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Archive for the category “Northeast Asia”

Japan and North Korea need to go the extra mile in order to lay the path ahead

Japan and North Korea need to go the extra mile in order to lay the path ahead

Ri Kuk-Chol and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Japan and North Korea have had a frosty relationship for far too long and it is hoped that officials from both nations will have laid the foundation stone for genuinely turning the corner. Of course, expectations are not too high because of countless stumbling blocks on both sides. However, if officials from Japan and North Korea can overcome genuine concerns and at least start to “walk together,” even if not in complete unison, then this will be positive.

North Korea must understand that negative relations with Japan only serve the enemies of Pyongyang. Likewise, political leaders in Tokyo have recently witnessed the “nationalist switch” in China and South Korea respectively. Therefore, it is clear in Tokyo that the only “trusted friend” in the region is Taiwan. Yet if the “Chinese economic bandwagon” one day swallows this island economically, then even this solace may be taken away.

The Russian Federation is also a central nation in the geopolitical reality of Northeast Asia and throughout other parts of Asia. After all, political elites in Moscow fully understand the geopolitical importance of Central Asia and developing strong ties with China and India respectively. At the same time the geopolitical importance of Mongolia is fully understood in the Russian Federation. Therefore, Japan should overcome its petty nationalist tendencies towards this major power and seek a solution to the disputed areas, which continue to hinder a powerful friendship based on mutual trust.

Turning back to events covering the talks today between officials from Japan and North Korea, it is obvious that both nations need to “break their respective chains.” The new political leader in North Korea can show the world that he is open to sweeping geopolitical changes alongside supporting genuine economic reforms with the help of China. Given this reality, Kim Jong-un can genuinely try to reach the masses based on the similar motives of Deng Xiaoping in China when he came to power.

The Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan, Osamu Fujimura, stated prior to the meeting that “The abduction issue will be included as a matter of course.” Likewise, Koichiro Gemba, Foreign Minister of Japan, spoke in a similar vein when he stated that “We’d like to ask the North Korean side to positively work on pending issues between the two countries including the abduction issue.”

However, despite the seriousness of this issue it is clear that political leaders in Tokyo must move towards a more broad approach. Surely, other more important issues like the nuclear angle, geopolitical concerns, testing military hardware and building economic bridges must outweigh the continuing stumbling blocks. Once other developments move forward then naturally North Korea will be more forthcoming.

Japan must understand that millions of Koreans died defending Korean nationalism from Japanese imperialism and then against American aggression during the Korean War. After the brutal Korean War the United States then supported successive authoritarian governments in South Korea before the onset of democracy in this nation. It is too easy to point the finger at North Korea but the reality is that all nations have their own histories and outside forces led to a siege mentality in Pyongyang – but this siege mentality was not based on whims but on hard facts related to history.

Japan and North Korea need to forgo the historical and political obstacles in order to radically alter the situation. Osamu Fujimura stated that “We have been working based on the principle of settling the unfortunate past and on restoring normal relations.”

The new leader of North Korea showed sincerity by allowing a group of nationals from Japan to reclaim loved ones who died because of the tragic events of World War Two. Sadao Masaki, who is part of this group, commented that “Things have proceeded to a stage that is beyond what we had even hoped for. We are extremely grateful.”

In another article by Modern Tokyo Times about relations between Japan and North Korea, it was stated thatSome analysts are indicating that North Korea is reaching out because of current tensions between Japan and other regional nations based on territorial issues. For example harsh comments have been made by the leader of South Korea towards Japan in recent times. However, this is too cynical because the new leader of North Korea must be judged on what happens during his leadership.”

Analysts in Japan and North Korea are eagerly awaiting the outcome and clearly major powers throughout the region will be watching events closely. It is only hoped that political leaders in Japan and North Korea will move forward by showing sincerity and mutual respect.

 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

Russia in the vanguard against America and NATO: Missile Defense System and Japan

Russia in the vanguard against America and NATO: Missile Defense System and Japan

Murad Makhmudov and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The two-party system in America which maintains the endless power mechanisms century after century, finds it difficult to support a world based on special interests. Instead, irrespective if a Democratic government or Republican government, it is one endless system based on the containment of perceived threats. Therefore, President Obama is following on from George W. Bush with regards to the missile defense system. It is once more apparent that politicians in Washington care little about a world based on mutual respect, special interests, understanding the geopolitics of other major powers, and so forth.

According to America and NATO the missile defense system is aimed at protecting nations from Iran and North Korea. This is clearly manipulating reality because how is North Korea a threat to mainland America and NATO members?  After all, which nation and military alliance invades other nations and controls vast military resources? Yes, of course this applies to America and NATO. However, in the world of “reality” and “unreality,” political leaders in Washington just have to keep on pressing ahead with their power mechanisms along with NATO.

Iran could not even defeat Iraq during the brutal war between both nations (1980-1988). Also, which nations did Iran and North Korea invade in the last 50 years? Of course, the situation on the Korean peninsula is delicate but the status quo is maintained because of many factors. Indeed, if North Korea collapsed then this would highlight the “sham” of the real objectives of America in northeast Asia. After all, the bigger picture for America is containing China and the Russian Federation.

Therefore, ironically, the status quo on the Korean peninsula isn’t such a bad thing for America. If North Korea did collapse, then what would be the reasons behind the continuing presence of American forces in Japan and South Korea? Japan, on the other hand, is concerned about nuclear weapons in the hands of North Korea and the ongoing militarization of the armed forces of China.

Japan also is beset with territorial disputes with China, the Russian Federation, South Korea, and Taiwan. However, Japan and Taiwan have very good relations and the economic angle between China and Japan is continuing to strengthen. Despite this, Japan is rightly concerned about the militarization of China. Also, many other regional nations which share territorial disputes with China feel the same. Therefore, it is essential for Japan to build-up stronger relations with India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and other nations. At the same time, Japan also needs to develop stronger ties with China providing this is reciprocal.

Turning back to the proposed missile defense system by America and NATO, it is clear that this is raising tensions with Moscow. However, political leaders in Moscow are not interested in “a new Cold War” because the Russian Federation wants to see a world based on greater understanding. This applies to respecting the changing nature of the power dynamics of the twenty-first century and respecting international law.

The economic power of nations who belong to the BRICS group (Brazil, China, India, the Russian Federation, and South Africa) is extremely high. President Hu Jintao of China commented about the BRICS group thatThese countries form an important part of common development of the world, which is conducive to a more balanced world economy, more reasonable international relations, more effective global governance and more durable world peace…..It is consistent with the trend of times characterized by peace, development and co-operation, and fully conducive to building a harmonious world of durable peace and common prosperity.”

Nations which comprise of the BRICS group don’t have a military angle like NATO but these countries want to see a world whereby greater international transparency emerges. The United States have invaded or supported proxies since World War Two in Afghanistan, Angola, Bolivia, Cambodia, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, East Timor, El Salvador, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Libya, North Korea/South Korea (Korean War), Nepal, Nicaragua, Pakistan/Bangladesh (West Pakistan/East Pakistan war), Panama, Philippines, Syria, Vietnam, and Yugoslavia. The list could have included others but clearly the point is that tens of millions of people have been killed by America’s direct involvement in these conflicts or because of America supporting proxy armies to do its bidding.

