Saturday, March 31, 2007
But no news has come of the issue of beef, autos, rice, or the Kaesong Industrial Complex. It seems questionable to me that the priority of economic cooperation between the two countries is paramount (as both Roh and Bush have said repeatedly) if such an important policy for both countries must come down to literally the very last minute.
Not the last minute you say? The special authorization is not the "last call" of the economic agreements world for this administration?
Well that may be true, the deadline actually only affects the process that Congress goes by to ratify the agreement - precluding the lengthy amendment process wherein so much beloved pork may be floated. But given the attack on superfluous spending that the President launched today in his Radio address concerning the Iraq funding bill (peanuts anyone?), perhaps this opportunity to pass the agreement sans pork loading would be very important. No doubt it was much of what Bush and Roh talked about during their 20 minute conversation, as reported on Thursday. Yet we will all have to wait until Sunday night or possibly Monday morning to find out the resolution. Guess the government and much of the student body have something in common - both wait til the last minute to slap something together.
While looking for pictures, I found many a hilarious North Korean-run website. This one takes the cake for sheer unconscious hilarity. It's obvious the blogger really wants to criticize the west, but clearly has no idea what is going on. As far as I can tell, s/he doesn’t understand the Kiss and McDonald's references in the first picture (calling them "devils, monsters"), and, if you scroll further down, somehow finds dancing with your own daughter to cross the line into pedophilia.
But I wonder how much of this is honest naivite--does the author really think the US soldier has just slapped the two other people in the March 14 picture? Incidentally, the comments for this particular post are worth a quick look--it's an odd mix that shows apparent Americans and North Koreans attempting to interact. One of the posters, Peter Fallon, is a professor at Roosevelt University, and has a blog on DPRK ignorance.
Friday, March 30, 2007
The article wraps up what we have discussed so far and suggested recommendations for the real partnership. I want to give credits to them for a link between history of the past and the present (current issues). They diagnosed that the root cause of anti-Japanese sentiment lies in Koreans' "inferior complexity", which I agree with partially. Yet, I believe that the inferior complexity is "one" of many root causes of the problem.
As the author mentioned, Korean's incessant compliants are sure to exacerbate the Japan-South Korea relationship. However, The Japanese capricious official stance is another big problem.
A Fair Deal with North Korea?
Thursday, April 5, 2007, 10:00–11:30 a.m.
Wohlstetter Conference Center, Twelfth Floor, AEI
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036
Please register for this event online at www.aei.org/event1487
The February 2007 six-party agreement on North Korea’s nuclear program was hailed in the capitals of its signatories as proof that Pyongyang is finally serious about denuclearization and that multilateral negotiations have finally paid off. But the agreement raised almost as many questions as it answered. What will be the fate of North Korea’s existing nuclear weapons stockpile, which went unmentioned in the treaty? And what of Pyongyang’s uranium enrichment program, which American officials now indicate may never have existed? How will the lifting of financial sanctions on North Korean accounts affect U.S. leverage against Pyongyang’s recidivist tendencies?
On April 5, AEI will hold a panel discussion to address these and other questions concerning the North Korean nuclear crisis.
Dan Blumenthal, AEI
John R. Bolton, AEI
Nicholas Eberstadt, AEI
Christopher Griffin, AEI
Thursday, March 29, 2007
I am very concerned about the future of Korea after reunification is realized.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The political debate in Japan over whether to repeal or revise the apology drew international attention a few weeks ago, corresponding with Prime Minister Abe's controversial remarks that no evidence of Japanese "coercion" existed.
You can read more about Kono's perspectives here.
In a recent meeting with CIA Director Robert Hayden, South Korean Minister of defense Kim Jang-soo expressed that Seoul was feeling squeezed by Chinese and Japanese military expansion. The fact that this subject arose when conversation traditionally has centered on North Korea, speaks to growing concerns in the ROK about the changing security dynamic in the region. The article speaks to a number of trends in the Northeast Asia security environment and regional development (as it pertains to a U.S. role), and I felt that it shared some similar points with Selden's article for this week.
I found his comment interesting: "Intoxicated by its unprecedented affluence, Japan was willing to ask forgiveness of its neighbors if this proved good for business." This then gives credibility to the accusations of Japanese insincerity in their apologies.
Kase then goes on to say, "The fact is that the brothels were commercial establishments. U.S. Army records explicitly declare that the comfort women were prostitutes, and found no instances of "kidnapping" by the Japanese authorities. It's also worth noting that some 40 percent of these women were of Japanese origin."
Were 40% of the women in these comfort stations Japanese? We've heard about the number of non-Japanese women taken but I don't think the articles we read mentioned the number of Japanese women, except that they were treated better.
In regards to the Rape of Nanking, "Many Japanese politicians have also come to believe that the Nanking Massacre was a fabrication of the Chinese, who are using it to pressure Japan into granting concessions in other areas."
Noting the rise of nationalism, Kase ends with saying that further apologies are unlikely and warns the U.S. from pushing Japan to do so. So, what do you guys think? Will U.S. politicians heed this warning or ignore it and push the resolution through?
