The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 6. 2011  
February 6, 2011  
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We present two featured articles this week. Kim Man-bok, director of South Korea's National Intelligence Service under Roh Moo-hyun calls for a return to the politics of peace and prosperity in North-South relations. Kim's deeply informed critique of ROK policies under Lee Myung-bak has led Seoul's prosecutors to charge him with revealing state secrets, in the process reopening fundamental questions about South Korean democracy.  Our second feature likewise poses question about democracy and autocracy. Mohammed Bamyeh writes from inside the Egyptian revolution with a profound understanding of the extraordinary phenomenon underway in Cairo and across the Arab world. Greg Vanderbilt introduces the poetry of Ibaragi Noriko, a leading postwar poet who is little known in the Anglophone world.  


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Kim Man-bok, Let's Turn Korea's West Sea (the Sea of Dispute) into a Sea of Peace and Prosperity



The former director of the South Korean National Intelligence Service reviews North-South relations with particular reference to tensions in the West Sea and the half century dispute over the Northern Limit Line in a call for a return to the proactive attempts toward reconciliation of the two previous ROK governments.  


"Despite the fact that the Korean War, the greatest tragedy in modern Korean history, ended on July 7, 1953 with an armistice, the West Sea remains contested, a powder keg capable of exploding into a second Korean War or a third World War," he notes, opportunities for reconciliation and prosperity exist even now. But they will require fundamental policy changes.


On 26 January 2011, the Seoul Prosecutors Office launched an investigation, charging Mr Kim for revealing in the Japanese version of this article matters only known to him through his official position as head of the National Intelligence Service. 


Kim Man-bok served as Director of the South Korean National Intelligence Service under the Government of President Roh Moo-hyun, 2003-2007.


Recommended citation: Kim Man-bok, Let's Turn Korea's West Sea (the Sea of Dispute) into a Sea of Peace and Prosperity, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 6 No 2, February 7, 2011.


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 Mohammed A. Bamyeh,  The Egyptian Revolution: First Impressions from the Field

Never has a revolution that seemed so lacking in prospects gathered momentum so quickly and so unexpectedly, the author writes from inside Tahrir Square. The Egyptian Revolution, starting on January 25, lacked leadership and possessed little organization; its defining events, on Friday, January 28, occurred on a day when all communication technologies, including all internet and phones, were barred; it took place in a large country known for sedate political life, a very long legacy of authoritarian continuity, and an enviable repressive apparatus consisting of more than 2 million members. But on that day, the regime of Hosni Mubarak, entrenched for 30 years and seemingly eternal, the only regime that the vast majority of the protesters had ever known, evaporated in one day.

Though the regime continues to struggle, practically little government exists. All ministries and government offices have been closed, and almost all police headquarters were burned down on January 28. Except for the army, all security personnel disappeared, and a week after the uprising, only a few police officers ventured out. Popular committees have since taken over security in the neighborhoods. I saw patriotism expressed everywhere as collective pride in the realization that people who did not know each other could act together, intentionally and with a purpose. During the ensuing week and a half, millions converged on the streets almost everywhere in Egypt, and one could empirically see how noble ethics-community and solidarity, care for others, respect for the dignity of all, feeling of personal responsibility for everyone-emerge precisely out of the disappearance of government.

Undoubtedly this revolution, which is continuing to unfold, will be the formative event in the lives of the millions of youth who spearheaded it in Egypt, and perhaps also the many more millions of youth who followed it throughout the Arab world. It is clear that it is providing a new generation with a grand spectacle of the type that had shaped the political consciousness of every generation before them in modern Arab history. All those common formative experiences of past generations were also grand national moments: whether catastrophic defeats or triumphs against colonial powers or allies.

Mohammed A. Bamyeh teaches sociology at The University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Anarchy as Order: The History and Future of Civic Humanity and the forthcoming Intellectuals and Civil Society in the Middle East: Liberalism, Modernity and Political Discourse. Text and photographs by the author.

Recommended citation: Mohammed A. Bamyeh, The Egyptian Revolution: First Impressions from the Field, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 6 No 3, February 7, 2011.

Greg Vanderebilt, "Your Own Sensitivity, At Least": Remembering the Postwar Poet Ibaragi Noriko, an Appreciation and Four Translations

This month marks the fifth anniversary of the death of the postwar poet Ibaragi Noriko (1926-2006). She was prepared: three months earlier, at age 79, she had written out a farewell letter and had it printed, ready to send to some two hundred of her friends and correspondents. Leaving blanks for the date (February 17, 2006, though it was two days later when she was found in her bed) and cause of her death (a brain hemorrhage), she expressed her wishes that there be no funeral or memorial and that no flowers be sent to her now vacant suburban home. Instead she made one request: "If you will pause for a moment, just a moment, and say to yourself 'So now she is gone...,' that will be enough."

Among the first poets to emerge in a new generation (and often considered the first and best-known woman among them) after the 1945 defeat, Ibaragi was sui generis in a time when poets were part of rebuilding the imagination of a citizenry, seeking to "cultivate" (tagayasu, her favorite verb, she said) in the language, place, and time where they happened to make their homes. With her beret and dark-rimmed glasses, her ever-present slim cigarettes and mellow voice, and her keen, youth-filled observations, she cut an unforgettable figure to the end of her life. A comment she made in her last months may well be a fitting summation: "I never thought I would have any affiliation, but in the end I can say I was affiliated with the Japanese language."

Greg Vanderbilt studied history at UCLA and is now working on a book on the lives of people who had Hansen's Disease in modern Japan. He previously contributed a translation of the essayist Okabe Itsuko (1923-2008) to The Asia-Pacific Journal.

Recommended citation: Greg Vanderbilt, "Your Own Sensitivity, At Least": Remembering the Postwar Poet Ibaragi Noriko, an Appreciation and Four Translations, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 6 No 1, February 7, 2011.

 Read more . . . 
 What's Hot?, Japan's Neonationalists on China; New Stage in US Use of Financial Sanctions as Strategic Weapon? Levey Departs

Breaking news articles, documents, videos, contentions, and snippets from across the web that illuminate major Asia-Pacific Journal themes.

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