Clearly, the world was complex during the Cold War because America and the Soviet Union had no qualms about abusing power mechanisms. Also, in some conflicts America may have had good intentions where the political angle wasn’t the real motive but these are few and far. It also must be stated that other powers have been involved in supporting bloodshed and brutal dictators have also killed untold numbers. However, for political leaders in Washington it is clear that no continent is beyond their meddling and so-called special interests.

NATO for its part is firmly based on the northern hemisphere and of special interests are the Russian Federation, China, Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and the Balkans. Central Asia is an area where America and NATO can reach into the underbelly of China and the Russian Federation therefore this area is of major strategic importance. However, the Russian Federation doesn’t desire to have such hostilities with political leaders in Washington but the encroachment of NATO, despite the demise of the Cold War, is clear evidence that Moscow is deemed with suspicion.

Therefore, Obama’s support of the missile defense system may be “the final nail in the coffin” for Moscow because clearly North Korea and Iran isn’t the issue. Anatoly Serdyukov, Russian Defense Minister, stated that talks with Washington and NATO over the defense missile system were close to a dead end.”

Gen Nikolai Makarov, the Russian defense staff, stated that “A decision to use destructive force pre-emptively will be taken if the situation worsens.” Therefore, once more political leaders in Washington are creating tensions rather than understanding the genuine concerns of other nations. Gen Nikolai Makarov also made it clear that if a European shield came into fruition then Moscow would increase its warheads to be even more destructive. However, this crisis shouldn’t even be on the map and the same applies to NATO expansion despite the demise of the Soviet Union.

Turning back to Japan, a nation which is helping the international community greatly by its economic support of major institutions, for example the United Nations and International Monetary Fund; it is vital that political leaders in Tokyo don’t become embroiled in America’s containment policies of the Russian Federation. After all, Japan and the Russian Federation have much to offer each other. This applies to high technology and major investments from Japan – and from the side of the Russian Federation, it applies to energy pipelines and other natural resources. Therefore, it is essential that both Moscow and Tokyo move closer together because leaders in the Russian Federation don’t have any ill will towards Northeast Asia.

Indeed, if relations began to blossom between Japan and the Russian Federation, then this would strengthen both nations throughout this very strategic region. Japan’s main concerns internationally are China and North Korea. Domestically it applies to energy related issues and implementing a diverse energy policy. Therefore, political leaders in Moscow could wield their influence on China in order to strengthen ties between Japan and China. At the same time, the special relationship between America and Japan should co-exist but within a framework of greater parity for Japan. This would be a win-win situation for Japan because it would create greater stability for the people of Northeast Asia.

It is essential that political leaders in Moscow remain firm and seek to create greater international mechanisms which prevent the ongoing containment policies of Washington and NATO. China, the Russian Federation, Iran, and other nations, within the containment policies of Washington, have American forces within a close proximity of their respective nations. How would Americans feel if these nations did the same and developed bases in Canada and Mexico – and then developed a new defense missile system in the backyard of America – would Americans welcome this?

Political leaders in Moscow and Beijing want more honesty and neither nation is interested in creating tensions with Washington. On the contrary, both nations are seeking greater economic, political, and cultural ties with nations internationally. It is time for political leaders in Washington to escape their ongoing “Cold War mentality” and interventionist policies, which often backfire and cause even more chaos.

Meanwhile for Japan it is essential to maintain its special relationship with America but based on greater parity. At the same time, Japan must develop a greater strategy to overcome territorial disputes with regional nations and to strengthen relations with the Russian Federation. This will help Japan greatly to develop a more diverse energy policy and increase its dealings with China.

The American people for decades have given vast sums to charity projects throughout the world and done so much to help in the area of greater cultural understanding. It is about time that political leaders in Washington followed suit, in order to strengthen international systems which can respond to major events. If change doesn’t occur then more American soldiers will die based on policies which are not related to protecting America. Also, “a new Cold War” will emerge based on the geopolitics of nations which feel threatened by the expansion of America and NATO.

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

Japanese art and Bunjinga (Nanga): the influence of China and Korea in the Edo period

Japanese art and Bunjinga (Nanga): the influence of China and Korea in the Edo period

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Bunjinga school of thought ran deep within the literati of Japan during the Edo period. Bunjin (literati) artists trace their artistic roots to the literati of China during the Song Dynasty (960-1267). However, the differences between the Japanese literati and Chinese literati, is notable because of the opposite side of the coin applying.  Also, the isolationist policies of Japan in the Edo period meant that bunjin artists didn’t have the complete picture of the cultural reality of the Song Dynasty.

Bunjinga is also called Nanga and on the British Museum website it states that “The Japanese Bunjinga school of literati ‘scholar-amateur’ artists flourished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is also known as Nanga (‘Southern painting’). The school was based on the literati movement that developed in China over a long period of time as a reaction against the formal academic painting of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1126). Rather than technical proficiency, literati artists cultivated a lack of affectation in an attempt to tune in to the rhythms of nature. In Japan, this was only partially understood: many Japanese bunjin were simply trying to escape the restrictions of the academic Kanō and Tosa schools while imitating Chinese culture. At first, the only models available were woodblock-printed manuals such as the Kaishien gaden (‘Mustard Seed Garden’) and a few imported Chinese paintings. Some Chinese monks of the ōbaku Zen sect taught painting in Nagasaki. Unlike their Chinese counterparts, the Japanese bunjin were not necessarily carefree artists and scholars from wealthy, bureaucratic backgrounds, and many had to sell their work to make a living.”

The political reality of the Edo period meant that Japanese artists were forbidden to travel to China. This policy was called sakoku (locked country) and clearly this prevented the real study of the Song Dynasty.  Therefore, the free movement of people leaving or entering Japan was enforced strictly and only limited “windows” were open.

Given this, the real terminology should be kaikin (maritime prohibitions) but from the point of view of bunjingaartists, then clearly sakoku created major restrictions in their pursuit of knowledge and reality. Japan wasn’t fully isolated because cultural meeting points happened with the people of Ryuku (Okinawa) and the Ainu. Also, Nagasaki, and a few other places, enabled outside cultural interactions despite the severe limitations on “real interaction” based on the freedom of movement.

Bunjinga artists therefore resided in a world where restrictions were put in place and clearly even in the modern world certain nations are still hostile to outside influences which threaten the status quo. For example, in modern day Saudi Arabia all converts from Islam face death, just like all converts to Christianity faced death during the Edo period. Meanwhile, in North Korea this nation wants to maintain severe restrictions on the outside world based on political motives. In both Saudi Arabia and North Korea many windows are open in the field of trade. However, despite the huge differences of these two nations, you do see aspects of sakokudespite major cultural, political, religious, and other differences in these societies.

Therefore, the world of bunjinga artists in this period of history had severe restrictions to overcome. However, unlike ukiyo-e artists who focused on many aspects of Japanese culture, mythology, history, the spirit world, and so forth; for bunjinga artists their problems were different because of their admiration of Chinese culture. This meant that ukiyo-e artists could connect with the world they knew but for bunjinga artists much of their literati world was clouded by the restrictions of obtaining real knowledge of the world they wanted to portray.

