Sunday, February 5, 2017

Please endorse the 2017 AAAS Resolution Proposal to Support "Comfort Women"

Dear Eclipse Rising supporters,
We have an urgent, time-sensitive request, to endorse the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) resolution proposal, “Supporting Remembrance of ‘Comfort Women’ and their Endangered History” before the Feb 10 deadline.
Step 1, Sign up for 2017 membership: Sponsors must be current, 2017 AAAS members or lifetime members. Anyone can become a paid member! If you haven't already renewed your membership, see link below, as we push together to get this resolution approved by the board at the 2017 AAAS conference in Portland! Membership ($40-130):
Step 2: To endorse, simply fill out this short endorsement form by Feb 10 or sooner:…/1FAIpQLSd0UE_lePJQdfXRZ…/viewform…
In order for the resolution to qualify for a board vote in Portland this year, we need a total of 10 co-sponsors and 100 endorsers, all of whom must be AAAS members for 2017 by the time of the submission (Feb 10)
So please endorse today, and please help us spread the word by forwarding this message widely to fellow AAAS members (and would-be members)! For your information, an updated letter and resolution proposal to the board are below.
Thank you and we’ll be in touch again soon. In the meantime, please contact us at:
Thank you,
“Comfort Women” Section Chairs,
Grace J. Yoo, San Francisco State University
Kay Fischer, Chabot College
And “Comfort Women” Section Members

Monday, October 31, 2016

ハンセン病隔離政策を生き延びる在日朝鮮人の金泰九さん:An Ode to Zainichi Heroes

Note to readers: We apologize that this post is only available in the original language (Japanese) of the author at the moment. The life of Mr. Tegu Kim, to whom the tribute below, offers a glimpse into other faceless, nameless Zainichi victims of Japan's legacy of forced permanent quarantine/isolation (akin to lifelong imprisonment without parole) of those affected by Hansen's Disease since early 1900s through as recently as the '90s (inspired by the Eugenics ideology that prevailed even following WWII and defeat of Imperial Japan). If you are interested to learn more, we are happy to share our resources on this matter or the life of Mr. Tegu Kim.
























岸本眞奈美 (きしもと・まなみ)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

On becoming a Queer Zainichi Korean

Happy Pride!! Eclipse Rising member Haruki Eda reflects on his experience as a Queer Korean navigating boundaries of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and nationality as he relocated from Japan to the U.S. in search of knowledge and community. 

June 25, 2016

When I arrived in the United States from Japan 10 years ago with a student visa, in San Francisco, on August 18, 2006, I was a 19-year-old gay Japanese. Or at least that’s who I thought I was at that time. Filled with hope and anxiety, I started my college at San Francisco State University, where I was determined to study the politics, history, and culture of LGBT social movements. I had no concrete plans but vaguely thought I’d go back to Japan after learning as much as I could, so that I could start contributing to the LGBT movements in Japan. By the time I graduated, however, I’d realized I had so much more to learn, about myself and my own history as a descendant of Korean postcolonial exiles in Japan, commonly known as Zainichi Koreans. It was the knowledge shared by radical queer and trans people of color (QTPoC) that inspired and challenged me to cultivate a sense of authentic self, however fleeting it may be, by uncovering hidden stories and building meaningful relationships. 

I always knew I was “half” Korean because my parents would tell me occasionally that my father is a zainichi kankoku-jin (South Korean resident of Japan). I remember telling my 1st-grade classmates that my dad is a kankoku-jin (South Korean) and bragging how I can say annyonhaseyo and kamusasamunida. My classmates in this half-rural, half-suburban town didn’t even know what Korea meant until much later. I didn’t really know either. You can’t reject or accept something you don’t understand, and young kids always know that. So my Korean heritage was neither rejected nor accepted by my peers or myself, though it was vaguely acknowledged. We just didn’t know why and how it was supposed to matter.

Inheriting from my mother all the privileges that come with a Japanese name and citizenship, however, I never really thought of myself as Zainichi; I was just “half” kankoku-jin and full Japanese. I would enjoy my grandmother’s Korean food at the family reunion on every New Year’s Day, and I would enjoy not having to even think about what it meant to be in this family for the rest of the year. It was just a family I was born into, a network that existed, and somehow I hesitated to inquire too much because I felt like I was supposed to know all about it already. It wasn’t community to me. My father uses his Korean name, so I didn’t have to think about how to hide, and because I only have a Japanese name, I didn’t have to think about how to disclose. My Koreanness was just a fact, a piece of information, with no real meanings or stories behind it. It wasn’t knowledge to me. 

Meanwhile, though, I had much bigger concerns as I realized I was sexually attracted to boys. The realization was timely, sudden, and swift, when I found a gay porn magazine at a local bookstore when I was eleven. I already knew the concept of homosexuality, but I didn’t know the word gei as a non-derogatory term to refer to it. It was fortunate that I encountered this magazine, this word, almost as soon as it became clear that I liked dicks better than boobs. I realized there’s a community out there, and I realized there’s knowledge out there. And I must get there. And there was San Francisco, the United States of America, the Western world, the real modernity, beyond the horizon of small gay enclaves of global Osaka or cosmopolitan Tokyo. At least I knew I was “half” Korean and fully gay, and I was not going to live like a normal straight Japanese people all around me. I might as well try something different. So I studied English and applied to SF State because it seemed like the best place for studying queer theory. (My favorite bad Third Eye Blind was from the Bay Area, so that alone would have convinced me to move there.) 

