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Abe’s Statement Marking the 70th Anniversary of the End of World War II

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has issued his long anticipated (as in speculated about) statement commemorating the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.  The Mainichi Shimbun published a 1,662 word,  English translation of Abe’s statement.

Abe’s statement begins with a lengthy history lesson, mapping Japan’s road to war. His prelude ends with “Japan gradually transformed itself into a challenger to the new international order that the international community sought to establish after tremendous sacrifices. Japan took the wrong course and advanced along the road to war.”

Abe’s next sentence in his statement:  “And, seventy years ago, Japan was defeated.”

His statement continues with something similar to his speech, in which he offered “condolences”, before the United States Congress earlier this year:  “On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, I bow my head deeply before the souls of all those who perished both at home and abroad. I express my feelings of profound grief and my eternal, sincere condolences.”

Abe then remembers Japan’s war dead:  “More than three million of our compatriots lost their lives during the war: on the battlefields worrying about the future of their homeland and wishing for the happiness of their families; in remote foreign countries after the war, in extreme cold or heat, suffering from starvation and disease. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the air raids on Tokyo and other cities, and the ground battles in Okinawa, among others, took a heavy toll among ordinary citizens without mercy.”

Abe then turns to those “countries that fought against Japan.  …countless lives were lost among young people with promising futures. In China, Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands and elsewhere that became the battlefields, numerous innocent citizens suffered and fell victim to battles as well as hardships such as severe deprivation of food.”

…and in an oblique reference that I infer is to the comfort women/sex slaves:  “We must never forget that there were women behind the battlefields whose honour and dignity were severely injured.”

Abe’s statement finally approaches some measure of culpability, “Upon the innocent people did our country inflict immeasurable damage and suffering. History is harsh. What is done cannot be undone. Each and every one of them had his or her life, dream, and beloved family.”  Then he immediately eases back:   “When I squarely contemplate this obvious fact, even now, I find myself speechless and my heart is rent with the utmost grief.”

“Condolences”, “never forget”, “speechless”, and “utmost grief” are words that I could use to describe what I had read in my middle school history text on the chapter about World War II.  Clearly I could feel those emotions and make such statements without having a sense of apology, remorse, or wrong-doing for acts that I clearly had no sense of historical or collective culpability in.

Abe finally says something that Korea and the rest of East Asia can find solace in:

“We must never again repeat the devastation of war.

Incident, aggression, war — we shall never again resort to any form of the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes. We shall abandon colonial rule forever and respect the right of self-determination of all peoples throughout the world.”

Finally, Abe uses the language used in apologies:

“With deep repentance for the war, Japan made that pledge.  …Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war. In order to manifest such feelings through concrete actions, we have engraved in our hearts the histories of suffering of the people in Asia as our neighbours: those in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, and Taiwan, the Republic of Korea and China, among others; and we have consistently devoted ourselves to the peace and prosperity of the region since the end of the war.

Such position articulated by the previous cabinets will remain unshakable into the future.”

Abe paid tribute to those countries that took Japan back into the international community and made special mention of China:  “How much emotional struggle must have existed and what great efforts must have been necessary for the Chinese people who underwent all the sufferings of the war and for the former POWs who experienced unbearable sufferings caused by the Japanese military in order for them to be so tolerant nevertheless?”

Abe then pitches to those Japanese experiencing apology fatigue:

“In Japan, the postwar generations now exceed eighty per cent of its population. We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize. Still, even so, we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past. We have the responsibility to inherit the past, in all humbleness, and pass it on to the future.”

Abe’s statement rightly concludes with hope from lessons that Japan collectively will “engrave in our hearts”:  the peaceful settlement of international disputes, dangers of trade blocs, and non-proliferation and ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons.  Referencing women injured during war, Abe said the following:

“We will engrave in our hearts the past, when the dignity and honour of many women were severely injured during wars in the 20th century. Upon this reflection, Japan wishes to be a country always at the side of such women’s injured hearts. Japan will lead the world in making the 21st century an era in which women’s human rights are not infringed upon.”

My immediate, one word reaction to Abe’s overall statement is disappointment.