Famous artists who followed the bunjinga school of thought applies to Gion Nankai, Sakaki Hyakusen, Yanagisawa Kien, Okada Beisanjin, Kameda Bosai, Hanabusa Itcho, Ike no Taiga, Watanabe Kazan, Tomioka Tessai, Yosa Buson, Uragami Gyokudo, Tani Buncho, Takahashi Sohei, Okada Hanko, Ki Baitei , Matsumura Goshun, Yokoi Kinkoku (1761-1832), Yamamoto Baiitsu, Nukina Kaioku, Takahashi Sohei, Nakabayashi Chikuto, and many others.

In an earlier article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “This school of thought flourished in the late Edo period and highlights the power of traditional Chinese culture in Japan despite the ongoing isolation of this nation. The bunjinga, the literati according to their mode of thinking, all had one binding feature and this applies to their deep admiration of traditional Chinese culture. This enabled their individuality to be linked together within the ideas and art work of bunjinga concepts.”

The Philadelphia Museum of Art comments that “The mid-eighteenth century in Japan was a time of political and social stability and economic prosperity. The Tokugawa family of military rulers (shogun) was firmly ensconced in the new eastern capital of Edo as the de facto political power, while the emperor reigned as spiritual and cultural sovereign in the ancient imperial capital of Kyoto in western Japan. Regional schools were established to spread the Chinese studies that the central government espoused along with the Confucian-based political system. The study of fields such as Chinese literature, music, and medicine became specializations among the educated elite of the newly rich merchant class as well.”

Therefore, while the Edo period is famous for being isolationist it is abundantly clear that the Tokugawa ruling elites spread the power of Chinese studies. This makes sense given the fact that the political system was Confucian based.

Influence of Korea

The role of Korea in this art movement is often neglected despite cultural interaction and influence which went in both directions. On the Princeton University Press website it is stated (based on the book by Burglind Jungmann) that “It is well known that Japanese literati painting of the eighteenth century was inspired by Chinese styles that found their way to Japan through trade relations. However, because Japanese and American art historians have focused on Japanese-Chinese ties, the fact that Japan also maintained important diplomatic–and aesthetic–relations with Korea during the same period has long been neglected. This richly illustrated, cogently argued book examines the role of Korean embassies in shaping the new Japanese literati style, known as Nanga in Japan.”

“Burglind Jungmann describes the eighteenth-century Korean-Japanese diplomatic exchange and the circumstances under which Korean and Japanese painters met. Since diplomatic relations were conducted on both sides by scholars with a classical Chinese education, Korean envoys and their Japanese hosts shared a deep interest in Chinese philosophy, literature, calligraphy, and painting. Texts, such as Ike Taiga’s letter to Kim Yusöng and Gion Nankai’s poem for Yi Hyön, and accounts by Korean and Japanese diplomats, give a vivid picture of the interaction between Korean and Japanese painters and envoys. Further, the paintings done by Korean painters during their sojourns in Japan attest to the transmission of a distinctly Korean literati style, called Namjonghwa. By comparing Korean, Japanese, and Chinese paintings, the author shows how the Korean interpretation of Chinese styles influenced Japanese literati painters and helped inspire the creation of their new style.”

The book by Burglind Jungmann called Painters as Envoys: Korean Inspiration in Eighteenth-Century Japanese Nanga is very intriguing because the Korean angle is neglected too much. However, cultural interaction within the richness of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese culture, went in all directions. Therefore, irrespective of the alterations which developed because of different cultural concepts within each different society – and within regions of all societies which had different energies and thought patterns – the Korean dimension is a reality and needs to be studied and highlighted more.

Timon Screech (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London) comments that “This is an important book that will be useful to scholars and students alike. In elegant prose and with excellent scholarship, Burglind Jungmann proposes that Korean amateur painting had a large impact in Japan. This point has never been so closely argued before, in any language. The author has been diligent in finding little-known works in many collections around the world to support her claims. This is the first book on the subject, but it is much more than an introductory work.”

The bunjinga movement is interesting within the context of sakoku (locked country) because it opens up many intriguing questions. Also, the Korean dimension further hints at deep cultural interactions despite policies by the Tokugawa ruling elites.

Therefore, the bunjinga art movement is an area of great richness when it comes to art, thought patterns, cultural interaction, and understanding aspects of Japanese culture during the Edo period. Famous bunjingaartists have also left a rich legacy because of the art they left behind. This article is meant to intrigue people to delve into the many amazing artists who belonged to the bunjinga school of thought and then to focus on the shared civilization of Northeast Asia, despite the unique richness of all societies involved.

 

http://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/108.html?page=3

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/7743.html 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

North Korea: Associated Press news agency opens a bureau in Pyongyang

North Korea: Associated Press news agency opens a bureau in Pyongyang

Joachim de Villiers and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

North Korea gave the go ahead for the Associated Press news agency to open a small bureau in the capital Pyongyang on January 16, 2012. This is a very important scoop for this news agency because it is the first Western based agency to open up a bureau in North Korea. Therefore, irrespective of the size of the new office it is a positive start and much needed.

It is unsure if Kim Jong-un, the new leader of North Korea, rushed up the process or if he is firmly behind supporting the move. However, it would be welcome if he supported this because it would be a positive sign that the new leader is focused on opening-up North Korea in the field of economics and other important areas.

Other international agencies have a presence in Pyongyang, for example Xinhau from China, but like it was stated earlier the new Associated Press bureau is the first Western news agency. However, it is clear that this move will be welcomed by Xinhau and other agencies because it will enable more coverage to reach the international community. This fact must be welcomed by all individuals who are interested in “the real facts and stories” in North Korea because the vast majority of articles carry little substance and are biased to an extreme.

It is understood that the new bureau will be supervised from South Korea and will involve two journalists from North Korea who will be based in Pyongyang. Associated Press opened a video bureau in the capital of North Korea in 2006 and clearly this laid the foundation stone.

Bridges in many areas need to be built between North Korea and the international community and this is a positive step. Also, it will be interesting to follow the news coming out of North Korea and how it is reported. After all, this will provide details about the real substance of this new venture.

John Daniszewski from Associated Press commented that “For North Korea, which for decades has remained largely off-limits to international journalists, the opening marked an important gesture, particularly because North Korea and the United States have never had formal diplomatic relations. The AP, an independent 165-year-old news cooperative founded in New York and owned by its U.S. newspaper membership, has operations in more than 100 countries and employs nearly 2,500 journalists across the world in 300 locations.”

“The bureau puts AP in a position to document the people, places and politics of North Korea across all media platforms at a critical moment in its history, with Kim’s death and the ascension of his young son as the country’s new leader, Curley said in remarks prepared for the opening.”

This move by Associated Press is very positive because it provides “a bridge” to the international community. Also, this news agency is internationally famous and because of this the readership is vast throughout the world.