U.S. historian says Korean unification unlikely while Kim Jong-il is in power in Yonhap News. The same story echo-chambered at the Korean Times as well.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Monday, March 26, 2007
It also notes DPRK officials are eager to attract tourists and that a Chinese travel company in Dandong has inked a deal to sell day tours to Shinuiju and week-long trips to other destinations including Pyongyang and Mt. Kumgang. Tourists are, apparently, already being admitted to some locations without passports. To accomodate the expected increase in tourism, the DPRK is even building a dedicated passenger terminal in Shinuiju.
And, as in other pieces, we have reports that Pyongyang is encouraging economic development. "Sources acquainted with North Korean affairs" and a "source in Beijing" are quoted in the story. One, having returned from Pyongyang, reports that "banners encouraging economic development have replaced nuclear-related slogans in the cities." The piece concludes by suggesting that the DPRK has designated some areas as tourist/development zones and is even working on a "bill on investors’ use of land" to encourage investment.
The kicker? One source notes, "The North will make the plans public after watching how the six-nation nuclear talks develop." Of course!
Nothing contained in the article was new or even surprising. It forced me to think, though, about why these articles continue to appear (I won't say every time there's hope in the 6PT, but I've noticed it happening a couple of times over the past few years).
Are they, in part, an indication of a general sense of hope in South Korea that things will work out and the North will reform? Are they part of an effort, conscious, subconsious, or subconscious/societal trying to engender patience & hope in the process in an outside audience? (My assumption...because the piece was carried in the paper's English version. I obviously can't confirm whether or not the piece was carried in the Korean version of newspaper, but my understanding is that the content is usually seperate and tailored to its audience...not a literal language to language translation.)
Are we so ignorant of developments in Pyongyang that sources such as those quoted in the newspaper are considered legitimate or the best source of information? Is this piece to be taken seriously or should it be considered "fluff"? (It would not be the only newspaper that produced an online, foreign language...English that is...version for such a purpose.)
I'm making a conscious effort to take what was reported at face value. However, the article seems overly optimistic to me. Moreover, I'm curious if the trade described is legal. What restrictions currently exist on trade with the North? The article gave no sense as to whether the trade being noted was illicit or above board.
I personally didn't see the point to this apology because 1) It only adds to the "apology fatigue" of the Japanese, and 2) It wasn't the kind of apology the victims were demanding from the Japanese government. Abe's recent statement only adds to the long list of lip-service given by the government to these women. While I'm sure the criticism over his comments last month undoubtedly had something to do with this recent apology, it was too little and too late.
In another interesting turn of events, it seems that former PM Nakasone is also under suspicion for setting up a military brothel when he was a naval officer during WWII. He denies these allegations and says his R&R facility was used for the harmless pursuits of playing shogi and "getting together." Although he is very nationalist, he surprisingly states that Japan should issue a "straightforward apology" to the comfort women (although I would like to hear what his definition of "straightforward" is). Nakasone also denies having any firsthand knowledge about the facts regarding the comfort women and claims that his knowledge comes only from reading newspapers and the like. Personally, I would be hardpressed to believe that a former WWII naval officer and PM would have no firsthand knowledge of these brothels and comfort women.
In a parallel situation, there are people in Britain (most notable is the Archbishop of York, Britain's first black archbishop) who are also calling upon the government to issue a formal apology for its role in the slave trade, which Britain abolished 200 years ago. The second most senior clerk in the Church of England, Dr. Semantu, rejected reparations and said a full apology would be an act of strength, while Charlotte Wilberforce advocated modern-day slavery being featured more prominently in school cirriculum. So 200 years later, Britain is still dealing with its colonial past. I wonder what that means for Japan...
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Saturday, March 24, 2007
The complicated history of Korean war criminals
Convicted of war crimes during WWII, 80-year-old Korean tells his story
They are great complementary readings to our readings on collaborators. Were they 'collaborators' of the Japanese military? Should they have been exempted from trials on the ground that they are Koreans? As I posted a while ago, a commission of the Korean government decided to clear 83 of 148 Koreans convicted of war crimes last November.
Besides the problem of how Korea's contemporary politics deals with this issue, there are many interesting historical facts that are worth further investigation. In "The complicated history of Korean war criminals", the author explains that convicted Koreans were sent to the Sugamo Prison in 1950, and they hoped to be released after the San Francisco Treaty in 1952, but "the Japanese government maintained that since the imprisoned Koreans were Japanese citizens when sentenced, they still had to carry out their full terms. This position was confirmed in turn by the Japanese Supreme Court." Korea was in the middle of the Korean War, but it is bizarre to me that the Japanese government and court thought they had the power to decide.
The article also mentions:
"The convicted war criminals united to form a group in the hopes of living well through mutual assistance. In 1960, the group, named Dongjinhoe (moving forward together), jointly formed a taxi company in Japan to secure their livelihood. Though they demanded compensation from the Japanese government beginning in 1956, their appeals fell on deaf ears, and the Japanese government declared their claims void under the terms of the 1965 treaty normalizing relations between South Korea and Japan."