The Politics of Belief – The Convergence of Reality & Faith

The convergence of faith and politics can be a dangerous thing

Yonsei University, one of the oldest universities in Korea, is now offering a course on Creationism – the belief that the Universe and Life originate “from specific acts of divine creation.”  The Hankyoreh has a good article on this and the  (electrical engineering) professor’s description of his course is interesting:

It isn’t about how creationism is correct and evolution is always wrong,… As a Christian studying and teaching engineering, I have often had to think about faith and science. My aim is to talk about these concerns with students – not to try to boost creation science,…scientists in the Christian faith “often experience conflict between the words of the Bible and their scientific understanding.” The course, he explains, is intended to “find the parts of the Bible that can be tested scientifically and aid Biblical understanding through a scientific approach to creationism and evolution.”

Creationism has migrated throughout the world in different forms since the 70’s:

For decades, the creationist movement was primarily fixed in the United States. Then, in the 1970s, American creationists found their ideas welcomed abroad, first in Australia and New Zealand, then in Korea, India, South Africa, Brazil, and elsewhere—including Europe, where creationism plays an expanding role in public debates about science policy and school curricula. (cite)

however, the criticism has been made due to concerns that “trying to teach creation science as ‘science (is) against the mission of education; to take a pseudo-discipline that repudiates the established theory and teach it as if it were a specific theory rather than an opinion” (philosopher of science and Seoul National University liberal studies professor Jang Dae-ik – cite).

Whether a nation’s controversial political history or a society’s view of the world around them, what is more interesting is how the politics of belief converge with personal beliefs. Since January, Canadian Pastor Hyeon-Soo Lim has been held in North Korea on charges of engaging in “anti-D.P.R.K. missionary activities” and to set up a new “religious state”:

Mr. Lim, 60, said his goal had been to undermine the North Korean people’s “worship for the leader,” according to the report, a reference to Kim Jong-un, the authoritarian country’s supreme leader. (cite)

“The worst crime I committed was to rashly defame and insult the highest dignity and the system of the republic,” Lim told a Pyongyang congregation, apparently reading from a script”. (cite)

“Mr. Lim follows a spate of Western missionaries who have been arrested in North Korea, which has spent the last 13 years topping Open Doors’ World Watch List as the worst place for Christians to live. An estimated 70,000 Christians are held in prison camps there.”

The PRC has also been on a program to decimate the profile if not influence of Christian churches in China, however they are now drawing the wrath of state-sponsored churches as well:

Pastor Bao Guohua of The Holy Love Christian Church & his wife

Pastor Bao Guohua of The Holy Love Christian Church & his wife

Seven Christians have been detained in China accused of embezzlement and disrupting social order (i.e., doing something the Party doesn’t like). Pastor Bao Guohua, his wife and five church employees were detained in Jinhua, in eastern Zhejiang province, but the church’s lawyer, Chen Jiangang, told the BBC he believed they were being punished for protesting against the removal of their church cross. The local government in Zhejiang has recently been ordering state-sanctioned churches to stop displaying crosses… What is unusual is that this was an official church, recognised by the Communist Party. Everything had been properly approved by the authorities.

Chinese leadership has, not only a history of repression and authoritarian rule in common with the DPRK, but also feels itself as being under siege from Christianity since they apparently see Christianity as a threat to their rule.

This could be one time in history when both China and the DPRK could benefit from the influence of Christianity, though rabid protestant sects in South Korea have too often been intolerant of others and ignorant of their own culture, still, it is an influence that is a lesser evil to contend with than what currently exists.

Landmines in the Dream Making Zone

On August 4, two South Korean soldiers who were patrolling the DMZ lost their legs by landmines, which North Korea surreptitiously buried right near the gate through which the South Korean soldiers would enter the DMZ. This serious provocation by North Korea was reported immediately to the Blue House.

And how did President Park Geun-hye respond? The next day, she attended the ceremony celebrating the reconstruction of the railway that will potentially connect Seoul and Wonsan, where she proclaimed “DMZ will be transformed into a world-class space in which history, culture, life and peace co-exist, a Dream Making Zone.”

