The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 28. 2011  
July 11, 2011  
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In This Issue


The Journal has now published more than sixty articles on the catastrophe that has shaken Eastern Japan since 3.11. Many of our most important articles, including one  this week,  appear in What's hot and they bring a diversity of sources and reports from Ground Zero in Tohoku and Tokyo. "What's hot" presents breaking stories and provides information beyond the headlines, to cast them in broader perspective. What's hot is regularly updated, at times on a daily basis, and we invite you to consult it and contribute to it.

Two major articles examine Korean issues. Tim Shorrock reads the Egyptian Revolution through the lens of Korea's Kwangju Rebellion of 1980 in light of newly released classified US documents. And Gwisook Gwon offers a close look at the fierce resistance to plans for a new naval base in South Korea, a story with many of the resonances of the Okinawan opposition for plans to construct a new US base at Henoko.

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David McNeill, After Fukushima: Winning the Battle for Hearts and Minds in Britain and Japan



With no end in sight to the world's worst atomic power crisis in a quarter of a century, collusion between Japan's nuclear industry and its supposedly neutral government watchdogs is, perhaps for the first time, under serious scrutiny. In May, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency singled out the lack of independence between regulators and the industry during a trip to Japan, noting that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) simultaneously promotes nuclear power and oversees it. Prime Minister Kan Naoto has since ordered a government committee to probe that relationship, though puzzlingly, committee head Hatamura Yotaro has said that it "will not aim to clarify" who is responsible for the accident.

With Fukushima Daiichi in ruins, the British government moved to assure that adverse reactions to the disaster did not derail its nuclear power agenda.
Such blurring of the public and private has long been seen as a peculiar feature of Japan's political and economic architecture, so it might come as a surprise to some to discover that Britain is not immune to similar collusion. The Guardian newspaper (link) reports that officials from the UK government's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills covertly reached out to British, French and US nuclear companies in the days after the Fukushima crisis erupted. According to the daily, the officials fretted that anti-nuclear activists would "waste no time blurring this all into Chernobyl" and urged close industry-government cooperation. "We need to all be working from the same material to get the message through to the media and the public," said one.  A few weeks after the memos were written, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency raised the rating of the disaster to 7, putting it on a par with the Chernobyl meltdown of 1986.

David McNeill writes for The Independent, The Irish Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He is an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator.

Recommended citation: David McNeill, After Fukushima: Winning the Battle for Hearts and Minds in Britain and Japan, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 30 No 1, July 11, 2011.

Read more . . .  
Bo Jacobs, Social Fallout: Marginalization After the Fukushima Nuclear Meltdown

On March 1, 1954 a Japanese tuna trawler was at sea in the Marshall Islands. Quite unexpectedly grey ash began to fall like snow and covered the boat and crew. It was not snow; it was radioactive fallout from a nuclear test that had been conducted by the United States hours earlier 90 miles from the exclusion zone proclaimed by the US. This nuclear explosion, known as the Bravo Test, was the first detonation of a deliverable hydrogen bomb. The 15 megaton bomb, approximately 1,000 times greater than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, was the largest explosion in human history at the time. It would render several of the atolls that make up the Marshall Islands uninhabitable. March 1st is now called Nuclear Victims and Survivors Remembrance Day in the Marshall Islands. However, for the crew members of the trawler it was a mystery.

Two weeks later the trawler pulled into port in Yaizu in Northeast Japan. The crew members were all sick with radiation poisoning, whose symptoms included pain, nausea, dizziness, burns and diarrhea and one, radio operator Kuboyama Aikichi, died six months later. News of the incident spread around the world and the word "fallout" entered the public vocabulary. The boat was named the Daigo Fukuryu maru: the Lucky Dragon #5. The Japanese kanji character "fuku" means fortunate or lucky.

The Japanese word fuku has recently returned to the newspapers of the world. This time it is in the name of the nuclear power plants that have melted down as a result of the earthquake and tsunami of March 11. Fukushima, the prefecture in which the meltdown occurred, means "fortunate island." In both of these instances it has come to carry a much darker connotation.

The author compares the plight of the victims of earlier nuclear weapons and test with the victims of radiation in Fukushima following 3.11.

Robert Jacobs is an associate professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute at Hiroshima City University. He is the author of The Dragon's Tail: Americans Face the Atomic Age  and the editor of Filling the Hole in the Nuclear Future: Art and Popular Culture Respond to the Bomb.

