This won’t help Korea—Japan relations

Note to Korean courts: I wouldn’t expect Japanese courts to be especially cooperative in the future if you can’t even bring yourself to extradite a serial arsonist:

A South Korean court sided with China on Thursday in a fight between Beijing and Tokyo over the custody of a Chinese man accused of an arson attack at the Yasukuni Shrine for Japan’s war dead.

The man, Liu Qiang, 38, completed a 10-month prison term in South Korea in November after hurling four gasoline bombs at the Japanese Embassy in central Seoul. His attack in January last year left burn marks on the embassy wall but hurt no one.

Mr. Liu had told South Korean police that his late maternal grandmother, a Korean, was one of Asia’s “comfort women,” who were forced into sexual slavery for Japan’s Imperial Army during World War II. He said that he attacked the Japanese Embassy to show his anger at Tokyo’s refusal to apologize and compensate properly for the wrongs done against the women.

Korean prosecutors—who, after all, had once mulled seeking the extradition of the asshat who defaced the Comfort Woman memorial in Seoul—had sought to extradite Liu to Japan, much to their credit. Seoul High Court, however, saw things differently. Very differently:

“We cannot approve the extradition of Liu to Japan because his crime was a political crime,” the court said in a statement yesterday. “In other words, Liu committed a crime with the aim to protest against [Japan’s] political order. And in a case where a political criminal makes an escape to another country [Korea], the criminal can be protected.”

Don’t be surprised if Japanese rightwing nutjobs start showing up to lob firebombs at the Comfort Women museum, then running back to Japan where the courts will protect them against punishment for their “political act.”

China’s also pleased:

Tokyo requested Seoul hand over Liu after he is released based on a bilateral treaty signed in 2002 regarding criminal transfers, while Beijing appealed to Seoul that Liu be sent back home based on a “humanitarian approach.”

It also requested that Korea consider Liu a political prisoner – saying his crimes were a political reaction to Japan’s misdeeds.

To be fair, if there’s a country that would recognize a political prisoner when it saw one, it’s China.

Meanwhile, the Seoul Shinmun ran some interesting poll data on Korea—Japan relations, collected in conjunction with Japan’s Tokyo Shimbun. For starters, only 23.6% of Koreans felt a sense of closeness to Japan, while 50.1% of Japanese felt a sense of closeness to Korea. Both numbers have come down a few percentage points since a 2005 poll.

Younger Koreans and younger Japanese felt closer to one another’s countries than did older Koreans and Japanese. Slight more Korean women than men felt a sense of closeness for Japan (24.2% to 22.9%), while in Japan, many more women than men felt a sense of closeness to Korea (55.8% to 44.1%).

Interestingly, only 37% of Koreans said Korea needs Japan, while 52.6% of Japanese said Japan needs Korea. In 2005, 53.5% of Koreans said Korea needs Japan, while the Japanese number fell of by less than 2 percentage points.

Meanwhile, nine out of 10 Koreans thought Japan doesn’t reflect on its past, while 63.4% of Japanese can’t understand why Koreans think Japan doesn’t apologize for its past.

77.1% of Koreans think the Japanese government should back down on its claims to Dokdo, while 47.0% of Japanese think the problem should be solved at the ICJ, and 37.4% think both countries should exercise joint sovereignty over the islets.

Finally, only 8.7% of Koreans and 14.6% of Japanese through bilateral ties were improving; 74.3% and 68.7%, respectively, thought they were deteriorating. This was a huge drop-off from 2005, when 44.1% of Koreans and 51.2% of Japanese thought ties were improving.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    He served ten months for what was a potentially dangerous act of vandalism – that seems more or less adequate. What more does Japan want?

  • Robert Koehler

    He served 10 months for the incident in Korea… which, oddly, apparently didn’t count as a “political act.” The Japanese want him for an arson attack in their country, more specifically, at the Yasukuni Shrine.

  • kaizenmx

    Because japan wants to throw him in japanese prison. 

  • Darren

    Amazing analysis.  Hurling gasoline bombs at an occupied building is a “political” crime, even though it would be considered a crime almost under any regime during any applicable time in the history of civilization.  

