The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 33. 2011  
August 15, 2011  
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In This Issue


World attention on the 3.11 disaster has focused on the radiation and other consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdowns. But as Winifred Bird and Elizabeth Grossman document, chemical contamination poses an equally dangerous situation throughout the Northeast and beyond through contamination of soil, air and food. In addition, we present articles by Gwiook Gwon and by John Esperjesi on the continuing anti-base struggle in South Korea. 

Many of our most important articles 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.

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Winifred A. Bird and Elizabeth Grossman, Chemical Contamination, Cleanup and Longterm Consequences of Japan's Earthquake and Tsunami



Writers Winifred A. Bird and Elizabeth Grossman followed the unfolding Tokohu disaster from their respective offices in Nagano, Japan, and Portland, Oregon. To form a picture of the damage, begin to understand how chemical contaminants and their potential health hazards are being handled after the tsunami, and assess their longterm effects, Bird visited the hard-hit prefectures of Ibaraki, Iwate, and Miyagi, while Grossman researched company and chemical information and how such issues are handled in the United States. While Japanese and international attention has focused on radiation danger associated with the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, chemical contamination also promises to significantly impact the region and its ability to recover.


Winifred A. Bird is a freelance journalist living in Nagano, Japan. Her work has appeared in the Japan Times, Science, Yale Environment 360, Dwell, and other publications.

Elizabeth Grossman, a Portland, OR-based environmental and science writer, has written for, Yale Environment 360, Scientific American, The Washington Post, and other publications. Her books include
Chasing Molecules and High Tech Trash.
This is a revised and expanded version of Bird WA, Grossman E 2011. Chemical Aftermath: Contamination and Cleanup Following the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. Environmental Health Perspectives.
Recommended citation: Winifred A. Bird and Elizabeth Grossman, Chemical Contamination, Cleanup and Longterm Consequences of Japan's Earthquake and Tsunami, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Volume 9, Issue 33, No 1, August 15, 2011.

 Read more . . .
Gwisook Gwon, National and International Protests Challenge Naval Base Construction on Jeju Island, South Korea

Tension heightened in Gangjeong village on August 14 when the protestors learned that 500-600 policemen, 16 police buses, 10 vehicles with suppression gear including 3 water cannons were dispatched from the mainland. The protesters responded by confirming their determination to protect their village/
Meanwhile, the navy announced that it was proceeding with construction in a land area of 489,000 square meters with an investment of 9.8 trillion won. It stated that 14% of the work has already been completed at a cost of 1.4 trillion won. At this writing, peace activist, Choi Sung-hee remains in prison,1 and some 40 protestors have been charged with obstruction and fined 50 million won. In addition to applying for an injunction against 77 protestors, the navy and Samsung C & T claimed 290 million won in compensation for damages by 14 protestors.

This is a major update on development in South Korea's anti-base struggle.

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 33 No 2, August 15, 2011.

Read more . . .

John Eperjesi, Jeju: From peace island to war island



Korean-American writer Paul Yoon's 2009 short story collection Once the Shore (Sarabande), which won the prize for fiction at the 13th Asian American Literary Awards, is set on a fictionalized version of Jeju Island and deals with the devastating impact of militarism, colonialism, and the cold war on a rugged island culture.


In Once the Shore, Yoon gives us Oceania from below, an island multitude composed of service workers, farmers, divers, fishermen, war orphans, and various others who form strange friendships across barriers of age, gender, ethnicity, and nationality. The lead story is set in the present and opens with a sixty-something American woman at a high-end tourist resort gazing out over the ocean while thinking about her deceased husband, a Korean War veteran who she comes to realize probably cheated on her and lied about it when he returned from the war.
She befriends a young Korean waiter who often stands behind her listening, "as if it weren't her voice at all, but one that originated from the sea." During the woman's visit, the waiter's brother, a fisherman, is killed when an American submarine on training exercises surfaces and sinks his fishing boat.

Throughout the story, the waiter fixates on the terror of drowning. Cold War past and present is fused in the widow's and waiter's discrepant memories of loved ones, their awkward, distracted friendship grounded in the ability to partially identify with the other's loss, a process of identification that appears as each gazes silently out over the ocean, beneath the glimmering surface of which submarines cruise like whales on a hunt. Yoon has commented that the initial idea for this story came from the sinking of the Ehime Maru, a Japanese fishing boat, by the USS Greenville, an American nuclear-powered submarine, off the coast of Oahu in 2001.

The relevance of Yoon's stories to the real Jeju Island has recently intensified as concrete has begun to pour on coral reefs to make way for an "eco-friendly" military base for South Korea's expanding blue water navy, at the head of which is the 18,000 ton assault ship symbolically named the Dokdo, which makes it almost as big as the island in the East Sea it is named after.

  Read more . . .