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

Japan bows down to America and reduces Iran oil imports: China remains neutral

Japan bows down to America and reduces Iran oil imports: China remains neutral

Murad Makhmudov and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The United States put pressure on China and Japan to introduce sanctions on Iran’s oil industry and sadly Japan showed its weakness once more. However, China showed its independence by remaining neutral. After all, the government of America is an ally of Pakistan despite the complex relationship. Also, it is clear that India and Pakistan continue to spend vast sums on their respective military capabilities, including the nuclear angle. This in itself shows the lack of either sincerity or commitment on behalf of America and other nations like France which lambast Iran over the nuclear issue.

If political leaders in Tokyo believe that Iran is a threat to the national security of Japan or that Iran is an international threat, then clearly Japan must state this categorically and not hide behind the political intrigues in Washington. However, Iran does not have any ill intent towards Japan and clearly with China, India, Israel, and Pakistan, having nuclear weapons in Asia, it is understandable for Iran to be concerned about this reality from their respective geopolitical point of view.

Therefore, Japan should only follow suit on the grounds of national interests and the interest of the international community. However, the national interest of Japan isn’t threatened by Iran and the international community is divided on this issue because of so many internal pressing issues throughout every continent. This fact would imply that Japan bowed down to the “messenger,” US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, because why is Japan deciding on this now?

It must be stated that September 11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, have one common theme and this applies to radical Sunni Muslims being involved in the deaths of American civilians and American soldiers. The Shia community in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia have not protected or funded global terrorist networks which were responsible for September 11, London, Bali, and countless terrorist attacks in Iraq and Pakistan. Therefore, the government in Tehran is much more responsible than the ruling elites in Saudi Arabia which have many ratlines and hidden agendas.

The Finance Minister of Japan, Jun Azumi, commented that “In the past five years, we have reduced… the amount of oil imported (from Iran).” He further continued by stating that “We wish to take planned and concrete steps to further reduce this share, which now stands at 10%.”

However, after the devastating March 11 tsunami hit Japan in 2011 this unleashed the tragedy of the nuclear crisis in Fukushima. Therefore, Japan is already facing many energy shortfalls and this political burden will further put pressure on political leaders in Tokyo.

Timothy Geithner commented that ”We are working very closely with Europe and Japan and allies around the world to substantially increase the amount of pressure we bring on Iran…We very much appreciate the support Japan has provided standing with us and the international community in support of this very important strategic objective.”

China took a neutral stance because political leaders made it clear that they hoped for a resolution to be found between Iran and the nuclear watchdog (International Atomic Energy Agency). Also, political leaders in Beijing stressed that oil related issues should not be solved by relating this to the nuclear issue. Liu Weimin a ministry spokesperson for the government of China commented that “To place one country’s domestic law above international law and press others to obey is not reasonable.”

Japan also stressed that they will seek more oil exports from other nations in the Gulf. However, at a time when Shia Muslims are being persecuted in Bahrain and continue to be second-class citizens in Saudi Arabia – then this would appear to be taking an anti-Iran stance for no reason. Therefore, political leaders in Tokyo should think more deeply before becoming entangled in the web of America and Saudi Arabia.

If Japan sincerely believes that Iran is a threat to the national security of Japan and that this nation threatens the international community, then by all means Japan must stand firm with America. However, it would appear that Japan doesn’t believe this and that the only binding factor is the pressure put on Tokyo by political leaders in Washington. The timing for Japan, with internal energy problems, could not be worse and domestic issues should have meant more than the political meddling of America and Saudi Arabia.

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

Review of 2011 internationally and events in Japan (March 11 and brutal tsunami)

Review of 2011 internationally and events in Japan (March 11 and brutal tsunami)

James Jomo and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In 2011 many political convulsions have challenged nations in North Africa and the Middle East. The optimism of the so-called “Arab Spring” remains to be unfulfilled because you have so much uncertainty in nations like Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Tunisia. At the same time the death of Osama bin Laden wasn’t the decisive blow to international terrorism because recent events in many nations show that this menace is still potent. This notably applies to the recent slaughter of Christians in Nigeria by Islamists belonging to Boko Haram.

Images of Christians, Muslims, and secularists, celebrating political change in Egypt seems like a distant dream. After all, many Coptic Christians have been killed and a sizeable minority of Muslims supported an Islamic party which seeks to restrict the role of Christians in Egypt.

President Obama, much like the ethical policy of Tony Blair (past leader in the United Kingdom), showed his hand clearly by announcing a huge military deal with Saudi Arabia. Therefore, any notion of democracy and supporting human rights was thrown out the window. In fairness to Obama this is a systematic reality within the body politic of America. However, it makes a mockery of his ethical stances because in the land of Saudi Arabia not one single Buddhist temple is allowed or Christian church and of course all apostates from Islam face death in this nation.

Meanwhile the Euro crisis and the foundations of the European Union have been challenged to the hilt. This applies to one economic crisis after another and monetary issues will continue to be a major issue in the early months of 2012. At the same time political leaders have lost power in Greece and Italy and European technocrats who have been unelected now rule the roost in these two nations. Therefore, the “Arab Spring” appears to be ushering in “a non-democratic new dawn” while in Europe new leaders can obtain power despite being unelected – not a pleasant thought.

On a more positive note you now have a new nation called South Sudan and providing the international community supports this new entity, then some “rays of sunshine” will have happened in 2011. However, the path ahead is fraught with danger because Arab Islamists in Khartoum still desire to rule the many different African ethnic groups which comprise of Sudan. This means that bloodshed will continue in 2012 in places like Darfur and the fear is that the Khartoum government may seek to create instability in South Sudan because of the delicate nature of this new nation. Given this, the international community must develop mechanisms with political leaders in South Sudan in order to help this new nation and to guarantee its future, while major obstacles are being challenged by central forces in Juba.

The Russian Federation and Kazakhstan are entering 2012 with certain levels of uncertainty. This applies to political challenges and outside meddling from international powers which seek to cause mayhem internally. Therefore, the world is waiting to see if Putin can remain all powerful alongside Medvedev or if “the house of cards” will collapse because of external and internal agitation.

The forgotten Serbian Orthodox Christians in Kosovo still face a bleak future because they can’t freely travel around Kosovo. At the same time, power processes are against the Serbian Orthodox Christians of Kosovo and political leaders in Belgrade have to walk a tightrope – but, if the current leaders could abandon their brethren in Kosovo, it would appear that they would do so in order to enter the EU club. However, internal events and a backlash could alter the political landscape in Serbia and this is the main concern of the current political leadership in Belgrade. This means that the ghettoization of an entire religious and ethnic group will continue in the heart of Europe and what does this tell us about the new Europe?

In Myanmar the international media is focusing on current positives because political elites in this nation appear to be opening up. Yet, despite this, many minority ethnic and religious groups are still being persecuted and Free Burma Rangers continues to highlight the reality on the ground. The fear is that these minority ethnic groups will be further abandoned in order to establish short-term goals. Also, if the regime turns away from China – then minorities have much to fear from further abandonment and isolation.

Therefore, the mainly Christian Karen elites and other ethnic groups like the Shan and Chin will continue to face an uncertain future. At the same time, the majority of the international media will give scant coverage outside of issues related to Aung San Suu Kyi and issues related to the current leaders of Myanmar.