With my freshly and so smoothly issued F-1 visa on my Japanese passport, with my parents’ full financial support, and with little trace of my Koreanness on any of my documents, I landed at SFO as a gay Japanese international student. I assumed I would fly out from the same airport four years later as a gay Japanese college graduate. That never happened. It never happened because I went to SF State, the home of Ethnic Studies and other legacies of the longest student strike in U.S. history. I met so many committed activists and dedicated scholars creating knowledge and community together, on and off campus, as students and as teachers to each other. I jumped right in as soon as I felt confident enough in my English: I founded an organization for Queer Asian students on campus; I volunteered at a local HIV service organization for Asian and Pacific Islander communities, and I worked as an RA in university housing to be in charge of the International Learning Community. I learned that a community is something I build. 

During these years, I made sense of my gender and sexuality through my connection to the local Queer Asian communities. I learned how my gender and sexuality impact the experiences I have in this world, in this country, always already mediated by my race, ethnicity, nationality, and citizenship. And much of it is actually that I am heavily protected by my male, cisgender, and able-bodied privileges. I tried to interrogate and challenge myself in order to learn what I am here to do. I came to recognize my queerness, rather than my “homosexuality,” as I navigate and negotiate various boundaries constructed around gender and race, within the bigger narrative of modernity and coloniality. Trying to understand how history and social structure intersect with desire, I conducted research and wrote papers on racial representation in gay porn. I learned that knowledge begins with a question. I was no longer a gay Japanese, but I was a proud Queer Asian, a radical queer of color. I graduated from college with this knowledge and community. But I had more work to do.

Even though I was starting to make sense of my racialized queerness, I didn’t really know what to make of my Koreanness, especially in relation to my queerness. Each time I met another Korean person from Korea, I would tell them that my father is Korean, “but I don’t really speak Korean.” I felt the need to clarify how inauthentic I am before they did so by asking me if I spoke Korean. It might have been a habit I developed as an openly queer person, since I usually made sure to somehow indicate my queerness when I met someone new. I didn’t want people making assumptions about me or asking me rude questions, so I would put everything out on the table first. In retrospect, though, while I was never ashamed of my Koreanness or queerness, I was unconsciously ashamed of my inability to explain what they mean for myself. It was my escape to let other people decide what those things mean to them on my behalf, rather than articulating my own sense of existence through my body. 

I never had Zainichi Korean friends while growing up in Japan, and my Korean friends from Korea didn’t have any answer to my inauthenticity. Only when I started meeting Korean Americans, many of whom queer or trans, I finally had a space to let out my confusions and questions and anxieties about my Koreanness. I was able to ask real questions about what Korea means and what it means to be Korean. And soon enough, through multiple personal connections, I was invited to a report-back event of a Korean American delegation to North Korea. The event was put together by Eclipse Rising, a Bay Area-based Zainichi Korean community organization, and two Zainichi women who went on this delegation were explaining why North Korea behaves the way it does, because of the historical and geopolitical contexts of U.S. imperialist involvement in East Asia since the World War II. They mapped out so clearly how Japanese colonialism, the national division, and the ongoing Korean War have everything to do with the stories of discrimination my father used to tell me about. My journey became deeper than ever on that day when I had my first Zainichi Korean friends, my first Zainichi Korean knowledge and community.

Koreans in Japan are subject to legal discrimination based on their nationality, whether South  Korean nationality or now defunct Chosen nationality of pre-division Korea. Until 2000, all special permanent residents in Japan, most of whom are Korean, were required by the law to be fingerprinted when they turned 16: all the fingers, not only the tips but the entirety of the fingers, as if their criminality is a given. They are still required to carry the alien registration card with them at all times, and if they were unable to produce the document upon inspection by the police, they could be prosecuted under the Criminal Law. According to Japan’s immigration policy, one must have a Japanese parent to obtain citizenship at birth. Being born in Japan does not result in full legal rights, although taxation is the same as for citizens. Many Zainichi Koreans reject the option of naturalization, because nationality and ethnicity are very closely conceptualized together by Zainichi Koreans, and the legal process is just slow and long and uncertain enough to discourage them from applying. Without citizenship, they face enormous difficulties obtaining employment or legal protection, or getting approved for marriage by their Japanese partners’ families. Meanwhile, they are policed and punished for practicing or exhibiting any hint of Koreanness through language, culture, name usage, or political expression. 