  • mickster2

    — What more does Japan want?
    Simple. Korea punished him for his crime in Korea and Japan wants to try him for what he did in Japan, which is quite reasonable, apart from the main question raised for the thread.

  • Wedge1

    What with the “I was drunk” defense rapidly losing favor, it’s time to unleash the “it was a political act” defense.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    The Yasukuni Shrine deserves to get burned to the ground. Just sayin’

  • Anonymous_Joe

    I am irony man… >>bum, buuum, bum, bum, buuuum, ba da da da da da da da dummmm<<

    “And in a case where a political criminal makes an escape to another country [Korea], the criminal can be protected.”

    ‘Twould be nice if Korea protected its own political criminals.  Come to Korea 2013, where we treat arson like speech and candle lights like arson.

    “Beijing appealed to Seoul that Liu be sent back home based on a ‘humanitarian approach.’ ” 

    I gotta ask, who writes this stuff?

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Sorry posted the same as RK in response; therefore, deleted.

  • mickster2

    — This won’t help Korea—Japan relations.
    Well, deciding the opposite would not help China-Korea relations, would it?

    The decision seems to make sense politically, but the court will probably suffer from inconsistency.
    Imagine what happens now; Tokyo will complain to Seoul.  But not much else…
    If the guy were to be extradited to Japan, Seoul would face complaints from domestic hardliners; complaints from Beijing and possible harassment — could be anything.  Tokyo for its part would try the guy and have to deal with its political implications such as protest and harassment from Beijing, such as arresting unrelated Japanese businessmen in China for whatever charges it could come up with.

    The decision could be a savior for Tokyo since it can now put all the blame on Seoul and do little else; it has been saved from the trouble of having to try the guy and deal with Beijing.

    Obviously the problem is, the decision comes not from the Korean administration or the legislature, but from the legal branch, which is supposed to be more logical in its decisions.

  • Cm

    As mickster2 said, by Korea helping themselves from possible Chinese retaliations, Korea has done Japan a big favor.  This allows Japan to sneak out of the building confrontation with China, with honor.  There was no damage done at Yasukuni and no-one was hurt.  The man also served his time in Korea for ten months, that’s more than enough for a vandalism crime. 

  • pipokun

    to deal with it on their own terms? seems ok by me.

  • pipokun

    makes absolute sense. 

  • pipokun

    for what? i don’t support or back an ounce of the military crimes. but you can’t just vanish the Japanese tradition of giving thanks to their ancestors. 

  • mightymouse

    Does the fact that more Japanese women felt a sense closeness have anything to do with Bae Yong Joon? 

    Korea should have extradited him to Japan.

  • pipokun

    good idea

  • que337

    I doubt Japan would extradite the Japanese asshat who placed Takeshima sticks at memorial sites of military sex slaves.

  • mickster2

    He’s sort of a pioneer, but there a lot more younger Korean stars who have had similar but more influence. Bae is popular among relatively older women, I guess.

    Why should he be extradited? Is he unpopular in Korea? Just being curious.

  • mickster2

    I’m no fan of the asshole and it would have been hard to defend him if he had been attacked by onlookers, but
    did he break any Korean law? I guess not.

  • mightymouse

    Sorry for not being clear I meant this arsonist should have been extradited.

  • mickster2

     Gig… I should have known.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    I doubt Japan would extradite the Japanese asshat who placed Takeshima sticks at memorial sites of military sex slaves.

    I thought of that but didn’t want to jump back into that Afghanistan, I mean Dokdo debate at the Marmot’s Hole.  There are some key differences.  The first of course is that on the surface the Yasukuni Shrine protest looked more like arson and the Takeshima sticks looked more like, at worst, littering.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    …which reminds me of another.  Korea wants to prosecute an artist for a painting of someone who looks like PGH giving birth to a baby wearing sunglasses and finds a painting criminal but thinks arson is protected political protest.

    I guess it depends whose ox is being gored.