Madness sadly hit Norway in 2011 when Anders Breivik killed 77 people in Oslo. The reason for this barbaric attack was then manipulated like a political football but the truth is that this individual was clearly deranged. He was neither a Bible thumping individual nor a regular churchgoer but this didn’t stop the anti-Christian brigade from having a field day. However, the bare fact is that the majority of people he killed were white Norwegians and Christian – this hardly matches the “mad racist” and “devout Christian” image which was being brandished about. Indeed, Breivik stated that  ”I’ve always been very pragmatic and influenced by my secular surroundings and environment.”

Sadly, the gruesome murder of innocents was lost and the massacre committed by Anders Breivik was clearly aimed at a political party he detested. The events of this day will never be forgotten in Norway because it highlighted the weakness of security agencies because one individual managed to throw the entire nation into deep shock. Hopefully, Anders Breivik will never be released from prison and different ethnic and religious communities will work more closely together in order to show the real spirit of Norway.

Natural disasters hit many nations, including Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, and many others. Therefore, tens of thousands of people died because of natural disasters. The March 11 tsunami which hit Japan was felt all over the world because of the harrowing scenes which were caught on camera. Also, Japan became the first nation in history to be hit by a devastating earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis, at the same time.

The reverberations of the nuclear crisis can still be felt today in Japan and throughout the world. Therefore, the nuclear energy issue became a hot topic and nations like Germany did a u-turn without much thought, irrespective if individuals agree with Germany or not. Ironically, this u-turn will not stop Germany utilizing the nuclear power stations in France but this is a different issue. Meanwhile, the government of Japan is caught between realism, business issues, energy concerns, the green movement, power shortages, a general public which is still divided, and other important factors related to the nuclear sector.

 

The March 11 earthquake which unleashed the tsunami was truly devastating because tens of thousands of people died. Also, the speed of events shocked people because the tsunami literally destroyed towns and villages that were in its path. Therefore, even today many people are still missing and vast numbers of people are without proper homes in areas hit by the tsunami.

Residents who reside (and who resided) near the Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima continue to face a bleak future. Also, the tourist industry, fisheries, and other important areas which created jobs have been hindered by the devastating events of March 11. Given this, the central government needs to work closely with local governments and various agencies in order to get the region back on its feet.

It isn’t all doom and gloom because many communities have started to fight back and rebuild and this also applies to attracting new investment. Therefore, the picture is very mixed but clearly all positive mechanisms need to work together in order to resolve the major obstacles which people and the local business community still face.

2011 isn’t only based on negative events but clearly the political, economic, and natural disasters, have all unleashed convulsions which still can be felt. In this sense, the early period of 2012 will be a natural continuation. After all, the nuclear ill wind in Japan remains unresolved when it applies to radiation and its impact on the natural environment and on local people. The economic crisis in Europe remains and the same applies to other parts of the world but some positive signs can be felt in some nations. Also, the so-called “Arab Spring” may turn out to be truly democratic in the long-term or it may be a false dawn where Islamists take control and new despots emerge – it is impossible to say either way with confidence.

Nations like Nigeria and Somalia will continue to face the menace of radical Sunni Islamic terrorist attacks and attacks against central forces will continue. Issues related to democracy in China will be monitored more deeply given the current political climate and North Korea will probably remain on the same footing. However, North Korea may implement some economic reforms and the new leader may turn out to be more independent minded. Meanwhile, the political merry-go-round will continue in Japan whereby political leaders in the two main political parties will face internal struggles.

The Olympics in London in 2012 offer a positive note because this event will be watched by billions of people. Also, you have signs that China and Japan will focus on greater economic initiatives which will strengthen cooperation between these two powerful neighbors. Overall, 2012 looks like another stuttering year whereby economic issues and political convulsions will continue to create new major problems.

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

Mishima, Murakami, the Dalai Lama and CIA: genius, banality and the closet

Mishima, Murakami, the Dalai Lama and CIA: genius, banality and the closet

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times 

Yukio Mishima

Haruki Murakami is clearly popular and sales of his new book, 1Q84, will hit the roof because of huge demand. It is therefore abundantly clear that Murakami is a writer who appeals to millions of people throughout the world. However, one of the most iconic food chains in America is equally popular for different reasons but in a sense you do have a connection.

The connection is banality but an enjoyment all the same and both the American iconic food chain and Murakami are in huge demand but sometimes it is difficult to understand why they stand out against other options.

In truth, this world is complex and often contradictory beyond reasoning. After all, the Dalai Lama is a man of peace but was sponsored by the Central Intelligence Agency of America (CIA). This certainly doesn’t fit the imagination but the $1.7 million dollars a year in the 1960s and early 1970s certainly helped to boost his profile.

However, in the world of reality and unreality, then the Dalai Lama being sponsored by the CIA does make sense.  After all, the United States spends vast sums of money on redeveloping Afghanistan and propping up the Karzai regime and many soldiers have died for “freedom” and fighting for their country.  However, all apostates from Islam to Christianity face the death penalty in Afghanistan and clearly the Dalai Lama would have difficulty in building a Buddhist temple.

This may appear to be getting away from the point but actually it is meant to be getting nearer.  Therefore, while the appeal of Murakami continues to grow and nobody can doubt this based on sales, it still doesn’t hide the banality of Murakami compared with Yukio Mishima.

It is not only the placid nature of Murakami’s writing when compared with Mishima but also the richness, passion and mystery of Mishima which pales the other author into oblivion.  Yes, it is factual that intellect means little if people ignore and if the individual can’t connect but Murakami certainly can connect despite his lack of creativity.

It must be remembered that Leon Trotsky was an intellect unlike Joseph Stalin but we all know that an ice pick awaited Trotsky while Stalin manipulated power control mechanisms.  Therefore, just like many great artists who lived in poverty and died in debt or with little money to their name (their art today costs untold sums of money), intellect and genius didn’t spare Trotsky and countless artists who struggled to survive.

Therefore, reality and unreality is very difficult to define with so much chaos. However, the passion of Mishima is rare even if this passion turned against “the self” and ultimately led to his brutal death which he desired.

In Mishima’s novel, Runaway Horses, he writes on page 236 that “Isao’s young lips had yet touched no other lips, and he brushed them delicately against the petals of this withered lily with all the exquisite sensitivity that they possessed.”

“Here is the source of my purity, the warrant for my purity,” he told himself. “I am certain that it is here. When the time comes for me to turn my sword against myself, lilies will surely rise from the morning dew and open their petals to the rising sun. Their scent will purify the stench of my blood. So be it! How can I have any more doubts?”

This passion is what made Mishima special and the fact that he had high intellect is secondary because without this creative spark then his novels would still be of high quality, just like Murakami, but they wouldn’t stand out or hit a raw nerve.

Also, while Mishima is tainted by “progressive liberals” for being too nationalistic it is ironic that many of the same “progressive liberals” will revere the Dalai Lama.  However, Mishima had no CIA closet or links with an organization which sometimes went to extremes via covert and bloody operations.

Michael Backman in The Age commented that “The government set up in exile in India and, at least until the 1970s, received $US 1.7 million a year from the CIA.”

“The money was to pay for guerilla operations against the Chinese, notwithstanding the Dalai Lama’s public stance in support of non-violence, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.”