The Blue House didn’t get around to denouncing the attack until yesterday, a week after the two soldiers lost their limbs.

Under the two progressive presidents, South Korea won both of the naval engagements it fought against North Korea. Under the last two conservative presidents, North Korean torpedoes sank ROKS Cheonan, North Korean artillery shells killed civilians in Yeonpyeong-do, and now, North Korean mines terribly injured two soldiers–and the president spouted delusional garbage the day after.

Never let it be said that Korea’s conservatives are somehow better at national security. I never thought I would miss Lee Myung-bak, but at this point, I would gladly choose the competent president who does the opposite of what I want over the incompetent president who does nothing.

 

Looking Through The Big End of A Telescope – Dynastic Rule & Revisions To Be Made

what_happenedMurder and dynastic rule is a good idea that has persevered through the ages, especially now

The Sukarno Education Foundation, run by a daughter of Indonesia’s founding president, will award a peace prize to Kim Jong-un in September for his “peace, justice and humanity”.

Ms. Sukarnoputri herself was an elected ruler of Indonesia in turn, not unlike South Korea’s current president.

Ms. Sukarnoputri justified the North Korean leader’s suitability for the award:

“should be honoured for his fight against neo-colonialist imperialism . . . the allegations about human rights abuses are untrue. Those Western governments like to put ugly labels on North Korea.” (cite)

. . . and some Americans think electing another Bush or Clinton is a good idea.

So, you want to take a trip through memory and time?

The Chinese Communist Party wants to commemorate its supposed victory over Japan at the end of World War II, since it is a useful foil and has invited South Korean president Park to attend:

The government in Beijing will invite world leaders to this year’s commemorations of China’s “War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression as well as the World Anti-Fascist War,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. (cite)

Some think she should go simply because Kim Jong-un might be there and the CCP is maybe keen on cultivating the future relations on their own terms.

What to do?

Open Thread – 입추: Fall Has Entered

This Saturday marks the official entrance of Fall

the crickets know this already since they started chirping only days before.

A Zero Waste Concept – An New & Better Habit for Korean Society and Industry

Everybody picks up; nobody throws down

Tshering Tobgay, one of my favorite people from Bhutan (the PM), who gives the word “politician” a positive meaning, made mention of a very simple yet profound idea for change in Bhutan, that could and should be applied here, in Korea:

zero wasteCheku Gyaltshen, Class 10, School Captain, Gyalpoi Tozey, showing off his zero waste bag. Cheku introduced this concept in Chundu Centra School and today all students carry zero waste bags in which they store personal and other waste they come across in their school campus.

As one Bhutanese observed, “I remember the doctrine of Mr.Tshering Dukpa, JNLSS Principal lecturing on his formula “zero waste”, during morning assembly,  as follows: EVERY BODY PICKS UP, NOBODY THROWS DOWN.
This simple rule if followed makes everyone a friend of environment and society.”

If applied, here in Korea, the improvement to the environment, quality of life, national pride, not to mention the savings in clean-up costs, would be phenomenal.  I would really promote this one simple thing since it would have the greatest positive social impact on Korea since the New Village Movement (새마을 운동).

The Bhutanese are aware that happiness is very important and that it does not stem from money alone but how one lives.

Before the New Village Movement that the current president’s father started, many Korean’s thinking in villages was poor. Many got drunk and gambled and had little ambition. By setting new standards, new daily habits, new ideas, PCH was able to inspire many Koreans to improve their lot.

I noticed an advert up in the subway for people to submit a new slogan for Korean tourism. Hey, how about doing something to help people form a new attitude, even if there is a stick behind it sometimes. Why not require students to carry a zero waste bag and use them? As we say in the West, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but you can certainly start educating youth in a better direction. The adults should be fined for any everything they throw down since they are maybe to old to understand the virtue of it; save the stick for them alone. A really aggressive program of zero waste would improve many things: quality of life, tourism, avoid spending more money to clean up.

I really think it is time for Koreans to adopt new habits that define their culture better than the materialism that puts an emphasis upon making money.

