The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 9. 2014    

March 3, 2014    
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In This Issue

Noam Chomsky
Interviewed by
David McNeill


In this issue a series of articles revisits the question of Japan's place in Asia in light of the history of colonialism and war from the 19th century through the Asia-Pacific War and the continuing legacy of historical memory controversies that have led to rising tensions not only between Japan and China and between Japan and South Korea, but also involving the Abe administration and Washington.

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Tessa Morris-Suzuki
Addressing Japan's 'Comfort Women' Issue from an Academic Standpoint  
On 4 August 1993, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Kōno Yōhei issued an official declaration on the issue of the so-called 'comfort women' - women recruited to work in a large network of brothels operated by the Japanese military during the Asia-Pacific War, where many suffered terrible sexual and other physical and mental abuse, and many died. Since that time, the Kōno Declaration has been a target of the Japanese political right, who insist that it dishonored Japan's dignity. In 2007, during the first Abe administration, the cabinet issued a 'decision' (kakugi kettei) which partially retracted the Kōno Declaration, denying that Japanese military or government officials had been personally involved in forcible recruitment of 'comfort women'.

The history of the 'comfort women' is not an issue of 'Japanese-versus-Koreans'. It is an issue of human rights and human dignity whose implications extend throughout East Asia and beyond. This article outlines a plan for how the Japanese government could promote academic research on the history of the 'comfort women' issue, and communicate that history to the public in line with the promises of the Kōno Declaration.

Tessa Morris-Suzuki is Professor of Japanese History in the Division of Pacific and Asian History, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University, and a Japan Focus associate. Her most recent book is Exodus to North Korea: Shadows from Japan's Cold War.  
Mizuno Naoki
Translated and Introduced by Mark E. Caprio
Stories from Beyond the Grave:
Investigating Japanese Burial Grounds in North Korea

Not all Japanese residents in Korea were able to return to their homeland following the end of the Second World War. Many stories of Japanese postwar migration and burial in North Korea have been ignored over the past seven decades. Rather, attention has been focused on the several hundred thousand Japanese (mostly military) that the Soviet military forcibly relocated to Siberia after the war for labor purposes.

Mizuno Naoki draws on research from a 2013 investigation into the burial site of roughly 34,000 Japanese laid to rest in northern Korea over the months that immediately followed the war's end. The burial areas include formal cemeteries that existed from colonial times, as well as some created literally where the Japanese died. Mizuno's efforts also offer a more humane side of postwar Japanese-Soviet-North Korean relations,  
citing cooperation by contemporary North Korean officials and local residents as a critical factor underlying any successes that his and other researchers' investigations have achieved and pointing to the possibilities for improved Japan-North Korea relations.  

Mizuno Naoki teaches and researches Korean History at Kyoto University. His publications include Sōshi kaimei ([Korean colonial-era] Name Changes). He also manages an on-line bibliography of postwar Japanese sources on Korean history.


Mark E. Caprio, professor at Rikkyo University, is currently working on a manuscript that considers dregs of Japanese colonialism in liberated Korea. He is the author of Japanese Assimilation Policies in Colonial Korea.

Holly H. Ming
Migrant Workers' Children and China's Future:
The Educational Divide

According to official figures published by China's National Bureau of Statistics, there were 252.78 million internal migrant workers in China at the end of 2011 - one-third of the country's labor force and its fastest growing sector. These workers, mainly rural migrants to cities and periurban areas, have contributed to China's impressive economic growth, helping generate over two trillion U.S. dollars' worth of exports in 2012. Migrant workers have formed a new underclass, caught in the urban-rural divide as the country undergoes rapid growth and urbanization. While these internal migrants' cheap labor has fueled urban and industrial growth over the last 30 years, their rural residency permits (hukou) prevent them and their children from accessing the social services that urban governments provide to local city dwellers, including public education.

Holly Ming analyzes the many educational challenges faced by migrant workers in Beijing and Shanghai where children have limited access to public primary and middle secondary schooling. How do students and parents negotiate a system wherein the gateway to higher education shuts abruptly before college entrance examinations, owing to hukou registration restrictions? 
Holly Ming received a Ph.D. in Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government in 2009. Since graduating, she has worked at the Youth Foundation, a Hong Kong-based non-profit, as a senior researcher for their program for migrant students in Beijing.

Pekka Korhonen
Leaving Asia? The Meaning of Datsu-A and Japan's Modern History  
The importance of forgetting the past or getting the facts wrong lies in the fact that at the bottom of political formations great injustices and even massacres can often be found, and directing public attention to them is not conducive to integrating a nation as a peaceful unity. An interesting instance of challenging a stable truth is the case of Fukuzawa Yukichi's alleged programme of datsu-A (脱亞, "leaving Asia"), and its usual interpretation as Japan's betrayal of neighbouring Asian countries during the late nineteenth century. Less dramatic than the Nanjing Massacre or forced prostitution cases during World War II,it is  nevertheless a topic of perennial discussion both in Japan and abroad.

This article argues that Fukuzawa Yukichi should not be blamed for a sin he did not commit, and that the history of the Japanese people does not contain any categorical betrayal of Asia in a cosmological sense. Redescribing, and then forgetting the 'leaving Asia' issue, of course does not wipe away the legacy of Japanese colonialism, invasion of neighbouring countries, war atrocities and the perennial political inability to bring closure to these issues. The datsu-A saga as it has been widely interpreted in both  East and West requires fundamental reinterpretation. 
Pekka Korhonen is Professor of World Politics at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, and Visiting scholar, Kyoto University. He is co-editor with Katalin Miklóssy of The East and the Idea of Europe (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2010).
Noam Chomsky
Interviewed by David McNeill
The Revenge of History: Chomsky on Japan, China, the United States, and the Threat of Conflict in Asia 

In the 1930s and 40s, Noam Chomsky was much affected by the Great Depression and the slow, seemingly inexorable slide toward world war. When Washington ended a campaign of mass civilian slaughter from the air with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in the summer of 1945, the 16-year-old felt deeply alienated by the celebrations around him. In the subsequent two decades, Chomsky built a glittering academic career, transforming the study of linguistics with a string of convention-shattering theories.  


Now aged 85, and still in demand across the world as a public speaker, Chomsky has returned to Japan at a time when the ghosts of World War II history have again returned to haunt the nation's politics, above all its unstable relationship with China. In this interview with David McNeill, Chomsky reflects on the once-unthinkable prospect of another war in East Asia, and the alternative: the development of a vibrant regional economy that could provide the foundation for a peaceful and prosperous Asia no longer so heavily dependent on a declining but still dangerous American military power.


Noam Chomsky's latest books are Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy and What We Say Goes, a conversation book with David Barsamian, both in the American Empire Project series at Metropolitan Books. 

David McNeill writes for The Independent and other publications, including The Irish Times, The Economist and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He is an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator and coauthor of Strong in the Rain: Surviving Japan's Earthquake, Tsunami and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).