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Category: East and Central Asia (page 2 of 97)

Yoshiki Sasai suicide and the NHK

I did a post on the STAP cell scandal back in March when it was all about to break out (you can also see my comments in the same post for its development. In one of the last comments, I see I was sticking up for the woman at the centre of the storm Obokata Haruko, saying I feel sorry for her, just after her tearful appearance).

Since then, having followed what is said about her both in the Japanese establishment media(“let’s string her up”) the more public sentiment-reflecting media (morning shows, TV professors and chat-show hosts – “she’s just a poor girl, a victim”), as well as conducts of herself and her lawyers, I have changed my mind on this, and have withdrawn all my sympathy for her.

The latest news is, that her boss at work (RIKEN), Yoshiki Sasai has been found dead at the workplace, (hanging by the neck, with a suicide note), and of course the Japanese media is reporting it at full blast.

This is because, lately the NHK Japanese public broadcasting company has come under intense fire from the public, for hounding Obokata for an interview, (paparazzi style), during the tryst, Obokata supposedly falling and injuring her arm (which is “very important” for the work she is trying to re-create now under intense surveillance), as well as the NHK unearthing some email exchanges between Sasaki and Obokata, suggestive of some private relationship between the two.
The Japanese public has gone apeshit on the conduct of the conduct of the NHK, a supposedly *public broadcasting system* on the style of their reporting as well as the way they want to scapegoat somebody, namely a tearful girl who looks all innocent and weak.

I disagree with the Japanese public on this matter. It’s a damn shame that there are (not often and very far and few between) women scientists who do get somewhere by their own sweat and tears and not relying on the merits of their feminine guile, and to have it discredited by a big muddy splash by a substandard snivelling person in a job that they obviously did not deserve to have, make a big botch up job of it and have all the negative preconceptions strengthened. The Japanese public should expect the same standard of defence and retribution from Obokata as they would expect from any other scientist in that position and spotlight, and not say “it was the system’s fault, she’s just a poor lamb”.

The second point I brought up in my previous post concerns my misgivings about the biological science and reproducibility of a result, and the order of the publishing process in a journal. This requires a deeper discussion see a skew-related SLATE piece on this , but let me just say, out of all the Japanese ajossi(ossan) comedians and experts alike and comments on this whole saga, the one I liked the most was by Sanma (明石家さんま), he said he understood how Obokata felt, because he has been trying to get the right combination of “コー茶 Ko-cha” by mixing up Coffee(Kohi) and red tea(紅茶 koucha) and he did get it once by mistake, but has since been unable to reproduce it.

I thought it was a mild, sympathetic, yet funnily caustic enough comment on the whole matter.

Something Wicked This Way Comes . . .

There has always been this fear that Chinese technology firms will knock-off major Korean businesses like Samsung or LG and now, these concerns seem to be coming closer to realization: Samsung has lost its top spot in cellphone manufacturing, in China, to an upstart Chinese firm Xiaomi – which makes an android-varient OS and gear that looks a whole lot like Apple’s.

Oddly enough, even their founder looks like a Steve Jobs knock-off.  Can’t he manage something original!?

A Steve Jobs knock-off?

A Steve Jobs knock-off?

Update

Right on the heels of this news, Samsung and Apple have called a truce to their legal pugilism outside of the US.  I suspected that something of this sort would happen and, yep, it certainly did.

So, You Got State Secrets and A Coffee House, Eh?

What passes for the state security apparatus in China is now holding a Canadian couple for stealing state secrets about national defence and the military”.  The couple in question are running a coffee shop in Dandong (Peter’s Coffee House), right on the border with North Korea.

Apparently they host an English table every Friday and have entertainment – as well as steal state secrets.

Their customers seem to agree that Peter’s Coffee House has the tastiest secrets in the region:

“We stopped in to Peter’s Coffee House while on a walk along the Yalu River, to grab a bite for lunch, and were pleasantly surprised. The owner and his staff were all friendly and helpful, and the food was great.”

The owners of the secret coffee house – Kevin and Julia Garratt – are baffled by the Chinese security service’s claims and, according to their son, the charges are “absurd” and made “absolutely no sense”.  A good Reuter’s article on this is here.

Why am I not surprised?

Fun with polls and surveys!