The attacks on Korean schools in Japan are emblematic of these oppressive systems. Immediately after the end of colonization, Koreans who decided to remain in Japan, at least temporarily because of the political uncertainties in the Peninsula, grasped the opportunity to educate their younger generation about their history and culture in their own language, with their own Korean names--all denied under the colonial rule. The schools they built, however, became a target of repression by the Japanese police, which was desperate to regain their authority after Japan’s loss in the war. The Allied Forces, led by the U.S. military, viewed the Korean schools as a breeding ground for communist insurgencies, so it authorized violent raids of some schools as well as the community organization that established them. Korean schools have survived and thrived despite such heavy repression since then, but their curriculum is still not considered to be an equivalent to the standard Japanese education, and graduating from a Korean school does not lead to a legally meaningful diploma. 

When I started learning about Zainichi Korean history, I immediately saw the similarities between Zainichi Koreans and people of color in the U.S., particularly how both communities have valued culturally relevant education and defiantly challenged the reproduction of mainstream knowledge that only maintains the system of oppression. There is a reason why I was kept from my own history and why I did not fully identify as Korean, and it wasn’t me. Thus I came to a definition of Zainichi Korean identity that is not based on legal documents or even a set of certain cultural experiences that supposedly make someone an authentic Zainichi Korean. It is an incoherent, indeterminate identity category that is articulated most clearly when we mumble that we don’t speak Korean, that we don’t know what Koreanness means, that we’re not so sure if we’re really Korean, but we’re questioning it, we’re trying to understand it, and we’re creating knowledge about it through our bodies. 

Zainichi Koreans are connected to people of color in more ways. The U.S. military is an institution that violently exploits us all, by constructing a scapegoat figure of the Muslim terrorist, by recruiting working-class youths of color, by stealing, occupying, polluting, and radiating the land and water all across the world but especially displacing Indigenous peoples of North America and the Pacific, by raping and sexually exploiting women and children around the bases, by propagating oppressive and mediocre views of racialized masculinity and femininity among young Americans, and by murdering us, over and over again. In fact, all the violence and oppression that the Japanese nation-state has inflicted on Zainichi Koreans were encouraged by the U.S. empire in its attempt to establish economic and military control over the Asia-Pacific region. The division that Zainichi Koreans have internalized, between the pro-North Chongryun and the pro-South Mindan, wasn’t entirely their fault but deeply embedded within the competitions and collusions among Japan, the United States, North and South Koreas, China, and Russia over the past hundred years. Yet the mainstream discourse of the Korean division does not have a solid grasp of the workings of gender and sexuality in the geopolitics of the Trans-Pacific. 

Radical QTPoC community organizers have taught me how geopolitics operates on multiple scales. They have challenged me to interrogate how our everyday experiences of power and violence at the hands of the nation-state directly reflect what's going on at the planetary level of border-making, displacement, capitalist exploitation, military-police-prison-medical industrial complex, and neoliberal education. They have inspired me to think and imagine beyond what I see, and to reach deeper into myself and farther out to distant shores of history waiting to be remembered. They have taught me my duty to uncover connections I wasn’t meant to recognize I have. 

And this is why I care about the dignity and rights of the former Comfort Women, whose unspeakable trauma remains under the threat of collective amnesia. This is why I care about the lives and deaths of my Black brothers and trans sisters and Muslim friends and refugee families, who continue to be targets of state terrorism. This is why I care about La Mission as not just a figure of nostalgia but as a real community that's crumbling apart precisely because of gentrification triggered and trivialized by wealthy IT companies and their uneducated employees. This is why I care about Ferguson as much as Fukushima, Oakland as much as Okinawa, and Hawai’i as much as Hiroshima. This is what it means for me to be a Queer Zainichi Korean, to tell our stories and create community and knowledge, to care for one another and heal together, to commit to the highest standards of critical thinking and solidarity and love. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Suppressed Ethnic Diversity, and Multicultural Education as Resistance in Osaka, Japan

A Community Roundtable, featuring Special Presenter: Kwangmin Kim  Executive Director, Korea NGO Center, Osaka; Founder, Award-winning 'Minami Children's Classroom’ Program for Minority Kids

Wednesday, March 02, 2016  6-7:30pm

Chinatown Meeting Rm, SF Public Library Chinatown Branch
1135 Powell St, San Francisco, CA  
15 min. walk from Powell Street BART, OR 
Bus Line #30 & 45 (Stop: Stockton & Pacific Ave)

“Kwangmin’s perspective from the often-hidden part of Japan will surely enliven our conversation to understand what's going on now and what’s at stake for genuine peace and security in Japan and the region.” 
– Miho Kim Lee, Comfort Women Justice Coalition, Japan Multicultural Relief Fund

Japan is long known as a "homogeneous" country, but in reality, it's always been ethnically diverse. Osaka is home to the largest convergence of various ethnic minorities, including the Ainu, Ryukyuans, Buraku-min (Japan's ‘Untouchable Caste’ people) and Zainichi Korean, Chinese, and Taiwanese residents.

In recent years, Prime Minister Abe's ultraconservative, nationalist ideologies have fueled large-scale intensification of, and moral support for xenophobia, racial profiling and hate crimes against Koreans and Chinese in particular. The Abe Administration has also been re-militarizing Japan while denying Japan's atrocities during WWII, and actively demonizing North Korea and China -- the same 'enemy' against which the U.S. is creating a bulwark, with Japan and South Korea, against China's rising influence.

