The Korean Law Blog reports that a group of evangelical Protestants in South Korea have apparently killed a bill which would recognize tax deductions and other legal benefits for Islamic financial structures.
This sort of silliness isn’t unique to Korea, of course. Followers of the English-language media have undoubtedly seen tons of uproar over the Sharia courts in Britain which can make legally binding judgments under English law. The catch is, of course, that the jurisdiction of these courts is consensual, just like commercial arbitrators or The People’s Court — you are only bound by Sharia rulings if you voluntarily agree to go to Sharia court. So for the non-Muslims in Britain, you’d think it would be a non-issue.
The Korean backlash is just as ridiculous, if not moreso. Not only would the proposed law not hurt anyone, but failing to pass it seems to effectively hurt Korean companies, especially financial institutions, by depriving them of potential business in Islamic countries and from Islamic investors.
(Note that The Korean Law Blog is not the same as the late, great Korea Law Blog run by Marmot contributor Brendon Carr. But for all you comparative law geeks in the audience, it’s a reasonably informative substitute.)
Despite being one of the most famous incidents in all of human history, there is still a surprising amount of speculation, doubt, and conspiracy theorizing regarding the dropping of the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Foremost among these is Truman’s real motivation for ordering the bombing; did he really believe that it was the only way to end the war without hundreds of thousands, or millions more deaths, or did he believe that Japan was ready to surrender, but could not give up the chance to show off the awesome destructive power of the atom to the Soviets? I could of course investigate that question all day, but instead I want to briefly look at two other issues related to the morality of the bombing.
First of these is a fascinating, some might say disturbing, questionnaire given to over 250 Manhattan Project scientists in July, 1945, which was first published as “A Poll of Scientists at Chicago, July 1945,” in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, February 1948, 44, p63. (Link thanks to i09.com)
Which of the following five procedures comes closest to your choice as to the way in which any new weapons that may develop should be used in the Japanese war:
Use them in the manner that is from the military point of view most effective in bringing about prompt Japanese surrender at minimum human cost to our armed forces.
Give a military demonstration in Japan to be followed by renewed opportunity for surrender before full use of the weapon is employed.
Give an experimental demonstration in this country, with representatives of Japan present; followed by a new opportunity for surrender before full use of the weapon is employed.
Withhold military use of the weapons, but make public experimental demonstration of their effectiveness.
Maintain as secret as possible all developments of our new weapons and refrain from using them in this war.
Please read the full post at Ptak Science Books for far more details, including the results of the original poll, the online poll, and links to their long series of posts on the history of atomic weaponry.
A Chinese intellectual credited with saving historic Nara from annihilation in World War II is to be immortalized in bronze in the ancient Japanese capital.
Liang Sicheng (1901-1972), a renowned Chinese architectural historian who was born and spent his early childhood in Japan, is believed to have interceded with the U.S. military to protect the historic former capitals of Nara and Kyoto from the air raids that flattened many of Japan’s urban centers.
The statue was unveiled in Beijing in mid-June in the presence of representatives from Japan and China and is expected to be installed at the Nara Prefectural Cultural Hall by late October.
Liang was known for his efforts to protect China’s cultural treasures in areas occupied by Japan during the Japan-China war, producing a map, at the request of the U.S. authorities, of key sites in the country.
But he is also believed to have used his connections with U.S. officers to plead on behalf of Japan’s ancient capitals.
“He strived to protect cultural properties from war damage, not just those of his own country but those of an enemy,” said Luo Zhewen, a former senior official of the State Bureau of Cultural Relics.
Luo, 86, who worked with Liang on the China map, is an adviser to the China Social-Cultural Development Foundation, which has helped promote the statue idea.
He said the statue would have “great significance for China and Japan’s friendship.”
There are no written records to confirm Liang’s role in preventing the bombing of Kyoto and Nara. The story of his contribution appears to have originated with Su Bai, 87, a professor of archaeology at Peking University.