The history and function of Dongjinhoe sound like a very interesting topic to explore. As this posting in Frog in a Well by Owen Miller also speculates, Dongjinhoe (同進会) sounds veery similar to Iljinhoe (一進會), which is usually known as pro-Japanese collaborators' organization.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
It paraphrases unidentified officials as saying the release of the DPRK's funds is being held up by concerns on the part of Chinese banking officials over accepting and processing (thereby washing) funds that have been linked to illicit activities. It also notes that the Bank of China (which usually has its act together), says it hasn't even been notified that it should accept the money. (Very possibly true; very possibly a spokesperson managing the media.)
The piece quotes old HIST 298 friend Nic Eberstadt as saying the North's refusal to talk until it receives its funds is business as usual in terms of tactics. Chinese and American officials remain optimistic...with China's envoy, Wu Dawei, expressing amazing faith in the process, "No matter the difficulties we face in the talks, no matter how hard, we have the capability to overcome them." The Russian envoy blames...guess who...yup, America. (Good to know some things never change.) I guess even the power of Rocky IV has its limits. ='(
Talks have been suspended, and Kim Kye Gwan, the North's lead negotiator has flown home.
I tingle with anticipation!! Who shot JR? Just kidding...more to come, I'm sure. I'm not happy to see a bump in the road, but I can't say I'm surprised in the slightest, either.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
My impression of the post-test talks were that they acknowledged (rather than accepted) North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons and sought to prevent them from making more without having any concrete action on getting rid of their existing ones. This could have been implied, or just could have been my own point of view (because really, I cannot see North Korea walking away from its nuclear weapons any time in the near future). Publicly, South Korea seems adamant about complete denuclearization, and it gets mentioned a lot in articles as what the talks are aimed at, but is that something the governments really think they can accomplish?
It will be interesting to see if, once North Korea gets its money in the bank, its nuclear weapons, and its capitulation from the US on dealing bilaterally, whether they will walk away from the talks.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
As I understand it, the US Treasury has completed its investigation. Handling of the matter lies with the Chinese authorities, who have issued a statement saying they will release the funds. Yet, that's not good enough. Money in the account. Of course, this could be politically motivated (to make a point), as opposed to a simple lack of trust.
Apparently China (the source of this information) urged the North to attend the talks anyway, but to no avail. Kenichiro Sasae, the leading Japanese negotiator, is quoted as having said, "According to China, North Korea said they will not come to join further discussions until they confirm that their money got into their bank account in China," and, "There was no progress at all today." "China as chairman (of the talks) urged North Korea to come to the table but they would not come."
- Answering those who had questions about how the funds would be used once released, Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Daniel Glaser noted that they would be "used solely for the betterment of the North Korean people." Really? OK. I'd be very interested to know what measures are being used (and by whom) that allow a statement of such certainty to be made with regard to monitoring how the North uses & spends money domestically.
- South Korean envoy Chun Yung-woo is quoted as saying, "If there is a single nuclear weapon left in North Korea, it is not denuclearization," Chun said. "What we are pursuing is a complete denuclearization." Wow. Clearly worded and unequivocal. Ambitious, too.
- Issues remain between the DPRK and Japan...and are apparently presenting an obstacle to further progress. Japan says it won't contribute aid until the abduction issue is resolved. North Korea, for its part, says it doesn't want Japanese aid (thank you very much!!), and that Japan should drop issuse, issue an apology for its wartime aggression against the North, and compensate it.
And so it goes...
Monday, March 19, 2007
But the Japanese government statement said it "had not come across anything recorded in the materials it has found that directly shows so-called "coercion" on the part of the military or constituted authorities". So this is in addition to Abe's previous comment two weeks ago saying there was no coercion. Of course, this has set off the Koreans and Chinese again. Surprise surprise. It will be interesting to observe what happens next as tensions escalate over this matter. The political cartoon Jaime posted is pretty much the sentiment of most Koreans right now (and I'm sure the Chinese agree as well).
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Citing an inaccurate conception of history and distorted images of Koreans, the nearby Montgomery County (MD) Board of Education just banned the book from classroom use. This Chosun Ilbo article claims this decision as a victory for Korean-Americans.
As a group, Korean-Americans have very low levels of political participation (including low levels of voter registration and voter turn out). Angered by misrepresentation, Korean-American parents around the U.S. engaged in public debate, attending school board meetings, writing representatives, etc. The article concludes with the consul general saying that the Montgomery County Board of Education could set a precedent for other school districts across the country.
I'm interested in the precedent this could set for increased political participation of Korean-American community and the potential inter-generational impact as children learn about the political process at the local level by witnessing their parents' participating in the channels of public debate.
How do American base expansions like this one play in Korean society? I would imagine they are not viewed favorably by the nationalist population, given that they are a version of foreign occupation nearly as bad as the Japanese to individuals like Kim (the farmer). This article seems to indicate that most of the residents are not up in arms about it, but rather that already anti-American protesters have been mobilized on it.
