The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 10. 2013    

March 11, 2013    
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On the second anniversary of the 3.11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown we post two articles by David McNeill and Roger Pulvers reflecting on the disaster and its legacy from the angle of media coverage and the consequences for the region. JJ Suh and Taehyun Nam consider the implications for Korean Democracy of the 2010 sinking of Cheonan at a time when a new administration takes office in South Korea and the prospects for peace in the region dim. Mikyoung Kim provides an examination of Japanese denialism of the comfort woman issue and the case of two monument in Korea and the United States to commemorate their experience.

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David McNeill, Truth to Power: Japanese Media, International Media and 3.11 Reportage

Two years after the Fukushima nuclear crisis began two media experts dissect how it has been covered by the media in Japan. Uesugi Takashi is a freelance journalist and author of several books on the Fukushima crisis, including Terebi Wa Naze Heiki De Uso Wo Tsukunoka? (Why does television tell so many lies?).  He is also one of the founders of The Free Press Association of Japan, which attempts to offer an alternative to Japan's press club system. Ito Mamoru, is professor of media and cultural studies at Waseda University and author of Terebi Wa Genpatsu Jiko Dou Tsutaetenoka? (How did television cover the nuclear accident?).

David McNeill is the Japan correspondent for The Chronicle of Higher Education and writes for The Independent and Irish Times newspapers. He covered the nuclear disaster for all three publications, has been to Fukushima ten times since 11 March 2011, and has written the book Strong in the Rain (with Lucy Birmingham) about the disasters. He is an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator.

Recommended citation: David McNeill, "Truth to Power: Japanese Media, International Media and 3.11 Reportage," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 11, Issue 10, No. 3, March 11, 2012."


Read More. . .
Jae-Jung Suh and Taehyun Nam, Rethinking the Prospects for Korean Democracy in Light of the Sinking of the Cheonan and North-South Conflict

This article examines the sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean navy ship, on March 26 2010. Known as the Cheonan incident, it resulted in the deaths of 46 seamen and gave rise to subsequent political developments that provide a barometer of the current status and future prospects of Korea's democracy and of North-South relations. From a military perspective, the incident involved a serious breach of national security for the ship sank near the northern maritime border with North Korea.


The Cheonan incident quickly emerged as an emotionally gripping issue as the sinking was followed by drawn-out rescue attempts, salvage operations and finally a forensic analysis. It gradually grew to become one of the most contentious political issues as the South Korean government's handling betrayed curious inconsistencies leading the media and the public to raise questions. The simmering political tension boiled over after a government-appointed investigation team concluded that the sinking was due to a North Korean torpedo, leading to South Korean retaliatory measures including a call to halt all inter-Korean exchanges. The public quickly noted serious problems in the government's report, and the government responded with legal and extra-legal measures to silence critical voices. What began as the sinking of a ship was thus transformed into a test of the health of Korean democracy.


The authors argue that the reactions by the government and civil society to the sinking of the Cheonan corvette revealed important aspects of Korea's democracy.


Recommended citation: Jae-Jung Suh & Taehyun Nam, "Rethinking the Prospects for Korean Democracy in Light of the Sinking of the Cheonan and North-South Conflict," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 11, Issue 10, No. 1, March 11, 2012."

Jae-Jung Suh is Associate Professor at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC and an Asia-Pacific Journal associate. He is the author of Power, Interest and Identity in Military Alliances.

Taehyun Nam is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Salisbury University in Salisbury, MD, USA. His research focuses on mobilization and domestic conflicts. With Robinson Leonard he is the author of Introduction to Politics.


Read More. . .


Mikyoung Kim, Human Rights, Memory and Reconciliation: Korea-Japan Relations

The new Abe administration in Japan plans to re-examine the 1993 Kono statement in which Chief Cabinet Secretary Kono Yohei, apologized and admitted the Japanese government's responsibility for the comfort station operations. If it proceeds with this plan, the Abe government is likely to whitewash or revoke the Kono statement, which has been the consistent object of resentment and criticisms among neonationalists. Mr. Abe has been arguing that no historical documents exist to support the claim of forcible recruitment of girls and young women into wartime military sexual slavery. Suga Yoshihide, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, has stated that the government will invite a group of historians to study the war front brothel operations .


The timing of the Abe administration's moves to reinvestigate the comfort women issues causes concerns in South Korea where the first female President, Park Geun Hye was recently inaugurated. Park, known for her adamant stance on Japan-Korea historical reconciliation, has reiterated the need for Japan to sincerely confront the unresolved historical issues in order to move forward in bilateral relations. This article analyzes the dynamics of memory politics involving the two neighboring countries by examining the establishment of and reactions to two comfort women memorials in Seoul, Korea, and Palisades Park, New Jersey, USA.

Mikyoung Kim is associate professor at the Hiroshima City University-Hiroshima Peace Institute, Japan.She has published widely on memory, human rights and pacifist movements in East Asia. Kim is coeditor of Northeast Asia's Difficult Past: Essays in Collective Memory (Palgrave Macmillan) and the North Korean Review. She is the author of Securitization of Human Rights: North Korean Refugees in East Asia (Praeger). She is a guest editor of Memory Studies Journal for a special issue on Korean memory (April 2013, Vol. 6, No. 2).


Recommended citation: Mikyoung Kim, "Human Rights, Memory and Reconciliation: Korea-Japan Relations," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 11, Issue 10, No. 2, March 11, 2013.

Read More. . . 

Roger Pulvers, Tohoku Has Been Rent Asunder for Future Generations

There are now three Tohokus ... and there have been since the afternoon of March 11, 2011.


One part of that region of northeastern Honshu comprises districts not directly affected by that day's Great East Japan Earthquake or the huge tsunami it triggered. A second is the coastal areas that were inundated or destroyed. The third is the towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture affected by radioactive contamination from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.


Despite these demarcations, however, the entire Tohoku region and, in a sense, all Japan has been contaminated by radioactivity or the fear of contamination now and in the future.


Roger Pulvers is an author, playwright, theater director and translator who divides his time between Tokyo and Sydney. He has published more than 40 books. His latest book in English is "The Dream of Lafcadio Hearn." He is an Asia-Pacific Journal associate.


Recommended citation: Roger Pulvers, "Tohoku Has Been Rent Asunder for Future Generations," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 10, No. 4. March 11, 2013.


Read More. . .