Recommended citation: Robert Jacobs, Social Fallout: Marginalization After the Fukushima Nuclear Meltdown, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 28 No 4, July 11, 2011.

Read more . . .   


APJ editors,The Voices of Ten Million: Anti-Nuclear Petition Movement Launched in Japan



A group of Japan's most prominent public intellectuals have launched a movement to amass ten million signatures calling for an end to Japanese nuclear power. The group, which includes Katsuto Uchihashi, Kenzaburo Ooe, Keiko Ochiai, Satoshi Kamata, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Hisae Sawachi, Jakucho Setouchi, Takashi Tsujii and Shunsuke Tsurumi, also plan a nationwide series of protests on September 11, the six month anniversary of the tsunami and the beginning of the Fukushima crisis.
The group's website (English here) describes their plan, and this article introduces their perspective through their writings.

Read more . . .  



Tim Shorrock, Reading the Egyptian Revolution Through the Lens of US Policy in South Korea Circa 1980: Revelations in US Declassified Documents


Since early 2011, major peoples' revolutions have swept through North Africa and the Middle East. Most recently, the revolts engulfed Syria and Libya, leading to enormous violence in both countries and a NATO-led bombing campaign in the latter. By far the most important to the United States was the uprising in Egypt, where the military took advantage of a popular insurrection to stage a coup against Hosni Mubarak, a 30-year U.S. ally whose military forces and intelligence services had - and continue to have - extremely close ties to Washington. In August, Mubarak will face trial for corruption and murdering protesters during the uprising that engulfed Cairo's Tahrir Square for 18 days in January. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

As the mass and social media beamed the so-called "Arab Spring" around the world, analysts and pundits in the United States quickly began comparing the revolts to past uprisings, particularly those during the Cold War, which had shaken U.S. foreign policy. A favorite topic, particularly on Fox News, was Egypt's purported similarity to the Iranian revolution of 1979, which toppled the pro-US Shah of Iran and eventually led to a Shiite Islamic state hostile to the United States. A few opportunistic neocon voices also compared the Obama administration's public support for Mubarak's opponents to Washington's past actions to pressure Ferdinand Marcos and Suharto to end their dictatorial rule in the Philippines and Indonesia once popular uprisings had already sealed their fate.
But not a single analyst or journalist of note mentioned what remains one of the most significant rebellions against a US-backed tyrant of the past half-century: the student and worker uprising in South Korea in 1979 and 1980, which was mercilessly crushed by the Korean military with the US support. This article examines the movements, and US policies, in the two nations.

Tim Shorrock, a writer and trade unionist based in Washington, is the author of SPIES FOR HIRE: The Secret World of Outsourced Intelligence.

Recommended citation: Tim Shorrock, Reading the Egyptian Revolution Through the Lens of US Policy in South Korea Circa 1980: Revelations in US Declassified Documents, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 28 No 3, July 11, 2011.

Read more . . .   


Gwisook Gwon,Protests Challenge Naval Base Construction on Jeju Island, South Korea: Hunger Strike Precipitates a National and International Movement



In May 2011, 'Vimeo' and 'Youtube' posted a film interview with Korean film critic Yang Yoon-moo.1 The interview shows why Yang has struggled against the naval base building for 4 years in Gangjeong village, Jeju Island south-west of the mainland of Korea and strategically located in relation to China, Japan, Korea and Russia.

In addition, the film shows his forcible arrest by police on April 6, 2011. Following his arrest he maintained a hunger strike for 71 days including 57 days in prison. Why did he (and fellow residents of Gangjeong village) conclude that have no other choice than to risk their lives to prevent the construction of a base?

The movement against construction of a naval base on Jeju Island began in 2002 when the Korean navy announced plans to pursue an 'ocean navy strategy' to build military strength at sea through deploying large warships. This article traces the development of the movement and assesses its significance and prospects.

Gwisook Gwon is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Jeju National University on Jeju Island. Her book, The Politics of Memory, a study of the Jeju 4.3 uprising, was designated an excellent book of the year 2007 by The National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Korea.

Recommended citation: Gwisook Gwon, Protests Challenge Naval Base Construction on Jeju Island, South Korea: Hunger Strike Precipitates a National and International Movement, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 28 No 2, July 11, 2011.

Read more . . .