In 1947 or 1948, Su attended a lecture by Liang, who told him during a break about the map of cultural properties in China and his request to the U.S. forces to refrain from bombing Nara and Kyoto.
Su mentioned Liang’s comment to a Japanese researcher in the 1980s and the story began to spread.
Liang was born in Japan and lived there until age 11. His father was Liang Qichao, a well-known reformer during the late Qing Dynasty. After graduating from what is now Tsinghua University, Liang studied architectural history in the United States from 1924 to 1928.
He worked for wartime culture protection under the Chinese Nationalist government.
Lin Zhu, Liang’s second wife, said he told her about his request to the U.S. forces during the Cultural Revolution, when he became a target of student criticism.
“He loved Japan, where he spent his early childhood. He was so troubled by Japan’s invasion of China,” said Lin, 82.
Lin said her husband had kept his appeal on behalf of Nara and Kyoto secret because he feared his help for the wartime enemy might make him a target of criticism.
There are competing accounts of why the old capitals were avoided by U.S. bombers. Langdon Warner (1881-1955), an art historian at Harvard University and a mentor to Liang while he was at Harvard, is also credited with calling for the cities’ protection. The decision has been attributed by some to U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson.
Liang’s grandson, Liang Jian, 56, says, “I believe my grandfather wanted to protect cultural assets regardless of national borders. It is, however, a fact that no written records exist.”
As far as I’m concerned, that last line is the most important one. While I am willing to believe that Liang “wanted to preserve cultural assets” there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to think that he did, or that Doctor Langdon Warner – who is popularly, and falsely credited for having saved Kyoto despite his own denials – did so, rather than military and political considerations. The fact is that there is no real evidence to suggest that cultural asset preservation was a factor in the decision over where to drop the atom bombs, which is a topic that I plan to make a detailed post on some time in the future.
Really, at it’s core the myth that Kyoto, and perhaps Nara and other historical cities, were saved from the atom bomb due to a strong desire to preserve ancient relics is nothing but a feel-good story for both side. Now, it might sound crazy to some that any aspect of the bombings is a “feel-good story,” but I propose that it actually serves such a purpose for both the Americans and the Japanese. By believing the myth that our government and military was persuaded to significantly alter the bombing plan, we can believe that, even in the midst of a bloody and inhuman war, an appeal by a humble art historian led us to transcend immediate concerns of war between nations for the sake of the historical legacy of humanity as a whole. We can pretend that while on the one hand we possess such godlike power, we also have the humility to use it wisely, and by remembering how we spared history for the sake of a greater good, we can conveniently draw attention away from the decisions to kill hundreds of thousands.
Conversely, for the Japanese side to believe in this myth is to somewhat allay the wounds of defeat by appealing to national pride. After all, for an enemy so terrified and desperate to win that they would unleash the power of the sun itself to, in that very instant of apocalyptic destruction, to deliberately avoid incinerating Japan’s largest concentrations of sacred and historically significant sites can be nothing but a reflection of how truly significant those sites, that culture and history, must be. To believe so strongly in the power of Japanese culture to affect the enemy’s actions in such a moment creates a kind of victory in the face of defeat, much as the common (although, I stress, not universal) portrayal of the bombings as an event of passive victimhood similar to a natural disaster, with neither reason nor aggressor, creates a narrative in which all moral complexity is stripped away, the virtuous suffering, martyrdom, and survival of the victims are the only salient facts, allowing for a sort of moral victory in the face of defeat. The perpetuation of this historical myth may seem innocent to some, but it enables the avoidance of the grave moral and strategic issues that actually were in play, issues of both Japan’s war responsibility and American reasons for the use the atomic bomb (as raised in the survey above), and does a disservice to those who suffered and died.