In the context of this harsh reality, Kwangmin and other community advocates are employing innovative intervention approaches through public education, among other venues. Kwangmin will share the stories of the growing population of Asian migrants of Japan, and their families and particularly children, as they adapt and embark on their journey to find their rightful place in the community and society at large.
Cosponsored by: Asian Americans for Peace & Justice | Comfort Women Justice Coalition | Eclipse Rising | Japan Multicultural Relief Fund | Japan Pacific Resource Network | SF Nabi Fund | NoNukes Action | SeSaMo | Veterans for Peace, SF Chapter | Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom/SF 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Commemorating Oh Deok-soo, a Director who Became a “Zainichi Director”

Jan 16, 2016
Shota T. Ogawa

Film director Oh Deok-soo passed away from lung cancer on Sunday. He was 74. Oh is known for his feature-length documentary films on Zainichi Koreans (Resident Koreans in Japan) including Against Fingerprinting (1984) and The Story of Koreans in Postwar Japan: Zainichi (1997).

I met Oh late in his life. In 2010, when I first interviewed him for my doctoral project, I was surprised to learn that he had as many questions for me as I did for him. In the years following, it became my habit to pay him a visit when I was back in Japan not only to seek advice on my dissertation, but to report on my life in the U.S., for he was always interested in hearing about the different and diverse ways in which Zainichi Koreans live today. While I cannot write a personal tribute informed by intimate familiarity, I want to offer a brief summary of his resume in the way I believe he would have liked to see it told.    

Born in 1941 in Kazuno City, Akita Prefecture, Oh first entered the film world as an assistant to Nagisa Oshima, working on Violence at Noon (1966) and Sing a Song of Sex (1967), before working for Daiei and Toei in their film divisions through the late 1960s and the 1970s. Some of the better known television productions he worked on include The Guardsman (starring Ken Utsui, Daiei/TBS, 1965-1971), A Lone Wolf (starring Shigeru Amachi, Toei/NTV, 1967-1968), and Key Hunter (starring Tetsuro Tamba and Sonny Chiba, Toei/TBS, 1968-1973).    

Oh was a familiar presence in local film festivals and public symposia, particularly since completing his lifework, The Story of Koreans in Postwar Japan, in 1997 which involved working closely with grassroots groups across Japan that co-sponsored its production and realized a nation-wide tour of the film. In addition to making his own films, he was active in organizing screenings of others’ works that highlighted the historical presence of Koreans within Japanese cinema. In the screenings he organized for the History Museum of J-Koreans in Azabu, for example, he showcased the works of Zainichi Korean directors such as Sai Yoichi, Lee Sang-il, and Kim Su-gil alongside films made by Japanese directors that depicted Zainichi Koreans in interesting ways. Each screening was accompanied by a guest speaker who might be the director, a staff member, or a viewer with a special attachment to the title, and a post-screening discussion followed by a party gave the event a unique communal character.

In recent years, he had branched out into exhibiting his own photographs and probing the possibility of curating a museum exhibition of picture books and school textbooks written for Korean children in Occupied Japan. His multifaceted activity as a filmmaker, collector, curator, and cultural organizer stemmed from his work on the monumental documentary, The Story of Koreans in Postwar Japan, for which he had to condense a vast archive of music, photographs, home movies, newsreels, and material artifacts into its running time of four-and-a-half hours.

The unique ways in which Oh’s professional and artistic career developed around rather than fully within cinema were also a product of circumstances. In an interview with film scholar Takashi Monma in 2005, Oh recounts that most studios had stopped hiring assistant directors when he graduated from Waseda’s Theater Department in 1965. Even in Toei’s TV division (Toei Tokyo Production) where he received most of the training and rose to the rank of Chief Assistant Director, he was still on an irregular contract with limited benefits or job security. The second half of his time at Toei was thus spent on a prolonged strike that demanded improved labor conditions for contract employees. It was only by taking up freelance assignments to write screenplays for film, television, and manga, while collectively running a franchised noodle shop that Oh and his fellow strikers of Toei Production Company Labor Union were able to live through the 1970s.

It was paradoxically during the prolonged strike that Oh found the key to direct his own films. Through befriending the editors of the Zainichi Korean magazine Madan and later cofounding its informal successor Jansori, Oh became involved in the burgeoning movement of young Japan-born Zainichi Koreans that sought to build a public sphere that overcame the Cold War division. When the anti-fingerprinting protest broke out in 1980 and developed into a major social movement by 1985, he found himself ideally situated to document the movement from within, thanks to the significant overlap between the target audience of Jansori and the main actors of the protest movement. He founded his independent production company Oh Kikaku for the project which was completed and screened within a year while the protest was still ongoing.