However, aside from that mention, there don't seem to be a lot of problems right now with the move, as this article from Chosun Ilbo indicates. I don't know that much about this topic, so I'd be interested to see what everyone else thinks about either moving the base (why has it not caused more problems? Should we be surprised by that?) or the possible comparison of the American forces to the Japanese (does that happen a lot? How are American troops generally viewed in Korea?)
The deadline for this move seems to be the end of this month, so that indicates things are moving foward. It will be interesting to see if any more comes of this, or if the move happens quietly.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
The FTA negotiations themselves have given Bae Jong-ha (Korea's chief agricultural negotiator) no inconsiderable amount of stress, causing him to send U.S. negotiators a poem written by Eulji Mundeok, a Koguryo-era marshal who sent this poem to his Sui adversaries. He defended his actions by saying, “I sent it out of real desperation. For more than nine months as I've been participating in agricultural talks with the U.S., I've been unable to sleep. Then, the idea of the poem hit me and I thought it represents my feelings.” I'm not whether or not this poem helped matters or made him a laughing stock among American FTA negotiators (I'm leaning toward the latter). You guys read the poem and decide for yourselves.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Visiting Scholar Roundtable
Date: Wednesday, March 21, 3:00-4:15 pm
Speaker: Wooksik Cheong, POSCO NGO Fellow and Representative, Civil
Network for a Peaceful Korea
Title: "Where is the South Korea-US Alliance Going?: A South Korean
Place: The Chung-wen Shih Conference Room, The Sigur Center for Asian
Studies, Suite 503, 1957 E Street, NW
RSVP: Please RSVP to email@example.com by Mon, March 19.
The Sigur Center for Asian Studies
The Elliott School of International Affairs
The George Washington University
1957 E Street, NW, Suite 503
Washington, DC 20052
The decision was apparently released immediately (timing is different from causality) after Mohamed ElBaradei's recent meeting in Pyongyang. According to Elbaradei, DPRK officials expressed a willingness to shut down the reactor but only after the US lifts the measures that have frozen the ~$25 million in DPRK linked accounts at BDA.
At first glance, I failed to see how this was a step forward. The article notes, however, that the move will allow officials in Macau to release the funds. A second Post article (cited below) suggests that the ending of the investigation allows the US to place specifc restrictions on BDA, as opposed to blanket restrictions...thus increasing its options with regard to financical transactions. Interestingly, depending on how the DPRK reacts, it could turn out that some parties are happy because the US just instituted strict financial restrictions on BDA and publicly condemned it. Funny how that works out.
So I guess the US wins because it gets to lay into the bank about it's poor practices and chastise the DPRK about the funds and how they were managed and the DPRK wins because it gets its money back with little in the way of overt punishment (with the exception perhaps of the inconvenience or underlying economic trouble caused by the freeze since it was put in place...and I haven't seen figures on this).
It's also interesting to note that it seems there's a lack of clarity on whether this will placate the North. Does this speak to the lack of clarity in the negotiations that took place (listing measures to be taken and what would be considered acceptable), to a lack of faith in the North's underlying intentions, or to a lack of understanding on the part of outside officials as to what the DPRK's end goals are? Probably a bit of each.
The North hasn't issued an official reaction yet. But China has. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang expressed, "...deep regret for the ruling by the U.S." He didn't explicitly say why, but others guessed it might be partly out of concern that the move could affect the denuclearization process and partly out of concern for China's reputation (in terms of Macau). Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, in part, agreed, saying with reference to China, "They want to make sure that Macau's reputation is intact, so I am not surprised."
Well, the working groups are at it...working one would assume. Let's see what comes out of the round-up meeting on Monday. (My guess: very little information, a couple of pithy, uninformative quotes, general optimism, and an agreement to have more meetings.)
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Rikidozan was actually not a Zainichi but a Korean man who grew up in Korea, but came to Japan to become a sumo wrestler. Sumo training is always hard, but he experienced great hardship as Korean in the traditional Japanese sumo community as well. In fact, he was not very successful as a sumo wrestler. He decided to learn the western style wrestling, and moved to the US. A year later he came back to Japan, estabslished a whole new genre of puro-resu (professional wrestling) in Japan, and became a superstar in 1951. He kept defeating American wrestlers and becamse a national hero. I heard many times my parents recall the excitement as little kids to see Rikidozan literally throwing huge western wreslers out of the wresling ring. My mother's family was the only household that owned a TV in the neighborhood, so all the neighbors gathered at her house to see the wresling games.
Ok. I have not read any scholarly work on him: I only heard about him, watched a Korean movie "Rikidozan," and read a few journalist works on him. What really interests me is the scene in the movie, when Rikidozan tries to pursuade the sponsors to back him up in establishing the western style wrestling industry, and goes "Japan needs national pride. Japan needs a national hero. They lost spirits since the end of the war. I want to give Japanese people hope by showing Asians defeating big western guys!" (I might be distorting it a bit since it has been a while since I watched the movie.) I am not sure if he really said that or not, but what an interesting thing it is for a Korean man to say in a Korean movie. Even if this is totally fictional, it is true that Rikidozan became the most important national hero in the immediate post war Japan. He did give hope and pride to many Japanese kids, apparently.