“The Dalai Lama himself was on the CIA’s payroll from the late 1950s until 1974, reportedly receiving $US 15,000 a month ($US 180,000 a year).”

“The funds were paid to him personally, but he used all or most of them for Tibetan government-in-exile activities, principally to fund offices in New York and Geneva, and to lobby internationally.”

Therefore, whatever the failings of Mishima and his nationalist leanings which are reviled by “progressive liberals,” at least you see and feel the “real” Mishima unlike the closet of the Dalai Lama.

In literary terms Murakami is “progressive” and unlike Mishima he doesn’t veer to the right-wing mindset. However, the image of Murakami suits the style that he writes and unlike the “CIA closet” of the Dalai Lama, you don’t have any bombshells within his books and this is what is so disappointing.

Yes, books by Murakami appeal to vast numbers of people and clearly he thinks deeply about his writing. However, I fail to see a spark or “a bigger picture” but maybe Murakami is correct on this point because it could be that all “bigger pictures” are illusions.

It may well be that 1Q84 by Murakami is very special but given past novels, I hesitate to believe that he can break free and reach a new height.  Therefore, while it is difficult to put Mishima’s book down it is equally difficult to believe that a fresh book by Murakami will be unique based on past novels.

In an earlier article I wrote about Mishima I state that “The book Sun and Steel relates to Mishima throwing away his earlier novel, Confessions of a Mask.”  Now Mishima was building up to be a man of strength and the Nietzsche “ubermensch” was born within the ego and spirit of Mishima.” 

Further down in the same article I comment that “The boy from Tokyo was enigmatic and had a raw passion and sadly the passion of Mishima is missing today and maybe this is where his genius belongs.”

“In Mishima, you can imagine the energy of the past and where the individual is visionary; therefore, the failings in his life, like the failings of all people; must be brushed aside because to ignore Mishima’s writing is to ignore a potent force within the literary energy of Japan.”

“Mishima, unlike the majority of writers, transcended the nation he belonged to because his writing hits a raw nerve within the “inner soul” and he will continue to be read by millions of people all over the world.”

Of course individuals are different and the energy of Mishima and the self-destructive nature of his thinking is rare, to say the least.  Therefore, while Murakami connects with millions of people all over the world, which is amazing by itself, it mainly applies to a mindset based on commonality and un-uniqueness.

Mishima, however, can be felt in the fervor of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the communist take-over in China, the disillusioned in all societies who see a crumbling indigenous culture being swept away by globalization and a growing monoculture.

The first aspect, the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the communist take-over in China, was based on self-made illusions and both events unleashed suffering, brutality, and mass persecution, especially in the early stages.

However, the second aspect, fearing the destructive nature of globalization, a growing monoculture, societies disconnecting with past history and culture, is more understandable, irrespective if people disagree.

It is easy to visualize, even if incorrectly, cosmopolitans and “progressive liberals” championing a writer from a different culture. After all, what could be more hip and internationalist?

Yet with Mishima, you feel “the shadow” and “the marginalized” and his books can appeal to people on many different grounds.  Not only this, Mishima’s writing style is on a different wavelength when compared to Murakami.

Turning back to the Dalai Lama and taking money from the CIA and relating this to this article, then unlike the reality and unreality of life, the action by the Dalai Lama was all too real.  The unreality about the Dalai Lama is the myth behind the hidden agenda.

Mishima equals complexity, intrigue, creativity, and chaos. However, Murakami represents normality, safety, and predictability but he is a writer who appeals because he delves deeply into the reality of the characters he writes about. The Dalai Lama represents “unreality” because the picture is clearly not the real image which is being provided. Despite this, it could be argued that his realistic approach serves the Tibetans well because CIA funding enabled the Tibetan cause to become known but it shatters the “peace myth” about the Dalai Lama.

It could be that the over-hype about Murakami is correct and that I am mistaken and maybe I am just an ignorant individual? However, the passion and spark of Mishima was potent, irrespective if people welcomed or liked his thinking.  Therefore, the unreality of the Dalai Lama’s image which based his CIA funding on reality is the best way to sum up the popularity of Murakami – that is, I fail to see what makes him stand out unlike the genius of Mishima.

http://www.nytimes.com/1998/10/02/world/world-news-briefs-dalai-lama-group-says-it-got-money-from-cia.html  Dalai Lama and CIA 

http://www.theage.com.au/news/business/behind-dalai-lamas-holy-/2007/05/22/1179601410290.html    Dalai Lama and CIA cloak  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRXFyOh6yzQ&feature=related   Video of Dalai Lama and CIA

http://www.vill.yamanakako.yamanashi.jp/osusume.php – Yukio Mishima Cyber Museum

http://dennismichaeliannuzz.tripod.com/index.HTML   – Tribute to Yukio Mishima

http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/mishima.htm    – Yukio Mishima

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/oct/14/haruki-murakami-1q84 

Haruki Murakami

http://www.murakami.ch/main_4.html  Haruki Murakam i

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com 

http://moderntokyotimes.com   

 

Does Fukushima show a split in philosophy between Asia and Europe?

Does Fukushima show a split in philosophy between Asia and Europe?

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

 

The March 11 earthquake in Japan led to tens of thousands of people being killed and clearly the overwhelming majority of people died because of the tsunami.  However, it is the nuclear energy issue which is still raging in Europe which appears to be of much greater importance despite nobody dying from radiation.

It is also factual that the long term effects of radiation will not be known until the future because cancer

clusters may or may not appear?  Therefore, it is the unknown threat and the invisible nature of radiation which is the main cause of concern.

However, the response to the Fukushima radiation crisis is varied and while nations like Switzerland have announced that they will phase out their nuclear energy; other nations like China, India, and South Korea will continue to move forward and develop more nuclear power plants.

Therefore, is the Fukushima crisis about a split in philosophy between a pragmatic Asia and an over sensitive Europe?  Of course, not all of Europe can be labeled together and nations like the Russian Federation will have a stronger mindset but in countries like Germany and Switzerland, to name a few, then clearly the fear of nuclear meltdown is causing major ripples.

In my article called Nuclear crisis in Japan but Uranium price to rebound on news from China and India; I highlight the fact that China and India will continue to develop nuclear energy.  The same applies to South Korea because like China and India it is clear that the government in Seoul believes that nuclear energy is a must. Also, unlike fossil fuels then this energy is also environmentally friendly and all the above named nations believe that a diverse energy policy is essential in order to meet huge electricity demands.

I commented in my article that “Daily images of the stricken Daiichi nuclear plant alongside massive scaremongering meant that national governments which had future plans in the pipeline were coming under the microscope.” 

“However, despite this, and uranium being just below 9 per cent down this year, it appears that the worse may be over for the price of uranium.  This applies to China and India who will continue to forge ahead with their respective nuclear power projects.”

Indeed, according to Bloomberg and other sources, it is reported that nuclear energy will grow by roughly 46 per cent by 2020 amongst the leading five nations which use nuclear energy.” 

Therefore, why are Switzerland, Germany, and other nations in Europe, responding so differently?  After all, even in Japan it would appear that nuclear energy will remain to be a powerful source of energy even if the current Japanese government introduces greater safety measures or focuses on alternative sources of energy.