On a number of occasions, Oh raised objection to the label “Zainichi Korean film director” which he found constricting. But no other director has so consistently explored the interrelation between Zainichi and film, or to rephrase in his preferred expression: what it means to be Zainichi Koreans living at a time when we have access to historical film documents. If it is apt to call him a representative Zainichi Korean film director, it is not because his interest was limited to Zainichi Korean issues, but because he took up the challenge of weaving Zainichi Koreans’ social concerns into the fabric of cinema. It is in this spirit that we can appreciate the opening scene of his maiden film, Against Fingerprinting, that shows an alien registration card set on fire. This was, he told the audience at a screening, a visual homage paid to Kei Kumai’s Nihon retto (1965) that featured a visually striking shot of ants engulfed in flame against the backdrop of the map of Japan. With Oh’s documentaries, we can learn about Chesa (a Korean ceremony of ancestor worship) to a-ha’s “Take On Me,” or make unexpected connections between Zainichi Korean history and Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters or with Yoshio Tabata’s postwar hit, Kaeribune (Repatriation Boat). He made Zainichi Korean history cinematic.

At a time when Directors Guild of Japan is chaired by Sai Yoichi and Eiren (Motion Picture Producer Association of Japan) have nominated works by Sai, Lee Sang-il, and Yang Yong-hi to compete for the Foreign Language Oscar in the Academy Awards, it appears all but certain that Zainichi Koreans have gained citizenship in the world of cinema. Oh’s legacy might be understood in the reverse term. Instead of making it in the film business, he made cinema relevant to as many Zainichi Koreans as he could.
Shota T. Ogawa is Assistant Professor of Japanese at University of North Carolina at Charlotte who is writing a book manuscript tentatively titled Visualizing Zainichi: A Cinematic Counter-History of Koreans in postwar Japan.  

Friday, January 8, 2016


Eclipse Rising
US-Based Zainichi Coreans for Decolonization, Reunification and Zainichi Community Development

On December 28, 2015, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and Japan jointly announced that they had reached a “final and irreversible” settlement agreement on the long-standing issue of the Korean “Comfort Women.” The “Comfort Women” system (1932-1945), or Japanese military sexual slavery, was a widespread and systematic racist, colonial violence against women. Its central feature was the rationalized procurement, imprisonment, rape, abuse, torture, and brutalization of an estimated 200,000 women and girls. One of the largest organized systems of exploiting and trafficking of women in the 20th century, the violence resulted in mutilation, death, or eventual suicide of victims.

This latest so-called agreement is nothing more than Japan’s attempt at permanent erasure of an extraordinary human rights atrocity that continued for over a decade with impunity. As such, it amounts to an unjust silencing of the victims and their principled demands for apology and atonement, and turns its back on the fundamental understanding of women’s rights as human rights.

Eclipse Rising stands in solidarity with the victims in rejecting the “agreement” for its failure to restore their dignity and human rights. While this “agreement” was ostensibly hailed as settling the “Comfort Women” issue, none of the victims were consulted. In fact, it leaves out other “Comfort Women” from other parts of Asia: 11 countries in all. It also prohibits South Korea from ever raising the issue in any other international body, including the United Nations, leaving Korean victims without a governmental advocate.

Despite the gravity of the offenses, no actual written agreement was ever produced; rather, the two governments issued separate national statements summarizing the negotiations. Furthermore, in this “agreement,” Japan refused to accept the term “coercion” to describe the “Comfort Women” system, constituting a dubious regression from the 1993 Kono Statement (made by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono that acknowledged Japan’s role in the coercion of girls in the “Comfort Women” system).

Despite the fact that the Allied Forces had full knowledge about the existence of this heinous institution, the United States, Japan, and South Korea colluded to silence and erase this history for over forty years since World War II. Under escalating militarization and wars in post-WWII Asia, US military presence and bases grew. Doubly victimized, many former “Comfort Women” continued to suffer sexual exploitation in camp town prostitution long after they were “freed” from Japanese sexual slavery.

Indeed, survivors had been forgotten and abandoned by local, national, and international communities for too long. This is the backdrop to the impassioned indignation displayed by a former “Comfort Woman” Lee Yongsoo halmoni, as she learned of the news and confronted the Korean Vice Foreign Minister: “Why are you trying to kill us twice?”

We deny the assertion by the governments of the United States, South Korea, and Japan that this so-called agreement is a step in the “right direction.” To the contrary, we assert that it takes us several steps backwards. The settlement cannot be said to be official government action, as it lacks either cabinet approval or parliamentary endorsement in either the Korean or Japanese legislatures.

We note, also, that to date, the Japanese legislature has never passed a resolution of acknowledging state responsibility for the “Comfort Women” system or other atrocities committed by the Japanese military during WWII. Thus, this and all prior statements remain subject to equivocation.

Japan’s payment of $8.3 million into a settlement fund is widely recognized as compensation to the victims. Is it not then peculiar that Foreign Minister Kishida has repeatedly claimed this payment does not at all constitute “reparation,” but rather, a part of “a Korea-Japan joint venture”? Thus, he rejects any suggestion that Japan admits culpability. Billed as “humanitarian support,” this payment constitutes mere charity and hush money from the Japanese government.

The “final and irrevocable” nature of this settlement also leaves out any requirement on the part of Japan for ongoing documentation and education of Japan’s responsibility for the “Comfort Women” system. In fact, Prime Minister Abe has led the way towards denial and erasure of not only the victims but the facts of history inconvenient for its PR objective to “improve Japan’s image.”