Another interesting thing about him is his deep involvement in the underground society in Japan. "Tokyo Underworld" by Robert Whiting is a fun reading if you are interested in stories of foreign mafias in Tokyo in the 1950s and 60s. While the movie almost completely ignores this aspect of Rikidozan's life, Whiting thinks Rikidozan knew everyone important in the underground society and was involved in many things himself.
Many articles posted on the class blog (by Sean and Grace) have commented on the increase in international marriages, particuluarly between Korean men and Southeast Asian women.
International marriages have increased from 10% in 2005 to 14% in 2006. Both postings commented on the challenges this poses for these foriegn brides entering an ethnically homogenous society and how Korean soceity will have to grapple with national attitudes discriminating against non-ethnic Korean members of soceity. I'm interested in the link between development and both the marriage and sex industries.
As the status of women in Korea has improved (as evidenced by equal employment laws, anti-gender discrimination laws and the anti-prostitution law of 2004), the marriage rate and fertility rate has declined and the average marriage age for women has increased (to 27.5) -- all coinciding with the development of the Korean economy. Likewise, the passage of anti-prostitution legislation has pushed the sex industry underground and abroad. It has also led to the import of foriegn women from developing countries to work in the sex industry, stigmatizing many non-Korean women.
Although not directly related to the comfort women issue, I think these issues can be seen as an extension of one of Pyong-Gap Min's points in "Korean 'Comfort Women:' The Intersection of Colonial Power, Gender, and Class." Min writes on the continuing intersection of these variables in the postwar era, noting how lower-class women in Asia have worked in sex toursim industry by serving Japanese and Western businessmen (953). Power and class on a global scale coincides with gender as sex tourism and marriage has become an international option for Korean men as the Korean economy has developed.
On another note linking development with women's rights in Korea, it seems like many of the advancements made by women (including the public testimonials of surviving comfort women) occured in the early 1990s. Women's rights were an afterthought until the Korean economy had developed substantially and democracy became much more of Korea's political reality.
Not sure if this link will work (it might be dynamic), but a quick search of news reports on Google News, such as this one, shows all kinds of optimism. According to this IHT report, during a news conference, the lead US negotiator, Assistant Trade Representative Wendy Cutler, noted that "significant headway" was made "across the board." She also said a pact was "within our grasp." Either she knows something I don't (OK, that's not an 'either'...she definitely knows many things I don't), or she's the most violent optimist I ever encountered. Of course, since her Korean counterpart was similarly optimistic, there might just be something here.
Talks are ongoing (this is the 8th round), but long-standing issues like agriculture, beef, rice, and automobiles remain. Nevertheless, I'm going to concede a ray of sunshine here...not because of some newfound hope, but because of the political imperatives that the article lists as potentially driving the completion of a deal.
- President Roh's desire to add to his legacy
- A chance for the US to balance the growing influence China wields
- An economic slowdown in South Korea and an attendant desire to increase access to the US markes
- A March expiration date on the US President's authority to ask the Congress to pass the deal in a simple up or down vote (without amendments)
So I guess I'm slightly less pessimistic (I won't use the 'O' word). Slightly. I'm also a supporter. I hear free trade is good and I think it could do nothing but help the bilateral relationship (in the long term).
But lost in the debate is the most important issue: will this impact the price of big, nasty flat screen TVs for Jap Chae?! If so, when I finish grad school (in a million years), I'm 'onna git me one. I guess I should change the title of this post....to "Go FTA!!"
Well, Mohamed El Baradei made his trip today (depending on your choice of hemisphere). Seeing as it was only a one-day affair, it was apparently not as comprehensive as we guessed it might be. (Can we call it a "nuclear meet and greet"?) He's called the visit "quite useful." I guess that's better than "quite useless," right?
Baby steps, I know. But if the deal was signed Feb 13th and the North had 60 days to shut Yongbyon down, by my reckoning we're already at the halfway point. The article above says there's a meeting in Beijing on Monday to kind of check up on the progress that's made. So I guess we shall see....
PS-Am I the only one who, after reading mention of Beijing, is suddenly stricken with a craving for dumplings? I love dumplings. Especially potstickers!
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
This year is the 100th anniversary of what is known as the Pyongyang Revival of 1907.
It is not easy for today's world to imagine, especially in times like this, when the name Pyongyang immediately evokes images of nuclear bombs and missiles, but Western missionaries who were active in Northeast Asia in the early 20th century once called Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, the Jerusalem of the East.
It started with a Bible study that took place in Changdaehyun Church in Pyongyang.
During the night of Jan. 14, 1907, pastors and ordinary Christians participating in a Bible study started to repent with tears in public. The wave of repentance lasted until the next day, and the religious fervor soon spread. The event touched off a massive conversion to Christianity and established organized Christian groups across Korea.