If Park Guen-hye’s father lead and pushed Koreans into better and more productive habits, then it is time for his daughter and other leaders to help start some new and better habits for the sake of the society and country. Considering the high suicide rate here, there is a background of dissatisfaction that needs many things to effect a cure and a new attitude about the world around them is a part of that remedy. There are other efforts government should make as well, such as requiring all companies here to revise their packaging to reduce waste as much as possible. Germany has done exactly this and the savings, to the country and business, have been considerable.

A program like this is a good place to start since it is not costly. I’ve seen some churches go out into the neighborhood and clean up parts of it as part of an outreach program. Though their aim is to inspire new membership, they do recognize the power of an empowered and positive mind to inspire others.

This is exactly what Korea needs.

Open Thread – The Chinese Winter Olympics Edition

Chinese_winter_olympics

This just blows . . .

Just when you thought it couldn’t blow any harder, Beijing is awarded the Winter Olympics for 2022.

korea post logo
Starting in July, the post office will be using 5-digit ZIP codes.

Click here for the ZIP code finder.

. . . You Will Find This Hard to Swallow Too, Maybe

“The fate of South Korea’s kimchi industry rests on whether China considers it pickled or not.”

kimchi_articleThe NY Times has a very nice article on the plight of contemporary Kimchi (Chinese Trade Rules Puts Korea’s Kimchi in A Pickle). Chinese and Korean versions too.

One of the obvious differences here a visitor or resident discovers  is kimchi, which has been as ubiquitous as the somewhat dusty air that we breathe.  Personally, I note that the most essential thing that defines Korea is the importance of family, which lies at the heart of everything Korean, thus this one comment says much to me about what is important to Koreans in today’s world:

Now, most of Ms. Park’s (kimchi) customers are other market stall owners, tourists and the occasional housewife. “Nobody wants to make it at home,” she said. “It’s a bother, and they are too busy making money.

Neglecting Kimchi, maybe, is a bit like neglecting our family and that is something that one can not really blame China for, although they have much to account for when it comes to their influence upon both Koreas.

Flavour of The Month: The Chaebol Recipe Is Still Hard to Swallow

chaebol_recipeThough August has yet to arrive until next week, this taste sensation can not be denied, so please pardon my haste in posting.  I also note that, once again, my psychic link to certain editors at the JoongAng Ilbo is resonating. Upon penning an unctuous article on the president’s “creative economy” shiz-nizzle
(Park thanks tycoons for support on creativity), an companion editorial observes that:

The innovation incubator project underscores the country’s reliance on our chaebol (a major weakness). The large conglomerate groups were put in charge of hosting innovation centers according to their corporate home bases…Whether the projects can last and bear fruit is also questionable because of the pretentious way the government and chaebol address the project. Large companies announced investment plans in time for the center opening and the arrival of the president. The heads of the 17 conglomerates that took part in the project were invited to a luncheon at the Blue House. Now the president has also decided to include jailed corporate heads on the list of special pardons on Aug. 15, Liberation Day… other conditions should be right to encourage start-ups.
Start-ups (should) not be afraid of failure if there are sufficient programs to support them in their new ventures.
Start-ups and innovation cannot sprout under heavy layers of regulations and (under) a discouraging business culture.
Various funding and support programs should come under one roof (with simplified procedures for implementation).
The centers must be able to assist individuals and companies in the entire process of starting a business or venture.
The innovation network should not end as the showpiece of an administration that lasts five years (but be a part of a sustained, bi-partisan effort – without the politics).

Meaning, these chaebol heads take nice pictures with the prezildent and smile but, unless pushed and unconditionally held to a meaningful program of a sustained hands-off, support for entrepreneurs (start-up companies), this whole “creative economy” is just 17 ways to float down the four rivers, while Korea is stuck up shitzzle creek without a paddle.

UPDATE: July 29, Wenesday

The JoongAng Ilbo has added further depth to their observations in a new article, in regards to the waste of resources due to poor management, oversight and a lack of political will to make a sustained effort in developing a better business climate:

Lee Byung-woo, head of the South Chungcheong center, pointed out earlier this month that the new centers for creative economy and innovation overlap with existing local government-backed institutions designed to support start-ups, such as the techno parks scattered nationwide that actually accommodate the creative economy centers.

however,

Techno parks and creative economy centers are supposed to be partners. The former caters to already established companies and the latter to start-ups,” said Koh Hyung-kwon, head of the Creative Economy Initiative for Public-Private Partnership, which overseas the creative economy center project.