In 2015, Japan tripled its public relations budget to $500 million, part of which is dedicated to an elaborate global campaign to deny or dilute its role in WWII, most aggressively with regard to the “Comfort Women” system, and other atrocities, such as the Nanjing Massacre. In fact, the latest history textbook omits such facts, while glorifying its militaristic past. Such history education renders a whole post-WWII generation of Japanese citizens vulnerable to national amnesia, if not denial, about Japan’s own history. The Japanese government’s demand to remove the “Comfort Women” memorial erected near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul undermines any belief that Japan has engaged earnestly and in good faith, as is expected in diplomatic negotiations.

Furthermore, this “agreement” runs counter to the 2014 Recommendations to the United Nations Human Rights Bodies on the Issue of Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery (Comfort Women). Various UN treaty bodies, including the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), as well as the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, have repeatedly urged Japan to make reparations to the victims, officially acknowledge legal liability, conduct investigations and prosecutions of those responsible, and educate the public about the atrocities — so that it is not repeated again. And yet, this “final and irrevocable” settlement does absolutely none of these things. Rather, it permanently banishes the very existence of the victims and their principled demands into an irrelevant past where they are forgotten and abandoned — again. 

The UN Special Rapporteur on Systematic Rape, Sexual Slavery and Slavery-like Practices During Armed Conflict has established that in totality, the “Comfort Women” system constitutes crime against humanity, to which statutory limitations do not apply, and that Japan does indeed bear legal liability. Navi Pillay, former High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations has stated that this “is a current issue, as human rights violations against these women continue to occur as long as their rights to justice and reparation are not realized.”

Thus, we must urgently take collective action to resist and condemn this historical erasure and denialism masquerading as a just, permanent, solution. As the first city in the country to ratify CEDAW, and as people of conscience, we call upon all San Franciscans to stand with the grandmothers, and build upon the unanimously passed Comfort Women Memorial Resolution here in San Francisco — and urgently support the building of the Comfort Women Memorial.

Eclipse Rising will not relent in seeking justice for all “Comfort Women” through education and memorialization so that we can one day create a world in which the fundamental rights of all girls and women take primacy over political expediency, national interests and regional “security” —  and eliminate the use of rape and violence against women as a central strategy of war.

We honor the grandmothers for galvanizing a global movement against military sexual violence, and making a tremendous contribution to the establishment of this violence as a crime against humanity. Their efforts have helped overturn one of the most widely-accepted, unjust “norms” of humankind, and leave all women and girls a legacy of hope.

January 08, 2016

Monday, August 17, 2015

Eclipse Rising's 'The People's History of Japan' mini-series: a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of Japan's colonial aggression and WWII: (2) Jiichiro Matsumoto (1887-1966)

In April 1955, Jiichiro Matsumoto (1887-1966), a leader of Buraku liberation movement, a politician, and a proponent of “Suihei-undo (Horizontal movement, i.e., Buraku liberation movement) of the world,” participated in Bandung Conference in Indonesia, where leaders from thirty newly post-colonial states, along with observers from national liberation movements throughout the colonial world, gathered. The photo is a reminder of the central role played by this Buraku liberation leader in the Third World Internationalism in the 1950s, which brought together Third-World radical grassroots activists and political leaders from all over the world.

According to AAPA (Asian American Political Alliance) Newspaper (vol. 1, no.4, 1969), “the Bandung Conference was one of the major impetus in the development of the Third World consciousness among the nations of Asia, Latin America and Africa.” The AAPA Newspaper went on to quote from Chou Enlai’s speech at the conference. He maintained, despite their ancient civilizations and contributions to the world,

 “ever since modern times, most of the countries of Asia and Africa in varying degrees have been subjected to colonial plunder and oppression, and have been thus forced to remain in a stagnant state of poverty and backwardness … we Asian and African countries, which are more or less under similar circumstances, should be the first to cooperate with one another in a friendly manner and put peaceful coexistence into practice. The discord and estrangement created among the Asian and African countries by colonial rule in the past should no longer be there. We Asian and African countries should respect one another and eliminate any suspicion and fear which may exist between us.”

Matsumoto was a friend to Chou Enlai and a regular participant of many international conferences. Matsumoto’s principle of  fukashin fukahishin (Do not invade, Do not allow getting invaded) was reflected in the Ten Principles for Peace declared at the Bandung Conference. 

In 1952, prior to Bandung Conference, Matsumoto had also played a leadership role in founding the Asian Ethnic Friendship Association. The Association originated in a deep regret of Japan’s invasion of Asian countries. The founding statement of the Association maintained: “If Japan desires to become a truly independent and democratic country and to contribute to world peace, Japan must establish friendly relationships with all ethnic groups in Asia.” The statement continued: “Asian people, who reside in Japan, would take the central role in this Association. The Association would promote mutual understanding and friendship among all Asian ethnic groups, based on the principle of fushin fukashin, equality, and mutual support.” According to Kazuaki Honda at the library of the Human Rights Research Center, the Association reached out to Koreans, Chinese, Indians, Mongols, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Thai, and Indonesians, who were residing in Japan, to become co-founders of the Association. (It would be interesting to find out how leaders of each group responded to the invitation.)