Some interesting surveys regarding Korea and Koreans, and their relationship with other countries, have come out.

First of all let’s look at some surveys regarding Korea’s attitudes on China.  According to one sponsored by the JoongAng Ilbo and the Asan Institute of Policy Studies, South Korea’s attitudes of the PRC have improved, particularly after President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Seoul recently.  Results summarized in the graphic below:

(Graphic source from the JoongAng Ilbo)

There are however, misgivings.  Most South Koreans think China is still an economic and military threat.  Also, since most Koreans have lungs, a whopping 95%+ hates China’s most pervasive (and unwanted) export: pollution.

The good ole’ U.S. of A also gets high marks.  According to the latest Pew Research results, South Korea’s “positive” attitudes of the U.S. are in the 82% region, up from 78% in 2013, the highest they have ever been since Pew has conducted the survey.  Only the Philippines (former colony) and Israel (fellow U.S. military aid dependant) had higher rankings.  According to the Pew, South Korea’s attitudes of China are comparatively in the 56% positive territory, a rise from 46% last year.

Lastly, non-Koreans (living outside of Korea) continue to admit they have a hard time distinguishing North from South Korea.  Ah, Egypt.  Not only do they hate the U.S. more than any other country out there, but they are the worst at telling the difference between North and South Korea.

Dancing and Parody Power

dancing

The PRC wants soft power; wants Kung Fu Panda – can’t get their heavy, bloody hands on it, however some Chinese do parody pretty well and much to North Korea’s discomfort.

Korean beer consumers voting with their feet

Many foreign beer drinkers complain that Korean beers suck.  Comments range from donkey piss to kinda drinkable if really, really cold.  Personally, I like Korean beer with spicy Korean food and have never really thought of Korean beers as terrible.  However, there is nothing like the free market to bring out a little objectivity to the debate.

According to data from the Korea Customs Service consumption of imported beer has risen sharply:

South Korea’s beer imports reached a record-high level in the first half of this year, exceeding the nation’s beer exports.

Beer imports to the country surged 28.5 percent on-year to US$50.8 million during the January-June period, the highest figure since comparable numbers were first made available in 2000…

[…]

Imported beer[‘s] tonnage has increased more than 15 times since 2000…

So, are the Koreans flocking to British stouts or American lagers?  No.

Imports of Japanese beer came to 13,818 tons, accounting for the largest portion of the figure at 25.8 percent. The list was trailed by the Netherlands, Germany, and China at 8,887 tons, 7,825 tons and 5,067 tons, respectively.

Nippon number one!  At least in beer imports.

Netherlands?  Would that mean Heinekens are popular in Korea?

A different kind of Chinese invasion

Tourists and RMB.  Yep, Korea is becoming awash in both.  Quartz article sums it up nicely:

Chinese tourists are heading to South Korea more than any other destination this year, according to travel agency Ctrip. That’s because political instability has turned many off Thailand, and China’s ties with South Korea have been warming.

Invasion central?  Jejudo.

But most of all there is the undeniable appeal of JejuThe resort island off the South Korean coast is drawing Chinese tourists with its subtropical climate, visa-free status, and attractions like casinos and an erotic-sculpture theme park known as Loveland.

[…]

In 2013, almost four million mainland Chinese tourists visited South Korea, and 1.8 million of them went to Jeju…If Ctrip’s predictions are correct, the number of mainland tourists visiting South Korea will rise to 5.6 million this year—equal to over 10% of South Korea’s population.

Chinese tourism for 2014 may equal 10% of the ROK’s population?  Holy cow!

 

iPhone Security Problems in China?

According to Reuters, Chinese state media on Friday branded Apple Inc’s iPhone a threat to national security because of the smartphone’s ability to track and time-stamp user locations. Apple’s competitor, Samsung also has the means to track phones and log locations, however it is not made by the evil Americans.

I suppose the iPhone could really be a threat to state security if too many Chinese started using the ethics finder app . . . this is more a sign of insecurity than a lack of security!