These heads seem confused as to what is what. The uncertainty of politics almost certainly ensures that this creative shizzle will be lost:

I am not sure what’s going to happen [with the creative economy centers] in three years, said an executive from one of the participating conglomerates who is now dispatched to a center. “There is a saying already that the centers will be gone at the turn of the administration. We also think the centers will pretty much be temporary.

 

Things That Go Pop

Korean TV is very popular in the PRC? . . . but why?

We share the same culture and cherish similar social values,” said Sophie Yu, director of international communications for iQiyi, the online video streaming website affiliated with the search giant Baidu. “So Korean content naturally is easy to be understood and accepted by the Chinese audience. (cite)

Yeah, so why can’t China produce shows with the same attractiveness if the two cultures are so similar?

Faced with the limits (government censorship), popular streaming websites like Sohu, iQiyi and Youku want to develop their own Korean-inspired content to sate the country’s appetite for the programming, part of a broader fascination with Korean popular culture. That has meant trying to tap (steal) into South Korea’s secret sauce — the magic formula that has turned the country into a pop-culture juggernaut that churns out viral exports like the singer and rapper Psy, the singer Rain and hits like “My Love From Another Star“.

It’s so difficult to copy a new recipe when the cooks are so used to serving up government-sponsored shit, with dazzling regularity.

Longboarding in South Korea?

Sure, why not and it has been steadily growing in popularity here too. “dancing” has become more popular as well. The video of Heo Solbi is a good demonstration of this style (click on the photo for the video):

Solbi Heo Step Rhythm Up

Heo Solbi’s longboard dance style.

There is even a facebook page for local riders and, if you are out around Iteawon, you can visit the Style Board Shop (서울 용산구대사관로5길 19 – more or less), a very cool place for longboards.  If you want a place to get more information on longboarding style_board_shopin Korea, I might suggest visiting the Slidingwheels folks. Korean might be one of the few places where doing downhill could really be more scary than some of the west coast places I’ve seen in the states. Another good resource can be found at landyachtz.com, which has a recent thread on downhill in Korea.

Korea_downhill

Korean Cosmetics Are Attractive in Themselves

Tonymoly storeTonyMoly, founded about a decade ago, is a South Korean beauty company that has recently entered America, opening two boutiques in New York and placing its products in Urban Outfitters and Sephora stores.  Molly Young of the NY Times writes brilliantly about the differences from American cosmetic firms and TonyMolly:

TonymolyI was briefed by a friend with intimate knowledge of the Korean beauty market and I learned that TonyMoly is known for its cute packaging, intrepid use of freaky ingredients and an emphasis on the caretaking of skin over the painting of it. American beauty products focus on high-color-payoff makeup, whereas Korean beauty focuses on perfect skin,” he told me. “You’ll notice that skin care takes up 74 percent of the store.

Their product design is very well done and is worth a visit just to look at:

it is all packaged in containers shaped like peaches, eggs, apples, tangerines and tomatoes. What these shapes have in common is their touchability, which makes sense because that’s how many of us want our faces to look.

Ms. Young really has a terrific way of writing about the uniqueness of TonyMolly’s Korean product style:

Sheet masks are another Korean innovation. A sheet mask is a cotton sleeve cut in the shape of Hannibal Lecter’s muzzle and drenched in your choice of (allegedly) beautifying liquids: tomato extract, broccoli extract, ginseng, something called “vegetable placenta,” something called “pearl extract”

I thought mammals ate placentas but I guess putting them on your face could be okay too.

Trump on US-ROK Cost Sharing Agreement: “It’s Crazy”

(Current) Republican presidential nominee front runner Donald Trump blew a sour note in Korean media, criticizing South Korea for riding the backs of U.S. taxpayers for its security while giving “nothing” in return.   According to the Korea Herald,

Trump made the remark during a campaign speech in South Carolina on Tuesday, mentioning South Korea apparently as a nation similar to Saudi Arabia that he accused of enjoying a security free ride on U.S. taxpayers’ money while giving “nothing” in return.