In January this year, about 30 leaders of S. Korea’s Protestant communities attended a joint prayer meeting with the North’s Korean Christians Federation at Chilgol Church in Pyongyang. The Protestant communities in two Koreas are planning a joint prayer rally of South and North Korean churches to mark Easter around April 14 and 15, and are discussing the plan with the authorities of the South and the North.
I always hold the theory that Christianity might be the way to solve the North and South Korean conflict and China's cross-strait relation.
Monday, March 12, 2007
This should be a good thing as the government is seeking justice for those who were wronged. But Park Geun-hye, the daughter of Park Chung-hee, who ruled South Korea with an iron fist for 18 years until his assassination in 1979, told reporters in January that, "this is a political offensive against me." -- An interesting twist in the story.
Friday, March 09, 2007
It is comprehensively written on this issue. Please read.
Also given the fact that the N. Korea and Japan normalization talks ended abruptly last Wednesday in Hanoi because N. Korea thought "Japan was insincere," it is a reality that there is much distrust in the N. Korea side, maybe in other sides as well.
Will the bilateral normalization talks go somewhere?
Thursday, March 08, 2007
The article was also interesting in that it throws objective journalism out the window. It seems to insinuate that there is something fishy about the poll results without offering any proof. I'm suspicious of Japanese online voters when Ichiro is consistently among the AL leaders in All-Star balloting despite lackluster stats the past couple of years, but the results of this poll don't seem all that suspicious to me.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
The Nationalism Project
It has brief summaries of major theoretical works, bookreviews, bibliographies... very useful. HOWEVER!!! On their "Subject Bibliographies" page in which they sort out bibliographies by region, THERE IS NO ASIA. There are "Scotland," "Ukraine," "Northern Ireland" but no Korea or China or Japan or any Southeast Asian countries. This is weird especially considering the fact that Benedict Anderson is an Indonesia specialist. Someone (or we?!) should compile one for them.
Also, in the interests of pushing forward blog technology, I'm posting a 5 minute propaganda video on Kim Jong-Il with an English (and I use the term "English" loosely) voice-over. I initially thought it was harmless fun (the voice has a resemblance to the computer in "War Games" and the "Son of Partisans" rhetoric was hilarious), but then I saw the foreign soldier, around the beginning of minute 4, who seemed to be a genuinely terrified POW--a shocking sight. I'm not sure what to make of it, but I'd be interested in any of your reactions.
Since YouTube is being difficult, I'm just posting the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a74OMUpPBac
I'll attempt to embed the video--ed.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Anyway, this issue has definitely been getting soem traction. I've been keeping an eye on media coverage of Abe's comments in the Japanese and Korean media these last few days and from what I've seen, it's been getting a bit more coverage in Japan, particularly in the Asahi Shimbun. Here are a few articles to peruse at your leisure:
Asahi Shimbun - Views of 'coercion' lead to backlash
Asahi Shimbun- Abe tacks right as vote looms
Yomiuri Shimbun- Abe: No apology over U.S. 'comfort women' resolution
Asia Times - Japan in a bind over North Korea
I think that the rather severe tone (however justified) of the Alexis Dudden article Prof. sent out yesterday made it easy to overlook the actual content of Abe's statement. Collectively the articles clarify that his primary objection to apologizing stems from a dispute on the definition of coercion. Abe, while admitting that "general coercion," or whatever that means, did take place, there is no evidence to prove that women were forcefully abducted from their homes and forced into prostitution. Initially, it appeared that this statement was issued in conjunction with plans to overturn or redefine the 1993 Kono apology. Abe's aides have hence confirmed however that Abe plans to stand by the apology, while not offering fresh one of his own. Intersting to note, the more conservative paper, Yomiuri, had nothing on this issue until the Abe Aide statement came out.
As others have already discussed, there are certainly political motivations, both domestic and foreign, for making such a statement and making it on March 1. The Asia Times article linked above discussed the political fallout of these remarks in Japan's dialogue with North Korea.
Now back to that little bundle of joy that is my first paper.
Monday, March 05, 2007
As most of you know, it has become more difficult for Korean men to get married as Korean women have becoming more affluent and work-orientated. I didn't realize it was such a big problem though until I ran across this article about marriage brokers in Vietnam arranging marraiges for Korean bachelors.
It touched upon several interesting points, such as the future implications upon a Korean national identity that is based upon ethnic homogeneity, and how these womens' impressions of Korea and Korean people had been shaped by what they saw on T.V., vis-a-vis the Hallyu Wave. I hope these women aren't too disappointed by reality and that they will be able to assimilate well into Korean society. I am especially interested in the latter issue as Koreans do have a tendency to look down upon Southeast Asians (at least from what I've seen).