Maybe the main difference is that environmentalists and the mass media are more motivated by green issues in Europe and they had a long term agenda whereby they could exploit an issue like Fukushima?  Yes, radiation is a serious issue and clearly nations like Japan is hindered because of its earthquake and tsunami fault-line; which means that nuclear power stations are exposed to the ravages of nature from time to time.

However, while Switzerland does have the occasional earthquake; it is clear that China faces a greater threat and the same applies to other nations in Asia which will forge ahead with their nuclear power policies.

Therefore, the current split between Asia and Europe would appear to be based on political motives, the role of the green movement, the mass media which clearly over-hyped the crisis in Europe, and other factors.  Also, maybe some European nations have become overtly self-centered?

After all, I find it rather strange for people to be marching about the nuclear issue when thousands of people are still missing in Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi.  It is also noticeable that the demonstrations in Japan have mainly been tame or often based on economic factors when applied to local farmers and so forth in Fukushima.

The democratic factor could have been raised if it only applied to China but clearly India and South Korea are democratic nations. Also, Japan is democratic despite the frequency of political leaders to resign. Therefore, maybe it is all down to different philosophical thinking between Asia and Europe?

After all, political paternalism is much stronger in Asia and while you have major differences within different nations or within the same nation based on culture, religion, ethnicity, thought patterns, development stages, and so forth; it would appear that individualism and other factors within Europe are different on the whole.

Added to this, the green lobby is very potent in Europe and the mass media also showed the enormous gap in thinking between many nations. 

What is clear is that major nations in Asia are forging ahead with nuclear power but in parts of Europe the opposite is happening and a lot of soul searching is going on.

Therefore, why is the gap between parts of Asia and Europe so huge when it comes to nuclear energy?

 

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America, Japan & South Korea: North Korea’s point of view

America, Japan & South Korea: North Korea’s point of view

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

North Korea - an image of reality or unreality?
North Korea – an image of reality or unreality?

The shadow of North Korea hangs over northeast Asia and it is easy for America, Japan, and South Korea, to blame this nation for countless ills.  However, just like a battered child which is abused and humiliated; then one day the child may become hostile in adult life and turn inward in order to protect itself.  This may not fit the pattern of North Korea to a T but history is woven into many societies and it can unleash powerful internal mechanisms.

This article is not about exonerating North Korea or justifying the political system of this nation.  Nor is it about anti-Americanism or seeing reality through a different prism.  Instead the purpose of this article is to show some balance and to focus on internal factors within the body politic of North Korea.

It is abundantly clear that the President of South Korea, Lee Myung-Bak, is more hostile towards North Korea when compared with the previous leaders of South Korea which cover the last 15 years.  At the same time, North Korea is the perennial whipping boy when Japan seeks a scapegoat and the quietist nature of Japan’s foreign policy is thrown out of the window.

America also raises the nuclear issue and totalitarianism in order to lambast North Korea. However, the same America is the only nation to use nuclear weapons and allies like France, Israel, and the United Kingdom, are all nuclear powers. 

Also, given the economic growth of both China and India then the nuclear issue is not pointed at these nations; the stark reality is that America and the Russian Federation have enormous nuclear stockpiles.  Therefore, North Korea, just like Iran, is rebuked for trying to join the nuclear club and surely Pakistan is more unstable and this applies to radical Sunni Islamic forces which are potent and growing in Pakistan.

The human rights issue also does not wash because whatever North Korea is; then Saudi Arabia is the same but with even more draconian laws which govern women.  Therefore, while President Obama was seen bowing to the king of Saudi Arabia he uses political language against North Korea and ignores the reality of both nations because one is deemed an important oil and energy ally; while the other nation, North Korea, is seen to be a rogue state.

September 11 was made in Saudi Arabia and terrorists from North Korea are not to be found.  However, the nation of Saudi Arabia and countless organizations within this nation are exporting their version of totalitarianism via radical Sunni Islam.

Also, why did North Korea turn to nuclear weapons?  After all, nuclear weapons will not protect central forces in this nation from an internal uprising. 

The simple truth is that American led invasions in Vietnam and Iraq, alongside interventionist policies against Serbia and countless other nations in the past; all happened because these nations did not have a nuclear arsenal.  This fact is abundantly clear because you have never had a war between two nuclear powers and given the limited resources of North Korea; then the nuclear factor was a defensive mechanism.

Again, this article is not about vindicating North Korea but it is factual that the United States military is based in Japan and South Korea and in countless other nations.  Therefore, North Korea feels suffocated, isolated, and under constant siege from nations who seek the demise of central forces in this nation.

Obviously, America will justify all military bases throughout the region and claim that it is needed in order to prevent a future war on the Korean peninsula.  However, America would feel uncomfortable if North Korea had military bases in Canada and Mexico.  Therefore, irrespective of the rights and wrongs of this reality; in the eyes of North Korea it is seen to be hostile and unwarranted.   

North Korean leaders will also point out that their nation is independent because you have no foreign based military forces in this nation.  However, Japan and South Korea rely heavily on America and independence within both nations is weak because their respective foreign policies need to consider America and the whims of Washington.

North Korea appears to view foreign policy within the reality of history and when did Agent Orange become democratic?  After all, the war in Vietnam witnessed the reality of a democratic nation using chemicals in order to impose its global view on an independent nation.

Democracy is turned on and off within government circles in America, France, the United Kingdom, and all major economic powers.  After all, they all trade and support the government of Saudi Arabia and the pick and mix nature of “Western morals” is not very complex because it is based on self interests.

Since the creation of North Korea which happened because of the reality of what Japan did during the early 20th century and until the ending of World War Two; then did North Korea invade anyone?

Turning to history then why is South Korea so proud and passionate about its nationalistic fervor?

In an earlier article about this topic I commented that The first President of South Korea, President Syngman-Rhee, 1948-1960, was pro-America, despotic, and used pro-Japanese collaborators in order to control South Korea via “an iron fist.” He and the American government abided by the same ex-leaders who had sided with Japan against their own people. Therefore, the new leaders of South Korea had helped the Japanese in their anti-Korean policies.”

“The next strong leader of South Korea to emerge, after the short leadership of Yun Bo-seon, was that of Park Chung-hee (President 1963-1979). Park had a Japanese name (Takaki Masao) and he clearly did well under the Japanese colonial system. For he went to the Japanese Manchurian military academy and Park once more adopted another Japanese name, this time he was called Okamoto Minoru. Park continued to prosper during the invasion of China by Japan.”

“After all, he became a lieutenant and fought for the Imperial Japanese Army, however, it is not fully known if led imperial troops against native Koreans. However, he was involved in the fighting in Manchuria and many Korean communists had supported China in its struggle against Japan.”

“However, Kim Il-sung, the first leader of North Korea, who was Prime Minister between 1948-1972 and President from 1972-1994, had fought against Japanese imperialism. Therefore, unlike South Korean leaders or high officials, Korean nationalism and independence had been kept alive by North Korean leaders.”

The founding father of North Korea, Kim Il-Sung, who was known as the “Great Leader,” had risked everything in order to defeat Japanese imperialism unlike the future leaders of South Korea who were lackeys of Japanese imperialism.