Korean A-bomb Victims Have Bitter Grudge against US-Japan
Pyongyang, August 5 (KCNA) — Sixty-five years has elapsed since the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, leaving hundreds of thousands of innocent people dead. The death toll is about 159,000 in Hiroshima and 73,000 in Nagasaki.
Among the victims of the nuclear holocaust, the first of its kind in human history, were foreigners and many of them were Koreans.
According to a non-governmental organization of south Korea, the total number of the Korean victims is about 70,000 and the death toll about 40,000. A civic organization of Japan made public that the Korean victims in Nagasaki alone total 21,384, 10,278 of them dead.
The figures show that the Koreans account for more than ten percent of all the victims.
Many Korean people, forcibly brought to Japan for slave labor, lost their lives due to the atomic bombs. Even survivors died later or are still suffering from their aftermath.
Some of the survivors have come back to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
They have been harassed by mental sufferings as they have adversely affected their descendants in the second and third generations from the genetic point of view. They are closing their days with a deep-rooted rancor against the United States and Japan.
Nevertheless, Japan has refused to make any apology and compensation or render humanitarian assistance to them allegedly because it has no diplomatic ties with the DPRK. On the contrary, it is seeking nuclear armament with the backing of the United States.
Meanwhile, the United States, far from feeling guilty of having inflicted the unheard-of nuclear holocaust on humans, has stepped up nuclear war preparations near the Korean peninsula and in other regions of the world.
The Korean army and people are determined to decisively smash the nuclear war preparations of the U.S. imperialists, their sworn enemy, and foil the nuclear ambition of the Japanese reactionaries, who are going for reinvasion of Korea, servile with the United States.
I also have another blog post related to the Hiroshima bombing I plan to put up later, whereupon I will replace this note at the bottom with a link.
With all the World Cup excitement in Japan right now, I just thought I’d link to this Bloomberg report on the two players from Japan on the NK soccer team:
North Korea, the lowest ranked team in the soccer World Cup, faces five-time champion Brazil tonight with its hopes pinned on two players from Japan.
Japan-born striker Jong Tae-Se and midfielder An Yong Hak, who both play in the J. League, will represent the communist nation in its first World Cup match in 44 years, playing at 8:30 p.m. local time in Johannesburg. Ladbrokes Plc, a U.K. oddsmaker, rates North Korea a 1,000-to-1 chance to win the tournament.
This is the first time players from Japan are representing North Korea at the World Cup, according to Ri. Jong, 26, who plays for Kawasaki Frontale in the J. League, and Omiya Ardija midfielder An, 31, were named in the national team last month.
The two players attended North Korean schools in Japan, hold North Korean passports and have no problem communicating with Pyongyang-based teammates, Ri said.
North Korea, playing in its second World Cup since reaching the quarterfinals in 1966, has no professional teams. National team players earn about twice the average laborer’s salary, according to the North Korean football association.
I am hoping for a US-Japan championship match, but of course that isn’t realistic.
Once again, I have made a promise to post all of my backlog of travel photos and narratives before embarking on my next journey, which yet again lies unrealized. Tomorrow – or technically today as I write this at 3.30am – I depart for a primarily research-justified trip to Manila, Philippines and Taiwan. I will be in Manila from the 23rd to the 28th of February, then fly to Taipei on the 1st of March, and back to Manila on the 14th, from whence I return to Japan on the 21st. Following that, I am taking an entirely non-research trip to Seoul from March 24-31.
Taiwan will be mainly in Taipei, but with a few days going down to the south, Kaohsiung, maybe Tainan, maybe Taichung area. Philippines will be almost totally Manila, and Korea will be basically just Seoul.
People in any of those places, feel free to get in touch and see if we can meet up!
The LA Times has a story on how an activist group in South Korea, sinisterly named the “Anti-English Spectrum” has been following foreign English teachers to ferret out suspected wrong-doing:
The volunteer manager of a controversial group known as the Anti-English Spectrum, Yie investigates complaints by South Korean parents, often teaming up with authorities, and turns over information from his efforts for possible prosecution.