As a side note, last year or the year before there was a Korean drama that touched upon this issue. Entitled "The Bride from Hanoi," it was about two brothers who fell for the same girl (the older brother meets the girl through a matchmaking program). It touched upon issues of class, ethnicity (the girl was half Korean, half Vietnamese), and your run-of-the-mill Korean dramatizations . I only saw bits and pieces of it so I can't comment as to how good it was, but overall it seemed pretty interesting. So if you guys want to combine "learning" the Korean language with social issues, this is a good way to go!
Abe's timing couldn't have been more perfect. Not only is March 1st the day Koreans commemorate the anti-Japanese protests that occurred that day back in 1919, the 6PTs are currently ongoing (rather well in my opinion). The North Korean Vice Foreign Minister is in NYC to start bilateral talks with the U.S. and it could have been used as an opportunity for the U.S. to press North Korea about the abductee issue. However, because of Abe's statement, not only are the Koreans riled up but the U.S. has less diplomatic leverage to press North Korea on the abductee issue. After all, if Abe is denying governmental responsibility for comfort women, then what incentive does North Korea have to own up to its own acts?
Considering how upset the Japanese were (at least privately) that the U.S. hadn't pressed more on the abductee issue during the initial 6PT, I'm not sure how this is helping their cause. Also, since Japan is refusing to contribute any aid to North Korea unless the abduction issue is resolved, I foresee a huge stumbling block to the successful conclusion of the agreed framework.
But looking at it from a Japanese political p.o.v., since Abe's tough stance on North Korea prior to his election was what got him elected, it is understandable that he's trying to use the nationalist card again to help boost his ratings and the upcoming elections. Since it will be virtually impossible for Abe to win more seats as the successful snap election Koizumi pulled off in 2005 was unprecedented, he will have to try and minimize the loss of LDP seats as it could cast into doubt his credibility.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Prime Minister Abe recently expressed his view that no evidence has been found suggesting that comfort women were coerced into "service," or at least as far as the current definition of "coercion" would stipulate. Apparently the controversial remark was a response to pressure from U.S. Congressional resolution that called on the new PM to apologize for the country's past atrocities regarding the sexual enslavement of Asian women.
This article is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it highlights the ongoing domestic debate in Japan about if/how to address the many troubling elements of its imperialistic militaristic past. The "comfort women" controversy is certainly at the heart of that. Second, I think it's interesting that in the midst of a well-publicized diplomatic campaign to mend fences with Japan's Northeast Asian neighbors, Prime Minister Abe would make such a potentially polarizing comment. Finally, for those of us who've advocated putting more pressure on Japan to address these issues, it's interesting to see how such actions could potentially backfire.
The prevalence of nationalist sentiment in all of these issues is not surprising.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
In the article, Cambodian Foreign Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hor Namhong, is quoted as saying, "ASEAN must have a charter. It is the constitution of the ASEAN community. Having a charter means having a more legal (identity)."
Whoa! Legal identity. I was quickly reminded of Wednesday's discussion in class and the issue of whether or not Japan's colonization/annexation of Korea was "legal." Some argued that the question was ultimately irrelevant because it happened with the consent of the great powers, reflecting the anarchic nature of the international system and the idea that in such an environment the top dogs get what they want. Whether it was legal or not doesn't matter; the real question is whether it was right or wrong.
Obviously, it was wrong, but the tendency to want to classify it in legal terms persists. The law, besides codifying various procedures, also can stand as the ultimate arbiter of right or wrong. In some cases it might hold more weight than a moral argument, and thus I think we find the amount of corresponding scholarship on the Japanese colonization.
I guess I just thought it interesting to see an organization known for having very little substance to its cooperative efforts embracing such an initiative, establishing a charter to create a legal foundation upon which to build a more...effective mechanism of interaction.
In exchange for shutting down its main Yongbyon nuclear site, the 6 parties have agreed to provide the North with 50,000 tons of "heavy fuel oil" (HFO). I'm guessing that like most folks, I read this, nodded, and thought "Oil=energy. Oil not nuclear. Oil substitute for nuclear energy. Spring training starts soon. I hate the Yankees." (A window into my brain...just being honest.)
Well, it turns out that HFO is:
- The cheapest grade of oil available
- Full of carbon residue, sulfur, and other pollutants (HFO is literally the sludge left over after other petroleum products are made)
- Incredibly inefficient despite being full of potential energy (it's extremely difficult to use & process)
- So high in sulfur that it actually degrades the Soviet-era power plants in the DPRK that are processing it (they're designed to process coal)
It's a favorite of donors, apparently, because it's extremely difficult to turn HFO into just about any other product (for example military use petroleum products).
The Slate post notes that, based on historical figures for energy use in the DPRK, the initial shipment of 50,000 gallons of HFO might account for less than one quarter of one percent of the DPRK's energy needs.
This brings me to my question. That being the case, can we really say the HFO shipment was about North Korea's energy needs? Does this imply it might be mostly symbolic in nature? So...$13.4 million just to get the ball rolling. (And that doesn't include weeks of hotel expenses at the St. Regis in Beijing...which is pretty frickin' sweet, let me tell ya.) Worth it? Not that I'm a proponent of the "Kim as mafia boss" view, but when put in this light, it seems the shoe kind of fits here.
