The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 13. 2014    

March 31, 2014    
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In This Issue


On March 29th, thirty associates and authors of APJ met at the Association for Asian Studies meeting in Philadelphia to chart the journal's future. Look for changes and new synergies and special issues as well as new design features in the coming months. 

James Hansen,

the leading US climate scientist recent critiqued the work on Chinese green energy policies by our authors John Mathews and Hao Tan. See their response in this issue and their article last week on China's energy revolution.

Koide Reiko

draws attention to a Critical New Stage in Japan's Textbook Controversy outlining the Abe administration's aggressive steps to consolidate control over historical memory in Japan's school textbooks. A recent influential report has placed human rights violations in North Korea at the center of global debate.

Christine Hong

offers a critical rethinking of the debate by enlarging the frame of reference to include the ongoing Korean War in War by Other Means: The Violence of North Korean Human Rights.


Thanks to  the generous support of our readers, we succeeded in raising more than $12,000 to fund the Journal for 2014. The Journal will remain free. You can still support the journal at our home page with your 501 (C) tax-deductible gift.

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Koide Reiko
Critical New Stage in Japan's Textbook Controversy    
In order to be eligible for use at public and even private schools, Japanese textbooks must be compiled by private publishers in accordance with the National Curriculum Standards and then endorsed by a Ministry of Education (MEXT) organ, the Textbook Approval and Research Council, and finally authorized by MEXT in accord with their Textbook Examination Standards. In the process, scrutiny by "textbook experts" and "specialists" "ensures that the textbooks are objective and impartial." At one 2012 MEXT meeting, Abe Shinzo, who became prime minister a few months later, targeted one particular history textbook because it mentioned the forceful recruitment - the text called it "mobilization" - of women to the Japanese military's sanctioned brothels - classified as "comfort women" - during the Asia-Pacific War (1931-1945). 

This article analyzes how a textbook becomes part of a school curriculum by explaining carefully Japan's textbook screening process and the influence of State actors on textbook authors. Koide Reiko shows how history textbook content, standards, and review have been taken completely out of the hands of historians and educators and placed directly under the control of politicians, and warns against the selective and systemic forgetfulness that can lead to contempt toward other nations, fundamentalism, essentialism, isolationism, and ultimately, to war.  
Christine Hong
War by Other Means:
The Violence of North Korean Human Rights

Offering an historicized overview of the consolidation of contemporary human rights as the dominant lingua franca for social justice projects, this article applies it to the debate over human rights in North Korea. What does the rights framework render legible and what consigns to unintelligibility? Hong examines the antinomies of contemporary human rights as an ethico-political discourse that strives to reassert the dominance of the global North over the global South. The human rights framing of North Korea has enabled human rights advocates, typically "beneficiaries of past injustice," to assume a moralizing, implicitly violent posture toward a "regime" commonsensically understood to be "evil," one that distances contemporary Korean issues from the ongoing Korean War.

The North Korean human rights project has allowed a spectrum of political actors-U.S. soft-power institutions, thinly renovated Cold War defense organizations, hawks of both neoconservative and liberal varieties, conservative evangelicals, anticommunist Koreans in South Korea and the diaspora, and North Korean defectors-to join together in common cause. By contrast, Hong enables a range of critical perspectives - from U.S.- and South Korea-based scholars, policy analysts, and social justice advocates - to attend to what has hovered outside or been marginalized within the dominant human rights framing of North Korea as a narrowly inculpatory, normative structure.

Christine Hong is an assistant professor of literature at UC Santa Cruz and an executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute. She is co-editor of the Critical Asian Studies issues on "Reframing North Korean Human Rights" (45:4 (2013) and 46:1 (2014)).
John Mathews and John Hansen, Jousting with James Hansen: China building a renewables powerhouse

We have the dubious distinction of being misrepresented by Dr James Hansen, surely the most famous climate scientist in the world. In this article, we begin our rebuttal by affirming our unbounded admiration for Dr Hansen. He is not only the world's top climate scientist but also a fearless, and deliberately activist, exponent of the view that the age of fossil fuels is - and must be - drawing to an end. Dr Hansen's research and activism are a major reason we are having this debate about climate and energy.

So we have no disagreement that it is imperative to end the age of fossil fuels. Where we part company, however, is on the policy implications. We have been caught in Dr Hansen's wider trawl for what he calls "Renewables can do all" greenies, or what might better be called "Nothing but renewables" greenies (NBRGs). He accuses NBRGs of mistakenly promoting renewables at the expense of nuclear power and thereby opening the way towards the rise and conquest of the gas industry.

Our concern however is with China and the representation of its efforts to build a sustainable energy system to underpin its awesome and dangerously polluting industrial machine.  See our article  China's Continuing Renewable Energy Revolution: Global Implications.


Read more. . .