The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 40. 2014       

October 6, 2014

New Articles


This issue features a series of articles highlighting abuses of state power in Thailand under martial law, in South Korea in the wake of the tragedy of the sinking of the Sewol ferry, and in the transborder world of smuggling and espionage during the US occupation of Japan.

Four months after the military coup d'état in Thailand, and in the wake of the interim constitution, the ruling junta has accelerated the crackdown on dissidents. While public protests have been crushed, other forms of resistance continue. Human rights scholar Tyrell Haberkorn examines  recent restrictions on free speech and the persecution of dissidents, including university-based democracy and human rights advocates, arguing that the repression is tantamount to the criminalization of thought.

Repercussions of the April sinking of the Sewol ferry that killed 324 passengers, most of them high school students, reverberates throughout South Korean politics and society. Jae-Jung Suh documents the monumental failures of the rescue mission, including at the highest levels of state, placing the public outcry over the tragedy and the government response and coverup in the context of neoliberal reforms of the Korean state that paved the way for the disaster.

Tessa Morris-Suzuki presents the first part of her investigation into the threads of espionage, counter espionage, smuggling, and "special renditions" (in current usage) that linked American intelligence and key figures of Japan's wartime military, drawing on recent scholarship and her own investigation into newly declassified CIA and other documents. Arguing for the need to understand this period as the "transwar" rather than "wartime" and "postwar," the article looks at the interface of intelligence gathering and political money laundering during this time, including the role of the CIA and other US spy agences in shaping the development of postwar politics.

What of substance can be learned from visits to North Korea? Emma Campbell reports on her field work over more than a decade. Despite travelling as a tourist, she shows how her ability to function in Chinese and Korean  makes possible observations of daily life that provide important insight into the closed nation, overcoming state attempts to present a particular image through controlled tours. In particular, she finds visible effects of the development of China, along with first-hand confirmation of reports by international institutions such as the United Nations.

Literature scholar Daniela Tan analyzes the language in accounts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Examining the works of Hara Tamiki, Ōta Yōko, Hayashi Kyōko and Ōe Kenzaburō, among others, she shows the diverse ways in which writers dealt with their experiences of the atomic bombs, as a reflection of the complexity of the memory of trauma, which lies in a "place that does not exist."
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