Note: Work on my paper has stopped. In light of the above, I'm now going nuclear. If Kim can get $13 big ones just to get the ball rolling, think I can get $5 mill to give 'em up completely? Cross your fingers. If so, the kimchi's on me.
Friday, March 02, 2007
We've talked a bit about comfort women, are reading about the issue this week, and will surely address it again in the future. If memory serves, Grace was one of the first to bring the issue up in our blog in a reference to a resolution under consideration on the Hill that would call on Japan to acknowledge and apologize for the role of the Japanese military in coercing women into sexual servitude. (Of course, depending on one's proclivities, it could be argued that an apology has been issued several times.)
It seems the prospects of that happening, and of reconciliation over the larger host of wrongs associated with Japan's wartime activities, have just grown a bit more dim. In both its Thursday and Friday editions, the IHT carried remarks by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that flatly deny that Japan's military forced women to serve as prostitutes during World War II. In the interest of accuracy, I want to be clear: from the stories themselves it seems that Abe is denying that there was coercion involved, not that there were brothels or a sex industry during WWII. (The story quotes Abe directly as saying, "There is no evidence to prove there was coercion, nothing to support it.")
Elaborating on the point, Nariaki Nakayama, a conservative Japanese lawmaker and the leader of a group of lawmakers who want to revise the 1993 government declaration that acknowledged the military's role in setting up brothels and coercing women into serving in them, implies that brothels arose out of demand like any other business and were run privately. (He uses a rather poor analogy comparing brothels to college cafeterias....although I'm not sure any other analogy here would have been better). He hints that the issue of coercion is the element of the controversy that reflects negatively on the honor of Japanese. (The article mentions an important point: the 1993 statement was issued, but not adopted by Japan's Parliament.)
The author of the articles, Norimitsu Onishi, then goes on to state that these statements are a signal that the Japanese government is preparing to reject the 1993 statement and connects them to a larger conservative movement in Japan to revise history.
If Norimitsu Onishi is right, and Abe is doing so to bolster his public approval ratings, this has troubling implications for the role that domestic political shifts, especially with respect to populism and nationalism, play in efforts to address history in Asia. By association, it makes the closer integration and stability that some hope might flow from reconciliation that much less likely to emerge.
My gut reaction was that it seemed insensitive for Japanese politicians to be picking the issue apart (isolating the aspect of coercion) instead of focusing on righting the wrongs that have been committed. However, the connection to honor struck me. It seems particularly important to at least one of the lawmakers involved in the move to rescind the 1993 statement.
What about the element of coercion so offends Japanese honor? Are we then to infer that there is no dishonor in institutionalized, government supported prostitution? Will such statements really help Abe's approval rating, both within conservative power circles and among the public? (If we accept the author's assertion regarding what might have motivated Abe.) Are they worth the potential international fall out? (Someone must have done the political calculus and thought so.) There's quite a bit to say about what might have motivated Abe's statement and the effort among conservatives to revise history. But I guess, picking from among many sentiments, I just find Abe's words and the actions of his associates...well....not very helpful.
I don't believe in the "China Threat Theory," do you?
On another note, it seems like there have been a lot of articles on Korean culture in mainstream U.S. media recently. As someone mentioned in class, I guess this could be one positive outcome of the North Korea situation.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
I just hope that this debate and results from it will not affect U.S.-Korea alliance adversely.
At first glance, the issue of repatriation of Korean individuals stranded in Russia for decades would seem to be a simple one. They were Koreans, forcibly removed and sent there. On the other hand, as the article points out, these people have lived there for decades, have had families who were therefore born on Russian soil and are Russian citizens. However, it does seem that many would like to return to Korea despite leaving their families behind on Sakhalin.
The question of why this was a non-issue for so long is also interesting. The article cites Cold War tensions, which make sense. I don't really know how the US was perceived by Koreans during the Cold War, but I'd be interested if anyone has ideas.
In this paper, he discusses how Korean people remaining in Japan after 1945 and waiting to go home were recruited to join the South Korean military to fight in the Korean War. There have been two associations of Zainichi (residing in Japan) Koreans; one is for South Koreans and the other for North Koreans. According to his research, it was the one for South Koreans which lauched a campaign to recruit voluntary soldiers among Zainichi Koreans at the outbreak of the Korean War. The GHQ (the American occupation government) was cautious at the beginning but soon requested to recruit 1000 volunteers who could accompany the landing operations as translators and guides. Choi goes on and shows how their campaign was taken over by the Korean Diplomatic Mission in Japan (KDMIJ), and how they recruited Zainichi Koreans at deportation camps. He shows that there were many confusing orders from different authorities of Korea and the US in Japan in handling the whole issue.
In conclusion, he says that what is important is "the fact that many of them were recuruited directly from the streets of Pusan and Taegu by the South Korean government, -- they were suddenly conscripted on the streets, in the same way as those Korean men in the Maizuru and Hario (deportation) camps (in Japan)."