The World According to Xi and Hitler-mania

After China has engaged in rancorous disputes with several neighbours in Asia – Vietnam and the Philippines – over their egregious claims to most of the “South China Sea” and after the US has participated in joint military exercises with countries like the Philippines, and the decision by the Japanese cabinet to reinterpret the constitution, giving the Japanese military freedom to fight overseas, Chinese President Xi now thinks that “China-US confrontation, to the two countries and the world, would definitely be a disaster” and the US should “should mutually respect and treat each other equally, and respect the other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, i.e., give us what we want or else. (cite)

Adding to the flames of hate against Japan that is so in style with Chinese politicians, A Chinese newspaper’s graphic showing a mushroom cloud engulfing the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki accompaning an article that claimed “Japan wants a war again” (cite)

Not to be outdone by flaming, flying Chinese dragon rhetoric, a Malaysian member of parliament tweeted about the soccer game between Germany and Brazil, declaring WELL DONE..BRAVO…LONG LIVE HITLER…

Hitler’s example lives on . . .

A New Era in Korea – Minus the American Influence

President Xi of the People’s Republic of China, and a large entourage of Chinese businessmen (Alibaba, Baidu), are currently visiting South Korea. The PRC is hoping for improved business ties but this time, there is, IMHO, the possibility of a sea change on the Korean peninsula.

Why and how?

China wants to change that status quo – they want to do so through money and through a redefinition of regional security – without American influence.

First, in business, China is proposing the foundation of a $50 billion “Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank”, first proposed by President Xi in October 2013, during a tour of Southeast Asia. This bank would have the PRC holding a fifty-percent stake in this bank and has hinted at benefits to those nations that participate and Xi’s visit to Seoul, currently under way is very much about the benefits to South Korea. (we will get to what South Korea might actually want from joining this venture shortly). South Korea has expressed an intent to become an offshore trading centre in Chinese currency (renminbi) and this current meeting is expected to address this as well.
For South Korea, this is useful and important since South Korea’s two-way trade with China was $229 billion last year, exceeding the combined value of South Korea’s trade with the U.S. and Japan. Xi told reporters after the 2013 summit that the two countries will strive to boost their trade to top $300 billion (cite). This trade has been hampered by the fact that both countries transactions have been based in US Dollars (because the Yuan and Won are not directly traded) which costs more and reflects the indirect influence of things American in Asia. A statement from South Korea’s finance ministry and central bank said the South Korean won will become directly exchangeable with the yuan, joining major currencies such as the U.S. dollar, Japanese yen and euro that are convertible with the Chinese currency. The decision also makes the yuan only the second currency after the U.S. dollar that is directly convertible with the won. (cite)
China has also given consent to South Korea’s investment of tens of billions of yuan (billions of USD) in Chinese bonds and stocks. The PRC Government is encouraging businesses to invest in Korea as well. Chinese investors are highly interested in cultural content, software and real estate development, thus would explain the drive by the Korean side to have Chinese investment in the so far failed Saemangeum Project (cite) or the attempt at luring Chinese investment in the Yeosu – Dadohae Haesang National Park area, as well as some yet to be announced projects.

There is also the issue of the recent Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and the PRCs desire to exclude powers – such as the U.S. – from regional security, suggesting an arrangement, guided by the PRC that is more than a little reminiscent of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere plan of Showa Japanese origin. As reported in The Diplomat:

Xi called for the creation of a “new regional security cooperation architecture.” He proposed that CICA become “a security dialogue and cooperation platform” for all of Asia, from which countries can explore the possibility of creating a regional security framework. He further indicated that China would take a leading role in exploring the creation of a “code of conduct for regional security and [an] Asian security partnership program.”
In promoting China’s vision for a new regional security framework, Xi took specific aim at the basis for the current status quo: military alliances. Xi tied such alliances to “the outdated thinking of [the] Cold War.” “We cannot just have security for one or a few countries while leaving the rest insecure,” Xi said. “A military alliance which is targeted at a third party is not conducive to common regional security.” Xi in turn offered an alternative vision for Asia, one based on an all-inclusive regional security framework rather than individual alliances with external actors like the United States.” (cite )

The real horse dealing that is not hinted at in the Korean press (which has been very quiet yet unmistakably pro-Chinese) is how will the PRC, under Xi, will resolve the issue of reunification between the two Koreas. The South Korean Government reportedly wants substantial help from Xi for making reunification a reality – in both financial aid and in the momentum that can only come from the DPRK’s only substantial supporter. Though many believe that the PRC will likely not destabilize the DPRK, if the ROK buys into the Chinese sphere of financial and political influence, rejects the American presence in the region and further guarantees their responsibility in dealing with the potential North Korean refugee problem, I honestly don’t see how a belligerent DPRK could possibly avoid change and reunification with the southern half since it would be a matter of survival to do so.