Matsumoto was also befriended by American civil rights activist and renowned performance artist Josephine Baker. In an interview, Matsumoto recalled his encounter with Baker:

“When Ms Josephine Baker visited Japan, I had an opportunity to meet with her and witnessed her suffering as a member of an oppressed race, which was engraved into her brown skin. I deeply empathized with her determination to devote herself, even to the last drop of her blood, to eliminating unjust discriminations from the world. [It was because of my encounter with Baker] I started to participate in [the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism]. Baker’s suffering and determination reminded me of my own lived experience of suffering as an oppressed person in Japan, my determination to end discrimination, and my struggles over thirty years. That is why I was delighted to promise her to work with her.”

Friday, August 14, 2015

Eclipse Rising's 'The People's History of Japan' mini-series: 
a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of Japan's colonial aggression and WWII

Eclipse Rising members may be Koreans but we are all born and raised in Japan, and consider Japan to be our home -- it is where our own families live, work, play, worship and raise our children and bury our dead. We continue to live under a virtual 'apartheid' system wherein we are denied citizenship, thus excluded from protection of Japan's constitutional rights, right to compulsory education, fair employment, and access to public resources such as pensions and welfare services. We are given no voting rights and cannot participate in electoral politics in Japan. This remains the case even as we are now third, fourth, or even fifth generation Zainichi Koreans born and raised in Japan. 

While we denounce and protest racist subjugation of our peoples and continue to call for genuine emancipation from Japan's colonial rule that should have been delivered to us when we were liberated in 1945, we are proud of the little-known history of the people of Japan who spoke up and out against injustices in their time and bestowed upon us a proud legacy. They are our honored forebearers, our Senpai; while nationalities may differ, we are united by shared values and principles of peace, justice and equity.

When we look back at Japan's modern history through the lens of what unites us, we find abundance of evidence that the people of Japan have weaved a rich history of their courageous activism and resistance for what is truly in the interest of their own families and communities. It is high time that we Nikkeis take the initiative to elevate evidence of the People's history of Japan and honor its legacy as stewards of its cause into the future.

It's a daunting task, but we have to start somewhere. In this mini-series, we'll introduce one tidbit of a blast from the past at a time that introduce, and illuminate, the undeniable truth of a proud social movement led by diverse people throughout the country -- ranging from the Buraku-min (the 'Untouchable Caste' people of Japan), workers, farmers, women, Japan's colonial subjects including the Koreans and Chinese, and more.


"Stop the War! Use the Money for the War, to Feed the Unemployed! ABSOLUTELY OPPOSED TO IMPERIALIST WAR" --- political poster, circa 1933-4. Source: Photo Archive of the National Suiheisha's 60-year History; Ed., Buraku Liberation League Central Office, 1982.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"A legacy of WWII, Korean residents test nation’s ability to accommodate non-Japanese" (Japan Times)

As we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the "liberation" this month, we also know that the liberation is yet to come as imperial system that had put Koreans and other colonial subjects in the position of "second class citizen" during the colonial occupation is still alive and well in Japan. The third-, forth- and fifth-generation Koreans born and raised in Japan -whose condition is a byproduct of not only Japanese colonization, but also unending Korean War, the Cold War, and thriving War on Terror -struggle to gain recognition and equal access to resources as full members of the society to this day.
August 10, 2015

"A legacy of WWII, Korean residents test nation’s ability to accommodate non-Japanese"
by Eric Johnston

Underneath the train tracks of JR Tsuruhashi Station, it’s easy to wonder if you’re still in Japan. The smell of yakiniku barbecue permeates the air and the narrow warrens of shops offer all sorts of Korean foods, including the ever-popular kimchi pickles. Advertising posters are often in Korean, and the shop owners chat with each other in the same language.

The Tsuruhashi district is known nationwide and, increasingly, abroad as one of Japan’s main Korean neighborhoods. It’s part of Osaka’s Ikuno Ward, home to over 24,000 resident Koreans. That’s nearly 20 percent of the total ward population, the highest ratio of resident Koreans nationwide.

There are no official statistics on the total number of ethnic Koreans with Japanese nationality, but about 430,000 Koreans live in Japan as foreign nationals with permanent residency. Of these, about 370,000 hold special permanent residency, as they or their forebears came to Japan between 1910 and 1952 as colonial subjects.

The Kansai region, particularly Osaka, Kyoto, and Hyogo prefectures, are home to the largest numbers of Korean residents. Today, the Tsuruhashi “Korea Town” area attracts locals and tourists from around Japan and the world. It has a reputation as being one of the few remaining traditional working-class neighborhoods of “old” Osaka, the one that hasn’t yet been transformed into a cold, gleaming, upscale cultural desert of Italian and French fashion house chains and fast food restaurants — as one finds in many other parts of the country.

“Tsuruhashi and the Ikuno Ward area are one of many areas settled by Koreans during Japan’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula. They did a lot of dredge work on the rivers and canals in the area, and were mostly laborers,” said Kwak Jin Woong, head of the Tsuruhashi-based Korea NGO Center.