“I like the Saudis … They buy all sorts of my stuff, all kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundreds of millions. But you know what? They make a billion dollars a day, folks, and whenever they’re in trouble, our military takes care. You know we get nothing,” he said.

“South Korea,” he said before a member of the audience apparently shouted “crazy.”

“Who said that? Stand up, stand up. He said it’s crazy. It’s true! It’s true! It’s crazy. They make a billion dollars a day,” Trump said.

Trump did not elaborate on South Korea, but in 2011, ahead of the 2012 presidential election, he made a similar remark that the U.S. is protecting South Korea, but “they don’t pay us.”

Seoul and Washington reached a new five-year Special Measures Agreement (SMA) last year, with Seoul agreeing to increase its contribution 5.8% to $867 million adjusted each year by formula for inflation with increases capped at 4%.  The agreement increased Korea’s cost share from approximately 40% to 42% and proved unpopular with Korean media and among Koreans.


 

Arirang TV broadcast two different segments.  In the first segment Mark Broome cited Trump’s “critical comment”.  In the later segment, the visibly ambivalent Broome cited Trump’s “misguided comment” and opined that “the flamboyant American billionaire… might want to get his facts straight.

Here’s the first, “critical comment” video:

…and here’s the “misguided comment” video:

https://youtu.be/2U-oJ_TnYe4

Arirang Television is operated by the Korea International Broadcasting Foundation (KIBF).

 

Addendum, July 20:

Ruthless-Non-Jewish Samsung Wins . . .

Bloomberg has a further analysis of the merger deal and why Korea and Park Geun Hye was the loser in the deal:

Long before the South Korean media began indulging in anti-Semitism, Samsung’s recent effort to pull a fast one on its own investors was already firmly in insult territory. The company’s affront extended both to shareholders and to the Korean public.
The bid by Samsung’s de facto holding company, Cheil Industries, to buy Samsung C&T at a laughably below-market price was a naked power grab by the company’s founding Lee family, but Samsung so dominates South Korea that it managed on Friday to convince the subsidiary’s shareholders to ignore their own interests.
The merger marks a defeat for South Korean President Park Geun Hye, who won office in late 2012 with promises to rein in the family-owned companies that stifle Korean innovation. Friday’s vote was Park’s economic Waterloo, the moment her government decisively lost the fight against the oligarchs.

The article is here.

Open Thread: July 19, 2015

“When it rains it pours”

Flavor of the Month – A Mysterious Ingredient Is Added

He burned coal while sitting inside his car.
He is now dead.

This someone is an employee of the NIS that has killed themselves (in Yongin).

As the reader may recall, On July 8, WikiLeaks released over 400 gigabytes of leaked data from Italian surveillance malware vendor Hacking Team, which included correspondence between officials from South Korea’s 5163 Army Division – a code name for the NIS – and the company about its remote control spyware system.

Now, an 46-year-old employee of the NIS has been found dead from apparent suicide and he left a will inside the car, along with his body, that discusses his family and work, namely the hacking activities of the NIS:

The apparent suicide and the will are expected to further stoke the controversy surrounding where and how the NIS used the hacking program. The software program, which uses Remote Control System technology, allows hackers to manipulate and track smartphones and computers by installing spyware.
The NIS said it bought the program made by an Italian company in 2012 and confirmed it can be used to hack into up to 20 mobile phones simultaneously.(cite)

Of course the NIS has denied it has been snooping on people with the software, in a statement, asking “Why would the NIS carry out surveillance on our own people?”

[gobsmacked!]

Update, July 19

The suicide note left by the agent claimed the spy agency had not used the software for domestic spying (cite):

A South Korean intelligence agent found dead in an apparent suicide left a note denying his team had used spyware to tap the mobile phones and computers of private citizens in the latest scandal involving the spy agency.

which leads me to wonder – why would an agent kill himself for not doing something wrong or was he simply a depressed man?
Either way, may God bless and help him and his family.

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