The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 15. 2014    

April 14, 2014    
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In This Issue


The debate over Abenomics has focused on issues of economic growth. Scott North makes clear the implications for worker rights and social inequality through analysis of contemporary debates over plans for transforming worker rights through a program of limited regular employment designed to eliminate Japan's controversial 'lifetime employment system'. Korea's Japanese colonial rulers established their presence, among other things by destroying a primary symbol of the Korean monarchy and building the central colonial administrative building on its site. As Jung-Sun Han demonstrates, the site would be the crux of subsequent political struggles over the decades, eventually resulting in reclamation of the royal site by Korean nationalists. The struggles reveal much about the politics and historical memory of colonial and postcolonial Korea.

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Scott North
Limited Regular Employment and the Reform of Japan's Division of Labor

Responses to Japanese Prime Minister Abe's proposed labor reforms, which are associated with the economic stimulus plan hyped as "Abenomics," offer a window on the major debates over Japan's future. North summarizes and analyzes six responses to new rules that would encourage expansion of "limited regular employment," an employment status between Japan's famous "lifetime employment" and the burgeoning number of non-regular often part-time workers.

Proponents in the business community and government tout limited regular employment (gentei seiki koyou) as a way to introduce flexibility and mobility in the labor market, boosting productivity, and helping stem the bifurcation of Japanese society into winners, with regular employment, and losers, with non-regular jobs. Opponents, however, see the proposed reforms as an ominous step toward dismantling Japan's already weak worker protections. They argue that limited regular employment is a poison pill containing inherent contradictions that threaten the hopes of women and younger workers for stable careers, while loosening long-standing social and legal constraints on employers' right to dismiss workers. Parliamentary debate on this legislation is set for the summer of 2014.

Scott North is Professor of Sociology in the School of Human Sciences at Osaka University. He is the author of The Work-Family Dilemmas of Japan's Salarymen, in Men, Wage Work and Family, edited by Paula McDonald and Emma Jeanes (Routledge, 2012) and other papers on work and family life in Japan.

Jung-Sun Han
Japan in the public culture of South Korea, 1945-2000s:
The making and remaking of colonial sites and memories

This article examines public memory of Japanese colonial rule in South Korea by focusing on the site of the former Japanese Government-General Building (GGB) in Seoul.  Completed in 1926, the GGB, built on the site of one of the most important royal palaces of the Chosŏn dynasty (1392-1910), the Kyŏngbok, bore witness both to the colonial and postcolonial periods of modern Korean history. The colonial administration began  construction of the GGB in 1916 and completed it in 1926. For nearly two decades, until 1945, the building housed offices of the colonial government. The building then survived a further five decades of Korea's turbulent post-liberation history before its demolition in the early 1990s.

In exploring these questions, the author briefly summarizes the history of the GGB before analysing the political context for the official decision to demolish the GGB in the early 1990s, reflected in the media, at two levels: reaction from 'specialists' of various kinds (architects, city planners, and so forth), and the general public. Han uses the history of the GGB as a template for revealing changing attitudes and memories in contemporary Korean society with respect to Japan and the colonial past.

Dr. Jung-Sun Han is an Associate Professor in the Division of International Studies, Korea University, Seoul. Han has worked on the interwar and wartime Japanese political thought and Japan-Korea relations through the lens of visual culture of modern Japan.