I suppose this is logical; solving Korea’s problem long-standing problem with the north and the cost of unification, while resulting in the exit of America’s influence in Korea and pushing the US further out of the region and likely gaining more support for the egregious regional claims made by the PRC. There is little America can do about this too, since the Chinese have the means to deliver the reality of unification to South Korea and whereas the U.S. can not.

Looking into a Sino-Korean future; also worrisome is the shortage of personnel to staff the larger Korean projects and the increased likelihood that more Chinese will see living and working in Korea as business ties and opportunities grow in the future. What impact this will have on Korean society remains to be seen and considering the tremendous potential influx of money into Korea, the Korea of fifty years from now will likely be a very different one from what we observe today in terms of world view and its relationship with Europe and the US.  Some may even talk about Korea as being a Chinese colony, wistfully remembering the days when their elders talked about how Korea was really an American colony.

Japanese man self immolates himself in apparent protest to Abe’s collective self-defense law changes

Yesterday afternoon a Japanese man, apparently in his 60’s, wearing standard salaryman attire, sat on some girders near the busy Shinjuku Station.  With a blow horn he  announced that he would immolate himself in protest to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s controversial collective self-defense law changes.

man shinjuku south exist self immolate burn death protest abe shinzo collective self defense law suicide death

(Image from Japan Trends)

According to the blog Japan Trends, he cited government actions to “involve Japan more in war,” droned on for 30 or so minutes protesting Abe and his government and then proceeded to poured several bottle of brown liquid onto himself and eventually making good on his claims by igniting himself.  There is a YouTube video of the actual suicide moment.  The footage is graphic, so viewer discretion is advised.

Here’s more at Japan Times and Al Jazeera.

Japan’s Statement on the Kono Statement

Within the past hour Japan issued its statement on the Kono Statement.

Issued in August, 1993, the Kono Statement acknowledged for the first time “the then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women.”  In a contemporaneous news article,  the New York Times reported on South Korea’s reaction:

South Korea, where most of the women were seized, expressed qualified approval for Tokyo’s admission. “We appreciate the fact that in its latest report, the Japanese Government now acknowledges that coercion was involved in the entire process of recruiting, transporting and managing ‘comfort women,’ ” the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We also appreciate the fact that the Japanese offered an apology.”

As late as June 17, 2014, Seoul’s Foreign ministry reiterated (according to Yonhap News) “that Japan’s 1993 statement acknowledging the Japanese imperial army’s mobilization of wartime sex slaves was made based on Tokyo’s own investigations and judgment.”  From the cited Yonhap News article,

The Kono statement was written based on Japan’s own judgment on the issue, (foreign ministry spokesman Noh Kwang-il said in a briefing), adding that the Korean government made clear that it is not a document needed for prior consultation or agreement with another country.

Arirang News released the following,

Japan announced in its findings today that according to latest Japanese reports the review says the Korean government also played a role in the wording of the Kono statement. Japan’s Jiji News Agency reports that Seoul and Tokyo held discussions on what the statement will look like, under the condition that their dealings be kept a secret. This will definitely trigger heavy criticism from South Korea.

All this leaves observers asking “why?

UPDATE:   In addition to the statement that the Korean government played a role in the wording of the Kono Statement,  Japanese media is reporting  the report claims the Japanese government did not verify the validity of testimonies given by 16 Korean comfort women who were the basis of the Kono Statement.

UPDATE 2:  Although Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference  that Japan will continue to uphold the statement and not seek to revise it or change the government’s official stance, China’s Shanghai Daily connected the dots:

In essence, the panel has suggested that the findings were inaccurate, if not fallacious, and the final statement itself unsubstantiated, in a move that quickly drew the ire of the South Korean Foreign Ministry who blasted the Japanese government saying its action were “deeply regrettable” and a “contradictory and pointless act.”

