Mulboyne, I stand corrected

In October, I wrote about the attempted abduction/rescue of the Savoie children by Chris Savoie from his wife, and explained my sympathy for Noriko, the Japanese wife who had absconded with the children from Tennessee, USA to Japan. While acknowledging and criticizing the Japanese child custody regime, I was appalled by Chris’ conduct and said very clearly that “Christopher is the wrong martyr to rally behind in this fight.” Mulboyne disagreed (right after saying that the post was too long at 200 or so comments — it currently stands at 434), and had this to say:

One of Curzon’s original points was that Savoie is “the wrong martyr for the cause”. It’s beginning to look like he might be the right one… for better or worse, his case has received significant coverage in the US and coverage in the Japanese media is now building up momentum… Even following an announcement in May 2008 by the Ministry of Justice that Japan was beginning to look at the possibility of becoming a signatory to Hague, there was no mention of any specific instance. The same when Canada, Britain, France and the US made a joint diplomatic representation on the issue in May of this year.

Christopher Savoie’s actions in Japan have been reckless and stupid but, whereas most cases have no narrative development, this one has a good deal and promises more. Even coverage of a left behind parent tails off in the US in the absence of any concrete development. Most parents are just sitting and waiting or else tied up in legal proceedings in Japan which generally go slowly and, usually, nowehere. With Savoie, we have a man in jail and something has to happen to him. He might be charged, he might be released, he might be deported. Whichever course of action the authorities take, there will be repercussions and more coverage.

Such was my disgust with Savoie that I did not want to agree with that analysis. Mulboyne later repeated this comment in more detail over beers a few weeks later (we’re a social bunch, us MF and CA bloggers).

Yet we now read that Foreign Minister Okada has set up a division inside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to study the issue:

The Foreign Ministry has set up a new division to handle international child custody issues in response to overseas criticism that Japan allows Japanese mothers to take their children away from their divorced partners.

The division, officially launched Tuesday, will study the issue, including whether to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, whose aim is to secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to or retained in any signatory countries, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said.

Of course, such criticism has been ongoing for years and has been well documented and criticized, yet only now, after the -awful CNN- press coverage of the Savoie fiasco is the Japanese government taking notice. My conclusion? I can’t bear to acknowledge it twice, so just read the post title again.

Adamu and Garrett sound off on Japanese politics in 2009

Here I am with Garrett of Trans Pacific Radio at the Pink Cow in Shibuya the on Tuesday. We had a discussion about some of the biggest stories of 2009. Watch here!

Topics covered:

– The Noriko Sakai scandal and the arrest of Tatsuya Ichihashi: Sakai received more media coverage than the election. The two cases illustrate how police can hold a suspect for weeks and try and press for a confession.

– The new DPJ government: Adamu is a little on the fence about the government’s new way of doing things but supports them on balance. A point that I didn’t quite get to articulate as well as I wanted: once the DPJ eliminates some of the institutions, they will have to fundamentally re-organize the personnel policies of the bureaucracy so there won’t be so many senior bureaucrats who feel entitled to post-retirement jobs. Such reforms could even prove a model to creating a less rigid private sector labor system as well.

[Edited to move video after the jump, as it autoplays on some computers.]

Continue reading Adamu and Garrett sound off on Japanese politics in 2009

North Korea devaluation aimed at confiscating private wealth

Interesting move by NK to crack down on the burgeoning market activity in their country:

North Korea revalued its currency for the first time in 50 years and strictly limited how much old money could be traded for new, moves that appear designed to confiscate much of the cash people earned in market activities the country’s authoritarian government doesn’t like.

The action triggered chaos, according to news outlets in South Korea that specialize in obtaining information from the North, as people rushed to banks and offices of the ruling Workers Party to get information, make exchanges or trade existing North Korean won for euros and U.S. dollars.

Initial reports indicated the government would allow only 100,000 old won to be exchanged for new. That would potentially wipe out the holdings of people who have earned and saved in won from market activities for years. Those who have saved in foreign currencies — which, though not illegal, is difficult for ordinary North Koreans — would appear unaffected.

According to an account by NKNet, a Seoul-based Web service focused on North Korea, people in Pyongyang on Monday night pressed party officials to allow more money to be exchanged. In response, according to the report, the officials lifted the exchangeable amount to 150,000 won in cash and 300,000 won in savings accounts.

While the revaluation could simply be aimed at inflation – Vietnam recently devalued as well – the really low per-person limit seems all but certain to wipe out most private wealth. Because in Stalinist North Korea money spends you!