The occupation lasted from 1910 to 1945. During that time, millions of Koreans, who were legally Japanese citizens even though they faced discrimination, came to Japan to work. After 1940, many were forcibly brought to do the toughest, dirtiest, and most dangerous jobs. By the time Japan surrendered in 1945, there were about 2 million Koreans living in the country.

The U.S.-led Allied Occupation offered them the chance to return to their homeland and about 1.4 million did. The roughly 650,000 who remained did so for a variety of reasons. Some had worked in Japan before 1940, had children born in Japan, and felt more Japanese than Korean. Some had prospered, or believed their economic prospects would be better if they remained in Japan. And some simply were too poor to return to Korea.

Occupation officials were not quite sure what to do with the large population of Koreans who remained. Officially, the American government wanted them to be treated as either “liberated nationals” or “enemy nationals.” But in May 1947, the Japanese government passed the Alien Registration Law, which declared that Koreans and Taiwanese were now to be considered foreigners. As such, they were required to carry identification papers.

When the Occupation ended in 1952 with the signing of the San Francisco Treaty, which returned sovereignty to Japan, the government formally revoked the citizenship of Koreans in Japan. The peninsula had been divided into North and South Korea and the Korean War was raging.
An estimated 90 percent of Koreans in Japan changed their nationality to South Korean, and two civic groups were formed: Mindan, which supported South Korea, and Chongryon, which supported North Korea.

About a decade later, in 1965, Japan and South Korea normalized relations, but those who supported North Korea were effectively stateless.

In 1959 the North Korean government launched an effort to draw Koreans from Japan by promising them the rewards of a socialist paradise. By 1967, Chongryon had gotten about 89,000 Koreans in Japan to resettle in the North, according to Soo Im Lee, a professor at Ryukoku University, in her 2012 report “Diversity of Zainichi Koreans and Their Ties to Japan and Korea.” Zainichi is a name for Japan-based ethnic Koreans.

Those that remained in Japan suffered discrimination in public life and from society, and they remained second-class citizens.

However, the Japanese government exploited the existence of Mindan and Chongryon, using their executives as quiet back-channel liaisons between Japanese politicians and the governments of South and North Korea.

It would be revealed in the late 1990s that some Chongryon members also served as spies for North Korea in Japan.

In stories that sounded like the plots for fiction thrillers, Korean residents in Japan who had become disillusioned with North Korea wrote books about how they had received coded instructions over short-wave radio and made secret trips to Pyongyang to deliver suitcases full of cash.
They also mapped parts of the coast on the Sea of Japan, where North Korean agents sought isolated beaches on which to land at night by rubber boat. The mappers would include information about the nearest train station for agents to continue their journey.

By the end of the Cold War in Europe in the early 1990s, much had changed. In 1991, the Japan-South Korea Foreign Exchange Memorandum gave pro-South and pro-North Korean residents in Japan the status of special permanent residents. Previously, only those with South Korean nationality had enjoyed special permanent residency status.

At the same time, the past 20 or 30 years had seen some positive changes. The requirement that Korean residents be fingerprinted was abolished. Some municipalities now allow Korean residents to vote on certain local ordinances. More public-sector jobs are open to Korean residents than in the past.

However, problems remain. Kwak noted that many major Japanese firms remain reluctant to hire Korean residents, and that discrimination in jobs and housing hasn’t disappeared. More worrisome for many Korean residents is the rise of anti-Korean hate groups like Zaitokukai, which verbally abuse Koreans and make death threats toward them.

A survey by the Organization of Korean Youth in Japan between June 2013 and March 2014 of 200 Korean residents under 30 years old showed that about a third of them avoided discussing Japan-Korean history in public and on the Internet. In an August 2014 report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Lawyers Association of Zainichi Koreans (LAZAK) called on the U.N. to pressure the Japanese government to prohibit the use of public facilities by groups promoting or inciting racial discrimination.

Just this month, the Diet has also begun to debate a bill that not only Korean residents in Japan but human rights activists have long sought: a law that would ban public racial discrimination at the national and local level. Kim Chang Ho, a lawyer with LAZAK who helped prepare last year’s report to the U.N., called the bill a major step forward to secure the rights of foreigners, but noted it faces tough political hurdles.

“The bill was jointly submitted by the Democratic Party of Japan, the Social Democratic Party and independent Upper House member Keiko Itokazu. But the Liberal Democratic Party has taken a very cautious stance, so it’s unclear as to whether . . . the bill will be enacted in the current session,” Kim said.

If enacted, the bill would benefit not only Koreans but all foreign residents in the future. It is part of the larger effort by Japan to come to grips with not only its historical legacy in Korea in the pre- and postwar period but the more general question of how Japanese in the future want to live with foreigners in their midst.

“For many years, Japan’s policy toward resident foreigners was one of ‘assimilation,’ which basically meant ‘make them the same as Japanese.’ Now, it’s evolving toward ‘integration,’ which allows for more differences,” Kwak said. “Hopefully, though, we’ll see the day when the official policy and social mindset in Japan is one of ‘coexistence’ with Korean residents and foreigners, which will respect and protect differences.”