Unfortunately, I agree.  Japan’s panel’s 21 page report on the Kono Statement seems to have pulled much of the punch behind the Kono Statement by questioning the validity of statements, findings, and testimonies underlying the Kono Statement.

Korea’s Joong Ang Daily reported that Japan’s panel found “in the drafting of the Kono Statement, ‘there was intensive and detailed mediation with the Korean government’….”

The Japan Times, which described the crafting of the statement as a “tug of war”, went into more of the contentious details of the negotiation.  Among them, “the report further states that Seoul indicated that if Japan did not comply with the revisions, it would not accept the Kono apology in a positive way” and “the Korean side told Tokyo that ‘it has a policy not to seek financial compensation.’ ”

From a practical standpoint, I find Japan’s panel’s finding that Korea had significant input credible for the simple reason that Japan could not risk issuing a statement that Korea would reject; however,  I find Japan’s revelation of such nonetheless duplicitous.

Regardless of the extent of Korea’s input, Japan signed it.

UPDATE 3:  For those straining to hear the voice of reason and the  supposed silent majority in Japan, The Japan Times published an editorial on its English website, Stop Undermining the Kono Statement.  The following is an excerpt:

If the government is to uphold the 1993 statement, as it says it will, then the Abe administration needs to do what the statement says Japan will do and make proactive efforts to settle the long-running dispute, instead of repeatedly attempting to play down the nation’s responsibility for the ordeal of the women forced into wartime sexual slavery.

…Following the release of the review’s outcome, the Abe administration repeated that it would not change the Kono statement. If that’s the case, then the administration should wholly commit itself to what Japan said in the statement, and seek to repair ties with South Korea that have been strained at least in part by its attempt to question the stance of past Japanese governments on this matter.

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall – The Real Fallout from Living Next to A Thug

Domino_Cascade

Living next to the DPRK is difficult for most but the real problem is the People’s Republic of China and their bully tactics that threaten to drive neighbouring nations into acquiring nuclear weapons. Zachary Keck writes about the massive build-up of conventional arms by the PRC and its bully tactics that is slowly but surely pushing regional powers into considering a nuclear deterrent since their interests are directly and laterally threatened by a rising fascist power.

Though President Park was quoted as saying that more nuclear testing by the DPRK could result in “a domino effect by providing its neighbours with a pretext to arm themselves with nuclear weapons”, the real concern is the DPRK’s historic sponsor, China:

Although North Korea is unlikely to precipitate a nuclear arms race in Asia, China’s growing military capabilities and assertive diplomatic posture very well might. Indeed, just as history has demonstrated that states don’t need nuclear arsenals to deter rivals from attacking them with nuclear weapons, it has also demonstrated that nuclear weapons are extremely effective in deterring conventional military attacks. Thus, states that face rivals with overwhelming conventional military power have a strong incentive to acquire nuclear weapons to negate their rivals’ conventional superiority. (cite)

Other editorials certainly suggest that countries, like Vietnam, certainly have incentive to go nuclear, so as to protect their borders in the event that the PRC is tempted to trespass too far since  China has 14 times the population and 37 times the economy of its neighbour, thus arrogance has a fertile place to grow. (cite)

Even if the Philippines is awarded a ruling that China’s claim to the South China Sea has no legal basis, will not likely change the reality in the region – China is unlikely to leave areas it controls at the say of a judge in The Hague – but it will make it hard for Beijing to keep arguing plausibly that it always acts with respect to international law (source), and considering such, many would be foolish to not keep a gun in the house even if it were a technically illegal firearm.

Even so, there will be more pressure on regional nations to keep Chinese fishermen – as state proxies – in check (as demonstrated by their use against Japan and Vietnam).  Chinese pirates have long been a part of regional history in Asia that pre-dates quite a few of their claims of territory too.

U.S. Military Hacked in South Korea

The details of up to 16,000 South Koreans that have worked for the U.S. Command here have been hacked. (link)

According to the military, the affected system (hack) is a human resources recruiting system separate from the U.S. military network  

Maybe that is 16,000 Koreans that will be getting loan offers from companies in the PRC?

What Time Is It?

89_military-souvenir

Today marks a terrible anniversary and this cheap-looking watch is a souvenir of things past that certain people want forgotten or claim didn’t really happen.

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