Outraged teachers groups call Yie an instigator and a stalker.
Yie waves off the criticism. “It’s not stalking, it’s following,” he said. “There’s no law against that.”
Since its founding in 2005, critics say, Yie’s group has waged an invective-filled nationalistic campaign against the 20,000 foreign-born English teachers in South Korea.
On their website and through fliers, members have spread rumors of a foreign English teacher crime wave. They have alleged that some teachers are knowingly spreading AIDS, speculation that has been reported in the Korean press.
The debate over foreign English teachers is symbolic of a social shift taking place in a nation that has long prided itself on its racial purity and singular culture, South Korean analysts say.
In less than a decade, the number of foreigners living in South Korea, with a population of nearly 49 million, has doubled to 1.2 million, many of them migrant workers from other Asian nations.
Also included are the foreign English teachers, most from the United States, drawn here by compensation packages that may include as much as $2,500 a month plus free rent and a round-trip ticket to teach a Korean population obsessed with learning from native speakers.
While the idea of vigilantes following English teachers around is definitely unnerving, the effort seems much smaller and more reasonable than I expected from the headline. No reports of violence and just one threatening e-mail. If there are troublemakers in the country I think the citizens have a right to their activism. The “activists” seem more like a community of Internet hobbyists going after a group that’s done nothing to them for no reason other than self-satisfaction, very similar to the incidents of “enjo” flaming campaigns in Japan (or scambaiters, “Anonymous” protests against Scientology, etc. in the English-speaking world). I am tempted to write it off, but given what I am reading here and all the reports on English teachers smuggling drugs and getting into other trouble, the relationship between the foreign English teachers and the local Koreans seems genuinely strained.
Given the relative similarity of the situation in Japan (homogeneous Asian population, fetish over learning English from natives), it struck me how nothing like this has sprung up yet, especially given the industry’s business/hiring practices and the excesses of some of the teachers. There are stirrings of anti-foreigner sentiment here and there, but what strong feelings there are tend to come from fringe rightist groups railing against Koreans.
It’s possible there is a difference of degree in Korea – the Internet is a more integral part of life, there are proportionally more English teachers there, and foreigners in general are a more visible presence. That said, it could offer a glimpse at where Japan might be headed.
Korea remains one of the most connected nations on the planet, and has become famous for flaming campaigns. There was a recent string of celebrity suicides, some apparently a result of internet harassment.
In Japan, these attacks are quite common, though I have yet to hear about any high-profile suicides. Japanese net users have turned their ire on Westerners before, most notably in the “WaiWai incident” when they became outraged over lewd, liberally translated articles on the Mainichi Daily News site. If a foreign English teacher commits a heinous crime (or the police decide to play it up), it’s possible the 2ch crowd could start something a “Spectrum” of its own. If it comes to that, we will all no doubt back our dismissive comments about Debito and beg him for help (I am guessing there is no Debito equivalent in Korea – prominent Korea blogger Marmot has very little sympathy with his wayward fellow Westerners). Even so, I don’t get the impression that average Japanese people feel uneasy about Western English teachers – quite the contrary, they tend to be treated very well. Maybe we can thank the JET program for bringing in more “high quality” talent with its more rigorous selection process.
Next, there are a lot of English teachers in Korea! If the article’s figure of 20,000 is correct, it’s even more than the roughly 14,000 in Japan (and shrinking) even though Korea’s population is just 40% of Japan’s. If Japan had the same proportion of English teachers there’d be 36,000 of them, and businesses would probably have to lower standards even more to fill all the positions.
According to the article, foreigners make up 2.4% of South Korea’s population. In Japan that number is 1.74% and growing. Also, from all accounts the US military presence is felt a lot more in Korea, be it from soldiers on the street or the daily awareness that the country remains in a state of imminent war.
But with the foreign population on the rise in Japan, its greater visibility means there will definitely be some kind of reaction. Some might feel the kind of anger that’s directed at the government’s proposal to give permanent residence the vote. Those protests have yet to produce any violence or anything worth calling an “incident” but it’s a potential rallying point, and the bill hasn’t come up for debate yet.
The article draws a link between the Anti-English Spectrum and the overall issue of dealing with foreigners in “racially pure” South Korea, noting there have been some recent racially motivated attacks. I think there’s a clue in this for people watching Japan. When the net activists start wielding the hammer of anti-foreigner rage, Western English teachers might start to look more and more like a nail.
Yes, “The Legend of Koizumi”, a completely gonzo comedy manga in which international affairs are all settled by world leaders playing mahjong that was once described by an eminent critic as “the best manga ever,” has finally seen n anime adaptation. It is being released as an OVA instead of being shown on TV, and will go on sale in late February for ￥2940. (Watch this space for news.) In the meanwhile, the first section has been uploaded to Youtube, and with English subtitles for those, like myself, who can’t follow all the mahjong talk.
Incidentally, I love all the little references in there, like Kim Jong Nam’s Mickey Mouse ears, recognition that Taro Aso was on the Olympic rifle team, and a GWB reference everybody will get, but what I really want to see is an adaptation of the storyline that shows Pope Benedict employing ancient Catholic magic to win at mahjong.
The DPJ has agreed to submit a bill that would grant foreign permanent residents of Japan (let’s call them PRs) the right to vote and run in local elections. Getting voting rights without having to give up Korean citizenship has long been a goal of zainichi Korean activist groups. But this proposal would apply both to “special” permanent residents that include the population of “zainichi” Koreans and Chinese from Taiwan who remained in the country after WW2, and to any foreigner granted permanent residency.
The bill has stirred up a firestorm of criticism, most loudly from the right wing. However, in support of the bill are some powerful forces, first and foremost DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa, whose job it is to ensure a lasting majority for his party. According to at least one critic, the decision to offer suffrage to all PRs may be an attempt to secure a more permanent voting base because the zainichi population has been falling precipitously as the original group dies off and their decendants naturalize.
Personally, although I could potentially benefit from this bill if I one day am granted permanent residency, I don’t think it’s a good idea. Except for unique circumstances, only the citizens of a country should be allowed to vote.
The right wing and their allies in the opposition LDP have mobilized against this bill. Right-leaning Sankei Shimbun has run features pointing out the “big problems” with the bill. Financial services minister and conservative People’s New Party President Shizuka Kamei is against the proposal, noting he would refuse to sign a cabinet decision on the matter. In a statement, he worried that some areas with large foreign populations would see an upheaval of political power. He also suggested the compromise measure of loosening the requirements to naturalize, without being specific.
Protests have been common, and generally have taken a highly xenophobic tone. The crux of the argument is that there is no good reason to give PRs the vote and that almost no nations unilaterally grant foreign citizens the right to vote (some EU countries allow it for other EU citizens, along with some other exceptions made for special groups (PDF)). Some of the criticism veers into the paranoid, however. In addition to the long, long list of furious red herring arguments documented by Debito, here is a video of one activist calmly explaining that this is an attempt by China to take over Japan by populating the country with foreign voters.
Almost non-existent support
It’s obvious enough that these protesters are making ridiculous arguments and have cranked the outrage way out of proportion. But what is the case for giving PRs the vote?
In addition to expected support from zainichi Korean groups, we have some uncharacteristically half-baked support from Debito, the well-known human rights agitator: “Debito.org is in support, given how difficult it can be to get PR in Japan, not to mention how arbitrary the naturalization procedures are.” But just because it’s tough to get the status, that doesn’t mean one should get the right to vote and be elected. I am not accusing foreigners in Japan of being spies or degenerates, but a basic tenet of a country and the Japanese constitution is that it is to be governed by its citizens. That requirement helps assure those who will be involved in politics are committed citizens of the country. Permanent residents are already protected under the law and do not need to renew their visa to stay in the country. I think if they want more than that they should be ready to give up their original passport and become citizens.
In an article in Japan Focus, professor Chris Burgess praises the zainichi suffrage movement as “multiculturalism in practice” but makes no mention of the expanded proposal.
I can understand giving the special permanent residents the vote because they are for all practical purposes citizens of the country. The current DPJ proposal would essentially exclude those who did not explicitly take South Korean citizenship (朝鮮籍維持者), if I understand correctly. But I would not even have a problem with these people getting the vote as it was an tragedy of history that put them in the country in the first place. If Japan would permit dual citizenship that would be one thing, but absent that letting them vote one way to let them participate in society.
But really, what constituency of non-zainichi PRs is actually asking for the right to vote? The only one who really stands to gain is the DPJ itself which would earn itself an expanded and loyal voter base. That’s an irresponsible way to decide election policy in this country, and as much as it pains me to side with rabid right-wingers who may wish me ill will, they are right on this issue. There are more important issues in my opinion (allowing dual citizenship, establishing an immigration policy) that should be given more priority.
Robert Kneff of the Marmot’s Hole blog has a neat article in the Korea Times re-telling the little known allegation that Japan tested a nuclear bomb in what is now North Korea shortly before the end of WW2. To be fair, I’ll excerpt the same portion as the Marmot’s Hole did.
It is common knowledge that on October 9, 2006 North Korea tested a small nuclear bomb. But there is debate as to whether or not this was the first atomic bomb test done in Korea. Ever since the end of World War II there have been rumors that Japan, just days before its surrender, tested a small atomic bomb off the coast of modern Hamheung.
I came across this story while doing research on one of my Western gold miners in northern Korea. This gold miner used to take his gold to the smelter at Konan – in the Hamheung area – and the story eventually encompassed other Westerners working at the this Japanese industrial center including one who, after he returned to the United States, was arrested by the FBI following the attack on Pearl Harbor. This scientist was deemed so valuable that he was allowed to continue to work in a top secret plant and was eventually one of the scientists sent to Korea to investigate the possibility of Japan building and testing an atomic bomb in Korea.
This story always starts the same way – regardless of who publishes it – so why should I be any different?
Allegedly, on the evening of August 11, 1945, a number of ancient ships, junks and fishing boats were anchored near a small inlet by the Japanese. Just before dawn on August 12, a remote controlled launch carrying the atomic bomb known as “genzai bakudan” (greatest fighter), slowly made its way through the assembled fleet and beached itself.
Nearly twenty miles away, observers wearing welders’ glasses were blinded by the bomb’s terrific blast. “The ball of fire was estimated to be 1,000 yards in diameter. A multicolored cloud of vapors boiled towards the heavens then mushroomed in the stratosphere. The churn of water and vapor obscured the vessels directly under the burst. Ships and junks on the fringe burned fiercely at anchor. When the atmosphere cleared slightly the observers could detect several vessels had vanished.”
While this is a good story, there isn’t really any reason to believe it, and no serious evidence aside from this single interview with an anonymous source, which itself may very well have been fabricated in the first place. One detail that jumps out to me as peculiar is the alleged name of the bomb, genzai bakudan, which according to the article means “greatest fighter.” Except of course that translation is total nonsense. In no possible way that I can think of does either genzai or bakudan mean either “greatest” or “fighter.” Bakudan in fact means bomb, which while reasonable as part of a name for a-well- bomb, is completely different from what was claimed. And genzai means either “present time” or “original sin”, neither of which really makes much sense at all.
On another note, this has reminded me that I need to finish the post I started writing on the book “Let’s drop an atomic bomb on Kyoto”, about why Kyoto was not nuked in the war, that I picked up at a used bookshop near Waseda several months ago.
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!