Kim Il-Sung had been raised in a Protestant Christian family and his maternal grandfather was a Christian pastor.  Many Christians were more anti-Japanese rather than the Buddhist leadership which was seen to be compliant towards imperial Japan but the future leader of North Korea would view religion to be an “imperialist tool.”

It was Kim who fought alongside other various anti-Japanese guerrilla groups in northern China and China would look on him with fondness because of this reality.  Therefore, the founding father of North Korea had fought against Japanese imperialism but the political history of South Korea is one based on compliant Koreans who supported policies against their own culture and nation.

Also, if we look at political dynamics in Asia then is North Korea so unique?  After all, the nations of China, Iran, Laos, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, and others; are all governed by either the same one party state, same long term ruler or by an Islamic state or the same monarch. 

Democracy in Japan is also fickle because the Liberal Democratic Party dominated politics until recently.  Also, many members of the Democratic Party of Japan have their roots in the Liberal Democratic Party but this is done through the democratic process.

Focusing on the reality of past history, then it could be argued that North Korea is a victim of outside forces which intruded on the Korean peninsula.  The Hermit Kingdom was based on feudalism prior to Japanese imperialism and the future North Korea was built on the ashes of Japanese imperialism and the power mechanisms of the Cold War.

Millions of people have died on the Korean peninsula because of the shortcomings of outside forces.  Therefore, from the North Korean point of view it was their leaders which fought against external powers and not the leaders of South Korea who had collaborated with the policies of external forces.

The leaders of North Korea find it difficult to trust South Korea because it is difficult to forgive “your brother” when the brother colluded with outside forces.

Therefore, irrespective if you are opposed to North Korea and hate the political system of this nation; it is important to see the world “through their eyes.”  The political system in North Korea can be lambasted for not allowing freedom and because the economic system failed to install a modern based economy. 

However, if you try to look at North Korea’s stance and look into “a mirror based on factuality” then North Korea was made in Japan and was manipulated by Cold War powers.

This article may seem to be “apologist” but this is not the purpose. On the contrary, it is meant to add a different dimension to the daily anti-North Korea mass media in Japan and in other nations which have vested interests.  It should be remembered that Koreans have suffered at the hands of others throughout the 20th century.

The current stalemate will never move forward when one nation is ridiculed and despised.  If a new approach is not taken then nothing will change.

The people of North Korea are being held to ransom by their own national government and much of this is based on past history and because of policy mistakes by hostile forces.  Therefore, the wall which was built will not break unless “a real sunshine policy is implemented” and “soft power” may work unlike the usual “hard power” which just maintains the status quo.  

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

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JAPAN and the suicide problem

Japan and the Suicide Problem

 

By Lee Jay Walker
The Modern Tokyo Times

 

Japan and the suicide problem

The nation of Japan is a real enigma because the murder rate is very low when compared with other nations which are highly developed. However, this rate means little when we add the 33,000 nationals per year who kill themselves because this clearly shows you that something is going wrong within Japan. Therefore, why is suicide such an issue in Japan and what is the government and other organizations doing to stem the tide?

Before we concentrate solely on Japan it is important to state that suicide happens in all nations and of course all nations have different respective problems. Yet when it comes to sheer numbers then it is clear that Japan is suffering badly. This would appear strange, after all Japan is still relatively wealthy and her infrastructure is highly developed. Yet something is clearly amiss in this nation.

Of course you will have many factors and I hope to mention the major reasons behind this crisis in Japan. Firstly, it is clear that thousands of people kill themselves because of work pressure and this is clearly preventable. Despite this, little is being done to stop the systematic abuse of workers in Japan. After all, the concept at many companies “is that you work until you drop” or you have to follow the example of your manager or manageress, therefore, peer pressure is very high. Given this, the “salary-man” syndrome is clearly a problem and thousands of people in this bracket take their lives because they feel trapped by an over-bearing work ethic.

Secondly, we even have a breakdown amongst younger people because not only do young teenagers suffer from suicide but they also suffer, alongside other age groups, from hikikomori. The reasons for hikikomori are complex but it is clear that social pressure, a heavy school load, the need for conformity, the inability to communicate, the inability to understand reality, and other factors, are behind this major problem. So stress and social pressure is both strong within the education system and within the working environment. Given this, many people feel trapped and lost, and the ability to escape via the mobile, internet, play-station, and so forth, means that another world is being created where natural communication is not needed.

Thirdly, the role of Buddhism must be questioned because despite this faith appearing weak on the outside, it is still within the thinking structure of Japan. So why is Buddhism negative with regards to suicide in Japan? Well this applies to the theory of reincarnation and the glorification of suicide in the past. After all, Buddhists believe in reincarnation and when this is fused with “the historical concept of suicide in Japan,” then this combined force becomes potent. If we connect this with computer games which are not based on reality, then escapism is clearly a way of life for many Japanese people and this can come via either factor but the central theme is that death is a mere stepping stone to another life.

Of course Buddhism exists in other nations, however, it is potent in Japan when fused with culture because Japanese culture does glorify suicide. For example this is expressed elegantly via “no” or via customs related to the samurai, which in turn was handed down during World War Two via the kamikaze. To make matters worse, a minority of modern Japanese films also make this custom appear to be noble and within the culture of Japan. Therefore, suicide appears to be within the thought-patterns of many people within Japan. So the unreal world of the internet, play-stations, reincarnation, and computer games, means that this is a potent mix and it becomes even more potent when it is fused to cultural norms and the theory of fatalism.

Fourthly, communication, critical thinking, and individualism, are all areas of importance. After all, a lot of communication in Japan, and other highly developed societies, goes on via the internet and cyberspace. So the unreal world is creating new boundaries whereby people feel lost or confused. Added to this is the lack of critical thinking in Japan and the need for conformity is also crushing the “souls” of many people in Japan. Therefore, individualism is not well liked and for people who can work within the group, then this is ok, but for outsiders who want to be creative, then this is a nightmare.

Sadly, despite this issue being very important it is still clear that little is being done to stem the rising tide of suicides in Japan. This issue should be of utmost importance and a national campaign which is really visible is needed, and needed badly. Yet this is not happening because the majority of Japanese people appear to be apathetic when it comes to demanding their rights. Given this, the leaders of Japan are turning a blind eye to this tragic aspect of Japanese culture.

Overall, it is clear that many factors apply to this tragic issue and of course other important factors that I have not mentioned are also equally important. For example, many Japanese people appear to be unable to argue or express their real thinking and of course this is leading to major frustrations and group suicides is also a major problem in Japan. Therefore, if working conditions are not improved and the notion of reincarnation is not challenged, then some Japanese people are going to look to suicide in order to escape from this life.

These areas, and the need to reduce stress and to challenge conformity are vital but will anything change in the near future? I fear not, therefore, the land of Hello Kitty is turning on itself and the world of reality and unreality will continue to overlap in Japan. Therefore, the body bags will continue to rise and more sorrow will be inflicted on loved ones who have been left behind. Given this, suicide will continue to cause havoc in Japan and it may get worse before it gets better. So will “real” political leaders stand up to this crisis or will it be another false dawn?

LEE JAY WALKER

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