  • Tapp

    If I rob two liquor stores in two different states, prosecution in one state doesn’t give me a “pass” in another.  You can make the argument that the man has served a just punishment for firebombing an embassy, but with this ruling, he’s completely gotten away with his other offense.  The courts decision was based solely on the target being a set of shrines that they don’t like.  If it had been any other building, he would be on a plane back to Japan.  Korea has done nothing but given extremists proof that they will be given political asylum as long as their molotov’s are pointed in the same direction is current Korean ire.  Ridiculous…

  • mickster2

    Come to think of it, Al Qaeda is most certainly politically motivated, so their crimes should be treated with humanitarian consideration, according to the Korean court’s logic, no?

  • que337

    How could one equate Al Qaeda which commits mass killing of civilians with Mr. Liu who desecrated the vis–à–vis Asian Nazis memorial shrine?

  • mickster2

    How? By lumping them together as politically motivated, ignoring the seriousness.

  • que337

    Why not lump French and German resistants into terrorists category who attempted to assassinate Hitler such that could have hindered mass killing of civilians? You are ignoring the seriousness of perpetuating Asian Nazis legacy with the Yasukuni shrine glorifying the war criminals.

  • mickster2

    Yes, I did, to make a point.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Q, I do understand your ire.  His act of protest, however, was arson.  Political protest should be protected as speech; arson should be prosecuted as arson.

    What makes me dubious about the motives behind the court’s decision is that Korea is hardly a haven for protest and free political speech.  I wish Korean courts upheld the free speech rights of their own citizens.

    In the U.S. we have something similar with the glorification of the Confederacy in pockets of the South.  On the one hand, I understand that these were Southerner’s ancestors, even if they were so many generations ago that no one alive knew them.  On the other, the Confederacy was at war with or in rebellion against the United States.  Their cause was not noble, although many fought nobly. 

    I can accept the honoring of noble war casualties in an ignoble war.  I do not expect common Germans not to respect their war dead who were their fathers, brothers, and sons.  I expect them to not honor those who were the symbolic embodiment of their ignoble regime.  

  • que337

    Yushukan war museum within Yasukuni shrine would manifest that the shrine is not simple respect for the dead who were their fathers but justification and glorification of the Asian Nazis history, where they also believe “US, not Japan, was the aggressor.”

  • Tapp

     Desecrated makes me think of carving your name onto a wall or pulling an Ozzy Osbourne on the Alamo.  This man through a flaming bottle at a building.  It is not the same.  It should not matter what the target had been, he needs to face the charges. 

  • pawikirogii 석아

    yasukuni is no different than a nszi memorial. korea made the right decision. oh and lets keep in mind that the yahoo indignation is just a cover for their thirst for revenge.

  • bumfromkorea

    That argument would work (really, it would) if Yasukuni Shrine wasn’t operating the Yushukan.  I mean, the shrine can’t be more clear about what it’s all about than building and operating a museum that, among other horrific acts of throwing buckets of white paint over the atrocities, had this and this to say about the (ahem) Nanking ‘Incident’.

    As for Mr. Liu, I paraphrase Chris Rock.  “Now I’m not saying he should’ve done it, but I understand.”

  • mickster2

    Test of a legal principal is how broadly and consistently it can be applied.
    If it sounds ludicrous when I apply it to an extreme example, it goes to show the limit of the principle.
    How justifiable the claim behind the political motive is, only weighs in when making the punishment fit the crime or absolving the defendent.
    When people jump to discussing the validity of such claims, they’re no longer responding to a question that I hoped to raise.

    As I  wrote earlier, I believe the Korean decision makes sense politically/diplomatically.
    And I’m no fan of molotov cocktails, Yasukuni Shrine or terrorists.  At the same time, I believe burning Q’s hypothetical terrorist shrine (why a shrine by the way?) would be as criminal as burning Yasukuni Shrine even though “I understand” like Chris Rock.
    I also do not believe the “respecting ancestors” part of Yasukuni makes the shrine any less offensive as long as the war-glorifying part remains.

  • pius_13

    What the Japanese need to do is to dispose of those involved in WWII.

  • kaizenmx

    But will they? Nope. They are still dreaming of invading the peninsula. 

    The one thing I’ve learned about japanese is that you never trust or turn back on them. Otherwise they will backstab the shit out of you in a heart beat.