment” with a cultural treasure. The manufacturing process for traditional Korean adhesives was lost by 1980. A university professor tried to recreate it, but the agency said it was too weak.

This report is also on the Japanese Internet.

Posted in History, International relations, South Korea, Traditions, World War II | Tagged: , | 10 Comments »

No, I don’t understand it either

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, October 9, 2012

THE reason more people don’t write geopolitical satire is that they’re incapable of creating fiction that would surpass anything national governments already produce.

In July, we had a post about a brouhaha between China and South Korea over national territory of the imagination. It isn’t possible to claim it as territory, but what’s the bagatelle of international law to these two?

China and South Korea also have a dispute about some isolated bit of maritime territory, this one in the East China Sea. It’s so isolated, in fact, it’s 4.6 meters below sea level. That’s the sunken reef known as Ieodo, Parangdo, Suyan Rock, Socotra Rock, or That Thing Down There, depending on your perspective.

Located 150 kilometers southeast of Jeju, the Underwater Treasure is closer to Japanese territory than to Chinese territory. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea states that no country can claim submerged reefs, but that hasn’t stopped these two. In fact, the Koreans did what they do best in situations of this sort — they built a pointless facility on the rock.

That’s the facility in the photo above. From the Korea Times:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) plans to call in senior diplomats of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul today to protest Beijing’s claims of jurisdiction over Korea’s southern reef territory Ieodo, a ministry spokesman said Sunday

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) stipulates that any coastal state has the rights to claim an EEZ that stretches up to 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) from its shore, except where there is an overlap with a neighboring country’s claims.

In short, South Korea bases its claim to this mini-Atlantis on an international agreement that says they can’t make the claim.

No, I don’t understand it either.

South Korean sources say the existence of Ieodo was “confirmed in 1984”, and their Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries established a “scientific base” there to study the seabed topography and tides in the area. But:

The issue has drawn public attention in South Korea recently following media reports that Liu Xigui, the chief of China’s State Oceanic Administration, claimed in an interview with Beijing’s Xinhua news agency that Ieodo is in waters under Chinese control and is part of areas patrolled by Chinese vessels and aircraft.

The same article quotes President Lee Myung-bak as saying it “is not a territorial matter”, yet also calls it an “islet” a few paragraphs later. On 23 September, however, the Chinese government announced that it would conduct a simulation of a remote maritime monitoring system using drones. Some South Korean newspapers reported some Chinese newspapers as saying Ieodo would be among the territory subject to periodic monitoring:

China recently denied the report and said they wouldn’t claim Ieodo. In response to Seoul’s query, China has recently clarified that those reports do not represent its official position and reflect only “a personal opinion” of the official quoted, the sources said.

The Chinese official just “mentioned the extent of the surveillance organization’s work from a technical aspect,” the Beijing government said in its reply to Seoul, according to the sources.

But then the Chinese have been objecting to Korean behavior there since 2006, and conducted aerial surveillance of the site five times in 2005.

China objects to Korea’s “unilateral” activities in the region. Beijing and Seoul held several rounds of negotiations on the demarcation of the EEZ between the two countries, but the Chinese government objected to Korea’s establishment of a maritime observatory complex on the island, Quin said. He described the Korean government’s unilateral action as “illegal” but added the two countries never had a territorial dispute over the island.

A South Korean journalist specializing in military matters (name not provided in Chinese characters) told KBS TV in South Korea:

“Ieodo is next after the Senkakus. China is moving to create a territorial dispute…China will demand that South Korea remove its maritime science base.”

That’s the backdrop for the South Korean government seeking negotiations with Japan to relax its rules for the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Ieodo is within the Japanese ADIZ, which means that South Korean aircraft and ships must provide information on their planned course and destination, usually to an air traffic controller, before entry. South Korean military sources say that the pseudo-islet was not included in the South Korean ADIZ by the United States Pacific Command in the early 1950s, but was inside the ADIZ established by Japan in 1963.

KBS TV reported that Japan was not warm to the idea.

So: South Korea ignored the terms of the peace treaty ending the Second World War and seized Takeshima by force from Japan when they knew Japan would be unable to stop them. They have since employed the islets as a symbol of hyper-chauvinism, one manifestation of which was an athlete running amok at the London Olympics with a non-Olympian banner only Koreans can read. If Japan suggests taking the dispute to the International Court of Justice, Korean politicians and the mass media indulge in a national revile-a-thon, and some break out their paper hats and striped paper noisemakers to charge that the Japanese far right is getting ready to march back onto the Korean Peninsula again. All of this is reported in the Japanese-language editions of South Korean newspapers, which many Japanese read.

And the Korean government actually thought the Japanese government might do them a favor when they get on board the Yellow Submarine to visit their land beneath the waves, because they think that, tabun maybe perhaps desho, the Chinese aren’t telling the truth?

No, Japan was not warm to the idea. I wonder why?

Aa, Wakaranai = Ah, I don’t understand it.

Posted in China, I couldn't make this up if I tried, International relations, South Korea | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »