Sunday, December 6, 2009

End the Korean War

Please see the following website and YouTube clip about Korean Americans asking for PEACE on the Korean peninsula.
Eclipse Rising supports the National Campaign to End the Korean War.
Please click on the website link and sign the petition for peace!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Eclipse Rising W. Coast Roadshow & Solidarity Tour

Zainichi Koreans in the United States!
An LA Zainichi Korean Community town hall meeting
A working collaboration between Zainichi Korean, Japanese American, and Korean American organizations in the United States
Please join us:
• Date: Saturday, November 21, 2009
• Time: 4:00 – 6:00pm
• Place: Little Tokyo Service Center’s Casa Heiwa
231 E. 3rd St. (between Los Angeles St. and San Pedro St.)
Los Angeles, CA

Presented by Eclipse Rising w/generous support of Little Tokyo Service Center

Eclipse Rising is a community organization of, by, and for Zainichi residents in the U.S., in and beyond the Bay Area, to recognize and celebrate the rich and unique history of Koreans in Japan, promote Zainichi community development, peace and reunification, and work for social justice for all minorities in Japan and around the world.

Eclipse Rising started in 2008 when some Bay Area residents of Zainichi Korean background decided it was time to finally start a community organization to reclaim Zainichi Korean history and elevate our voices as a key vehicle to shape our own destinies with dignity.

"Zainichi" literally translates to "resident of Japan." This term pertains to any so-called "foreign resident" in Japan, including Koreans who lived in Japan as a result of Japanese colonization of Korea between 1910 and 1945, and their descendents, who historically comprise the largest minority group of Japan. Although multiple generations of Koreans (4, 5 generations now) have been born and raised in Japan, basic rights (even access to public compulsory education) are/can be denied to Zainichi Koreans legally.

Our wish is that Korean and other ethnic minorities in Japan who still suffer many forms of discrimination to this day can live in harmony and craft a blueprint for a truly multicultural society.

Our organization was formed to recognize and build on the history and legacy of our ancestors, and to work toward social justice for all minorities in Japan. We also work to establish a stable and supportive community for Zainichi Koreans in the United States, an increasingly popular destination for Zainichi Koreans seeking a ‘home’ after generations of searching.

The name "Eclipse Rising" is meant to counter the imperialist Japanese flag with the "rising sun." The Eclipse, though through few occurrences, is able to cover the sun completely and change the perspective. We would like to view the eclipse as a symbol of Koreans in Japan rising up against oppression.

Find our group on Facebook & Connect with us today, or contact us to join our mailing list!

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Jainichi Scholar Scrutinizes the ‘Unresolved Past of Korea and Japan’

“A Contemporary History of Deadlocked Thought” by Yun Kon-cha, Translated by Park Jin-u et al., Changbi Publishers Inc., 625 pages, 27,000 won;
“Winter Forest” by Yun Kon-cha, Translated by Kim Eung-gyo, Hwanam Publishing Co., 134 pages, 6,300 won
“It seems it`s my duty to leave some meaningful marks by facing and struggling with an era that produced the so-called jainichi (Korean residents in Japan),” said Professor Yun Kon-cha of Kawakana University. Professor Yun is known as the author of “Trend of Modern Korean Thought” and “Modern Ideological Deadlocks in Korea and Japan.” He recently published two books in Seoul, “A Contemporary History of Deadlocked Thought” (Gyochak-doen sasang-eui hyeondae sa) and “Winter Forest” (Gyeoul sup). The former was originally published by Iwanami Shoten Publishers in Japan last year; the latter, simultaneously published in Korea and Japan, is Yun`s first poetry collection. For “Winter Forest,” Im Heon-yeong, a literary critic and professor, wrote an introduction under the heading “A Diasporean Intellectual`s Search for Self.” This can also be applied to “A Contemporary History of Deadlocked Thought.”
Yun`s search for self, though belated and seemingly sluggish, was dramatic and thoroughgoing. Through the vast research by Yun, who has studied enormous amounts of material, we may be able to experience an intellectual shock and an amazing extension of our views to encompass Japan and jainichi by moving our eyes to jainichi, from where his research began. This is directly linked to the problem of inaction in addressing the issue of “Japan`s imperial system and Joseon (Korea`s pre-modern state name)” and “the founding of a unified Korea,” which remains an unresolved question from the decolonization process between Korea and Japan.
The Japan that Yun talks about can be very different from the Japan we know. While in high school he was surprised to find his name written in Korean style in the roll book and “desperately pleaded that it be changed to the Japanese style.” He graduated from Kyoto University but could not find a job. “With nowhere else to go,” he enrolled for a graduate program at the University of Tokyo and earned a doctorate at the age of 38. It was about this time that he acknowledged he was jainichi. Thereafter he desperately clung to studying modern Japan, especially Japan after its defeat in World War II, and jainichi. These days he is more devoted to the study of Korean society. He met Hong Se-hwa, a pro-democracy activist known as “a taxi driver in Paris,” and his friends in Europe around the time of the democratization struggle of June 1987. Around that time his passport problems were solved so he began traveling to Korea frequently. Hence he began to see the world through Korea.
The original Japanese title of “A Contemporary History of Deadlocked Thought” may be translated into “Deadlocked Experience of Thought.” Therefore, it is not anyone else`s story but a chronicle of the author`s own experience of journeying back and forth between Japan, jainichi and Korea, each with a different ideological soil. The book grasps the paths trodden by Japan, Korea (South Korea) and Korean residents in Japan since the defeat/liberation of August 1945 to the present primarily “as the ideological experiences imprinted in history” by looking at them through the eyes of the Korean residents in Japan, who are the “products of Japan`s colonial rule over Korea, the living witnesses of history and the most acute embodiment of Japan`s brutal rule over other nations,” and “the historical existences manifesting the absurdity of modern Japan in the most miserable shape.”
The “thought” discussed by Yun refers to the “desperate and repeated question as to how to live.” And what is most important in his quest of thought is “pursuing the greatest absurdity and task of the era.” He thinks the three pillars constituting the identity of Japanese people are “worship of the West, the imperial ideology, and disdain of Asia.” The worship of the West and disdain of Asia are the two sides of a coin, which are rooted in discrimination and prejudice against the heterogeneous others. The imperial system, “forming the nucleus of Japanese nationalism asserting uniqueness and superiority and performing the oppressive and exclusive function internally and externally,” was the mechanism that made these thoughts possible. Under this mechanism Korea and the Korean people were imprinted in the minds of the Japanese with the gloomiest and the most negative images. In this regard, Japanese imperialism and Korean issues are mutually interrelated and form the core of modern Japanese thought.

Japan should have jettisoned its emperor system and established a republican democracy when it lost the war. However, the United States applied ambiguous terms in the surrender process and colluded with the Japanese ruling forces. The occupying power thus allowed Japan to maintain its monarchial system for its convenience in governing Japan as a bridgehead for its Cold War strategy in the Far East. It suppressed by force Korean residents and the Japanese Communist Party, who opposed the system most strongly, and revived the prewar elite forces including Nobusuke Kishi. Such a “reverse course” taken by postwar Japan exactly corresponded with a series of events that occurred in the southern half of the Korean peninsula under U.S. occupation, such as the annihilation of leftists, the civilian struggles in Daegu on October 1, 1946 and in Jeju Island on April 3, 1948, the bloody suppression of the uprising in Yeosu and Suncheon, and the taking of power by Rhee Syngman and pro-Japanese forces. A broad scope of cross-examination simultaneously delving into these crucial events in Japan and Korea is the biggest strength of this book. Perhaps it has an effect of triple vision expansion.
Korea`s biggest ideological challenge is building a unified country. This aborted task is closely linked to Japan`s original sin of colonial occupation leading to Korea`s territorial division and the U.S.-Japan alliance, which the postwar Japanese intellectuals thoroughly ignored. Shigeru Nanbara who led the “democratization” of postwar Japan and even Masao Maruyama who is known as “a leader and victor of postwar democracy” turned a blind eye to the problems of Korea and Koreans. Yoshimi Takeuchi, who was sympathetic to jainichi issues, talked only about Japan`s invasion of China and evaded the issues of Korea and Korean residents in Japan. Their self-centered “great power chauvinism” is apparent in taking issue with the so-called 15-year war from Japan`s invasion of Manchuria to its defeat but brushing aside its reckless assault upon Korea since the Sino-Japanese War. Yun points out that even Professor Haruki Wada whom he highly regards reveals his limitations by failing to criticize the emperor system straightforwardly.
From the Japanese intellectuals who simply define nation and nation state as “fallacy” and emphasize non-violence, tolerance, coexistence and reconciliation, Yun peeps at “an effort to free themselves from pressures of colonialism and nationalist issues” and also finds “the common illusion to shelve their responsibility as the wrongdoers.” Progressive intellectuals of the two countries once achieved a happy alliance during the democracy movement in Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. However, as reaffirmed afterwards through the history textbook controversies, comfort women issues, the rise of Korean “new rightists” and rapport by Japanese conservatives, “Japan basically has neither apologized nor compensated for its invasion and rule over Korea and the division of Korea, so the past history remains little liquidated.” Still worse, there seems to be little hope that this state of affairs will ever change in the future.
As for the argument by Park Yu-ha who has drawn applause from Japanese conservative intellectuals for her book “For Reconciliation,” Yun criticized it as “pseudo-rightist sentimentalism” showing no sympathy toward the national division of Korea and consequent sufferings. “Her logic is rough and shows a great deal of misunderstanding and distortion of historical facts,” he said.
Yun warned against hasty reconciliation, arguing that Park`s opinion welcomed by the Asahi Shimbun should probably be little different than the right-wing fascist Katsumi Sato`s view that “rejecting apologies should be the first step toward reconciliation.” The ultimate solution he suggests is that Korea should continue to demand Japan`s self-reflection and apology but without expecting its demand to be met. He says Korea should instead find the correct path to reunification and national prosperity on its own.
[ July 25, 2009 ]

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Eclipse Rising 講演・レセプション

LA在住の在日コリアン求む! (その他の方々も歓迎!) 


主催者:Eclipse Rising
    支援団体:Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC)

日時:20091121() 午後4時〜6

場所:Little Tokyo Service CenterCASA HEIWA  
231 E. 3rd St. (Los Angeles and San Pedro St.

Los Angeles, CA 90013 (213) 473-3030

言語:日本語/English (通訳有)

Eclipse Rising はサンフランシスコ・ベイエリアを拠点とした在日コリアン団体でトランスナショナルな在日コミュニティの基盤を築き、在日特有の歴史性やアイデンティティの視点から、日本社会の公正そして朝鮮半島の平和的な統一を目指し2008年に発足。団体名のEclipse Risingは、日食が太陽を覆い隠す様に、抑圧の象徴である”Rising Sun”に対抗して立ち上がる在日コリアンをイメージして命名されました。Eclipse Risingは在日コリアン個人のリーダーシップを育み、在日の多様性を尊重し、 日本や米国、さらに世界のマイノリティーと連帯して差別と闘う活動を展開しています。

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

New Ninja movie by zainichi director

from Japan Times:

Friday, Sept. 18, 2009

Ninja epic not all about action

Staff Writer
Producers, both here and abroad, have been busy scouting film properties among the anime and manga of the 1960s and 1970s, from kiddie cartoon fluff such as "Yattaman" to the apocalyptic thriller "MW," created by manga maestro Osamu Tezuka.

Given the growing popularity of the originals around the world, the target audience is often not only nostalgic Japanese graybeards, but also young foreign fans.

Yoichi Sai's "Kamui Gaiden" would seem eminently exportable to these fans. Based on a classic manga by Sampei Shirato that ran in "Shukan Shonen Sunday" from 1965 to 1967 and then again in "Big Comic" from 1982 to 1987, "Kamui" has a hot-blooded ninja hero, played by the star du jour Kenichi Matsuyama, as well as action scenes galore, choreographed by Hong Kong-trained Kenji Tanigaki (see my June 12 profile at

Those expecting a fun two hours with campy chopsocky are in for a letdown, however. Shirato was a pioneering alternative-comics artist who injected "Kamui" with his own leftist politics, including a pointed critique of discrimination and inequality in Japanese society. Sai's screen version, with a script by Kankuro Kudo, is more on the entertaining than politicizing side, but it preserves the core of Shirato's dark, violent vision. In his Japan, outsiders are, not merely marginalized, but hunted and exterminated like vermin.

Sai is the right director for this story, if background and filmography are any criteria. A zainichi (ethnic) Korean, Sai has often examined the lives of minorities and social marginals in his films, from his 1993 comedy "Tsuki wa Dotchi Deteiru" ("All Under the Moon"), whose hero is a cynical zainichi cabby, to the prison comedy "Keimusho no Naka" ("Doing Time," 2002) and the zainichi family drama "Chi to Hone" ("Blood and Bones," 2004).

At the same time, Sai had not had much action experience prior to "Kamui" and the shoot, which began in April 2007 and wrapped in September 2008, was long and grueling. That effort is visible on the screen — and not always in a good way, with airborne battles that look a bit labored instead of lyrical, as though, after weeks of 20-hour days, everyone was running on fumes.

But energetic and inspired action moves are also on abundant display, many of which are supplied by Matsuyama as the inhumanly agile ninja hero. Also, compared with Kazuaki Kiriya's "Goemon," a recent period actioner with the weightless look and feel of a video game, "Kamui" packs far more of a visceral punch — the positive side of all that heavy breathing.

Kamui (Matsuyama) is raised by a ninja clan and becomes one of its strongest fighters, but feeling hemmed in by the clan's rules and yearning for freedom, he decides to leave it. The story proper begins after he has taken this fateful step and is being relentlessly hunted by his former fellow ninja as a traitor and renegade. After eliminating his pursuers one by one, he meets and befriends Hanbei (Kaoru Kobayashi), a fisherman whose rank in the social pecking order is almost as low as his own.

Hanbei, however, ends up being chased himself by the minions of Gumbei (Koichi Sato), a local lord who is convinced that his favorite horse has been killed by Hanbei. Kamui helps him escape and, in return, Hanbei takes him to the remote island village he calls home. There Kamui finds Sugaru (Koyuki), Hanbei's wife — and a runaway ninja like himself. Thinking Kamui has been sent to assassinate her, she tries to kill him and, even after he pleads his innocence of evil intentions, is slow to trust him. But Hanbei's teenage daughter Sayaka (Suzuka Ohgo) takes an immediate liking to this dashing stranger.

Then the island receives a visitor — a ship on the hunt for the killer sharks that infest the surrounding waters. The captain, Fudo (Hideaki Ito), is playing a double game, however, and pulls Kamui into it. Soon our hero is faced with a choice that could cost him his life.

"Kamui" thoroughly demythologizes the ninja of fabled secrecy and cunning, showing them as a closed society of absolute conformity and amoral duplicity. Quitting a ninja clan is like quitting the old Sicilian Mafia — you leave as a corpse or not at all. Also, once you are a clan renegade, you can never rest easy, since friends and lovers can suddenly reveal themselves as deadly enemies. Whom can you trust? The short answer, Kamui finds, is "no one."

This may sound grim, but Matsuyama, who made his breakthrough as the sweets-addicted detective L of the "Death Note" films, is an eye-riveting combination of feral grace and intensity as Kamui. Also, while flashing those wary-animal eyes, he gives the character a humanly likable and tongue-in-cheek comic side. Meanwhile, Hideaki Ito, so stiff as the pure-hearted skin-diver hero of the "Umizaru" films, delivers an exuberant stemwinder of a performance as Fudo, all toothy, menacing grins and hammy, vicious energy. One reference point is Gregory Peck as Ahab in "Moby Dick" (for the shared beards and borderline nutso affects). Another are the charmingly ruthless villains that were a specialty of postwar star Tetsuro Tanba.

A sequel is implied at the end, which is only right, since Shirato's manga epic has hundreds more pages yet to film. But if Sai wants to take a break who could blame him? Fortunately for us, he got "Kamui" in the can before he and everyone around him collapsed of exhaustion.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Missile Defense on the Peace Island

Missile Defense on the Peace Island

I just got home from 3-weeks in South Korea. It was quite a trip.
During my last two days I was visiting Jeju Island (about 500 miles south of the Korean peninsula) which is recognized by UNESCO as being a place of world class environmental quality and one that hosts many endangered forms of corals and other sea life. To say it is a jewel would be an understatement.

Soon after arriving our delegation of five activists, which included some real notables in the South Korean movement for democracy and peace, we were brought to the offices of Jeju Solidarity for Participatory Self-Government & Environmental Preservation. There we were shown a most impressive 50-minute video about the struggle on the island to stop plans by the federal government to build a Navy base on the south side of the island. Jeju calls itself the "Island of Peace" and activists wonder how a Navy base, hosting Aegis destroyers outfitted with missile defense systems, could be considered a compatible use.

Three villages have been approached to host the base and the first two turned the government down. By the time the third village was asked the government had decided to offer bribes of $100,000 each to the respected sea diving women who are known for searching the bottom of the ocean for sea urchins which they then sell to make a living. The third village, Gangjung, is predominately opposed to the base but the bribes created enough of a division to cause the government to say they will build the base in this village.

Gangjung, like the rest of Jeju island, is most famous for growing tangerines in this tropical climate. Tourism is the second industry as people come from around the world to experience the wonders of the lush volcanic island. A long walking trail takes people across the island and recently the government has removed Gangjung from the walking trail maps so they can limit the numbers of people who would see the active signs of resistance amidst the splendid beauty of the rocky seaside where the proposed Navy base is to be built.

When I asked activists who the government said they needed the base to protect against the answer was followed by much laughter: pirates they told me. The truth is that the US will be jointly using the Navy base with the South Korean Navy as a port to deploy Aegis ships that will be used to help surround the coast of China and to give the US the capability to choke off China's ability to import 80% of its oil through the Malaka Straight that flows right off Jeju Island.

The villagers of Gangjung do not see the Navy base as offering them much. Their local economy is thriving from the tangerine groves that are everywhere in the town and from the abundant numbers of tourists who come there to experience the seaside. In fact the Navy base would take significant portions of their village land now used for farming and would destroy the environment. The rocky shoreline would be covered with cement and the proposed base pier would extend to the edge of where the fresh water Gangjung River flows into the sea.

Kang, Dong Kyun, the mayor of the village and a key protest leader, told me that 70% of the drinking water for the community comes from the river and would surely be negatively impacted by the Navy base. Take away our water, he said, and you destroy the town.

Throughout the village you see many tall bamboo poles with yellow flags on them that say, "We desperately oppose the Naval base." But no one in the government wants to listen to them. They have tried all the usual steps of meeting with government officials, organizing protests, and they recently tried to recall their provincial governor in a special election but did not turn out a high enough percentage of voters to make the vote official.

They've now set up a camp along the rocky coastline where some are now holding a round-the-clock vigil. More tents will be erected in the coming weeks as construction is set to begin at the end of this year. When I spoke to the village people in their community center last night there were key activists from other parts of South Korea who are trying to help.

I was deeply touched by the good people of Jeju. Mayor Kang told me, "This is the land of our ancestors that we must pass on to the future generations. This village must not be used as a 'strategic' base but must be preserved. The government is dividing people against each other which is the worst thing of all. The long lasting people will ultimately win."

I told the mayor and the village people that because the proposed base would have Aegis destroyers homeported there, with missile defense systems on-board, that the Global Network must do all it can to help them with their valiant effort. Just as we did what we could to support the people in the Czech Republic last year in their effort to resist US missile defense deployments, we must do the same for Jeju Island. That is what solidarity means.

Who will speak for the fish, the coral, the rocks, or the water I asked? We must all do it.

It has been a remarkable journey to South Korea and one that I am proud to have taken. I have met splendid people who are doing their best to resist the destruction of their democracy by corporate interests, the destruction of their farming lands, and the expansion of militarism. There are many fights going on in the world that we all have to be concerned about, more than we can all handle I know, but every now and then one comes along that represents all of these important struggles in one bundle. That is Jeju Island.

I hope that once we get the Jeju Island video, expected in a few weeks, that all of you will get a copy from us and show it in your community. I promise that everyone who watches it will be moved beyond tears about the beauty and the wonder of the island of peace. We must help bring the struggle on Jeju Island to the world.

Bruce K. Gagnon
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502 (Blog)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rest in Power, Gina Hotta, Executive Producer, APEX Express on KPFA Radio

Eugina Haruko Hotta (Gina, or "G" of APEX Express)
June 15, 1953-September 29, 2009

This is a tribute to the 1 person responsible for securing a platform for the progressive voices of the minorities of Japan in the Bay Area - Gina Hotta, a fierce advocate for social justice and particularly the empowerment of the Asian & Pacific Islander voices through media and organizing. She produced APEX Express on KPFA in Berkeley for 20 years - and 10 of those years, she consistently went out of her way to ensure representation of zainichi & Okinawan voices, as well as the progressive Nikkei voices on her show that also played a key role in illuminating the vibrant API hip hop scene, and before, the Asian-American jazz explosion and the cultural dimensions of the Third World organizing struggles of which she was part.

It also surfaced, unfortunately only after Gina's passing, that she was a staff of Japan Pacific Resource Network (JPRN) and an integral member of the larger progressive JPRN community in Japan and the US. Located in Oakland, JPRN is a respected ally organization of Eclipse Rising since founding.

Eclipse Rising represented at the Memorial held to celebrate and honor the life of this amazing sister & comrade, Eugina Haruko Hotta in Oakland. Here are some quotes from the speakers that together convey the depth of her humanity and the depth of her commitment to social justice - it is no wonder that she was always there to make sure that groups like Eclipse Rising had a venue to inject our voices into our communities.

Some folks who spoke moving words in her memory and honor were:
Ann Hotta, Gina's sister
Penina Taesali
Jeff Chiang
Brenda Wong Aoki
Greg Morizumi, member of the Eastside Arts Alliance and Eclipse Rising ally "Papa G"
...and many more, but here are listed (in order of appearance) those whose excerpts are quoted below.

"Gina was very proud of her blue-collar experiences"

"She wanted us to envision a better world, grounded in the past - the past was very important to her... she was very proud of her Japanese-American heritage, but at the same time, openly critical of Japanese imperialism. She was a staunch internationalist, and she identified with the Third World communities"

"She was the alchemist of all social movements..."

"...a builder of bridges, alchemist of light"

"1 thing about Gina is, when she got your back, she REALLY got your back, period. NOT just about an issue, but por vida she was with you all the way. How many people can you really say that about anybody, really?"

"It is said that she is the single most responsible person for the creation of a generation of API media warriors today"

Eclipse Rising is honored for the opportunity build upon the platform to speak out to the Bay Area community that she was instrumental in securing for us. We will always carry your legacy in our hearts... Travel well, sister Gina.

Deepest condolences to the Hotta family and we together mourn a loss of a dear spirit in our community. Thanks to every one with their time, energy, artistic talents, food, and other skills that put together a truly touching Memorial Service.

--Eclipse Rising

Monday, September 28, 2009

NK Candlelight Vigil Event Oakland 2009

This event was co-sponsored by a number of Korean American & zainichi organizations of the Bay Area and also hosted by Oakland Asian Cultural Center. Amazing program, opened by Christine Ahn, with performances by Dohee Lee, Chamesori, and Eclipse Rising...and amazing testimony of stories from the Korean War, the division, from young queer voices to survivor elders....these are the Corean voices for an END TO THE KOREAN WAR! PEACE TREATY NOW! Photos taken by Eclipse Rising,

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Koreans in Japan may be granted suffrage

Koreans in Japan may be granted suffrage
DPJ administration begins to reveal gestures towards Asia-policy focus and possible “gift” towards Korea surfaces

» Japan’s new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama listens to a question from a reporter during a press conference at his official residence in Tokyo Sept. 17. (REUTERS)
An opening for one of the greatest aspirations of Korean permanent residents in Japan, local voting rights for foreign permanent residents, to become a reality may be appearing.
While attending a Korean-Japanese cultural festival in Japan on Saturday, Ozawa Ichiro, secretary-general for the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) administration, met with Grand National Party (GNP) Lawmaker and Japan-Korea Parliamentarians’ Union Chair Lee Sang-deuk and told him “something must be done” about the issue of giving local voting rights to foreign permanent presidents. Ozawa said that he would settle the matter during the National Diet of Japan’s regular session. Japanese media reported that Ozawa apparently intends to present legislation as early as the regular session of the Diet convening in Jan. 2010.

However, opposition has been expressed not only by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), but also by conservative DPJ representatives and the DPJ’s coalition government parter, the People’s New Party, who view the extension of local voting rights to permanent residents as “rocking the foundations of the country.” As a result of these sentiments, attention is focusing on whether core DPJ figures in favor of extending voting rights, including Ozawa, Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio and Foreign Minister Okada Katsuya, will be able to break through the conservative opposition to pass the legislation.

Perhaps leery of creating friction early on, the DPJ simply distributed a one-page statement to reporters Sunday without explaining the content of the discussion.

At a debate among party heads last month, Hatoyama said that the DPJ was “integrating opinions for and against the extension of voting rights, but the time is coming when we must think about the future and act in the most forward-thinking way.”

In a Sept. 11 meeting with leaders of the Korean Residents Union in Japan, Ozawa said, “I have always been in favor of extending voting rights to permanent residents, and we will definitely decide on a plan at next year’s regular session of the Diet.” In Feb. 2008, during his time as DPJ president, Ozawa met with President Lee Myung-bak during a visit to South Korea and declared his intention to work toward the extension of voting rights.

Analysts are saying the future-oriented approach from core DPJ members comes from the determination that the administration could clearly show its position of Asia-focused foreign policy by offering a “gift” to the South Korean government, which has been calling for the extension of local voting rights to ethnic Koreans in Japan. Indeed, during his meeting with Rep. Lee, Ozawa showed a desire to resolve pending issues between South Korea and Japan, saying that the new DPJ administration would like “to make relations with South Korea into a relationship of real trust rather than a mere formality” and that it was “definitely possible to resolve fundamental issues” between the two countries.

The DPJ has presented legislation on local voting rights for permanent residents on several occasions in the past, together with the New Komeito Party and the Japanese Communist Party, but LDP opposition prevented them from coming to anything. If related legislation does pass the Diet, some 870,000 foreign permanent residents in Japan, among them 430,000 “special permanent residents,” including unnaturalized South Koreans and North Koreans living in Japan, will be able to exercise voting rights in local elections. However, the Federation of Korean Residents in Japan, which informally represents the North Korean position within the country, has been reluctant to campaign for local voting rights because of a perceived loss of ethnicity.

Please direct questions or comments to []

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Quarterly Zainichi Film Festival:::100 Years of Crossing Between Busan and Shimonoseki: Three Generations of Zainichi Koreans

Eclipse Rising and EastSide Arts Alliance present
100 years of Crossings Between Busan and Shimonoseki:
Three Generations of Zainichi Koreans

Sunday, September 6th at September 6th 1PM
Eastside Cultural Center
2277 International Blvd. at 23rd Ave., Oakland
(510) 533-6629

About the film: The documentary takes us back to the history of Korean migration to Japan; their lives under the colonial rule and after the liberation are exposed through the narratives of 1st and 2nd generation Zainichi Koreans in Shimonoseki, Japan.
The film
then takes a turn to the 3rd generation Zainichi Koreans who cross the straits,just as their 1st generation grandparents did, but in a reverse course - from Japan to Korea.

Eclipse Rising
is a US-based Zainichi Korean group founded in the winter of 2008, by Zainichi Koreans who came together in the Bay Area to recognize and celebrate the rich and unique history of Koreans in Japan, promote Zainichi community development, peace and reunification, and work for social justice for all minorities in Japan and around the world.

e-mail: blog: Find us on Facebook!

Eastside Arts Alliance is dedicated to nurturing and supporting the work of the Lower San Antonio District's African American, Latino/Chicano, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Indigenous artists and cultural workers, many of whom have not found a home within Oakland's mainstream arts community.

ESAA Website:

Suggested Donation: $7-15

Film is in Japanese (and partly Korean) with English subtitles


    From BART, get off on Fruitvale BART and walk several blocks west on International Boulevard or walk 1 block north to International Boulevard and take 1R bus west to East Side Arts Alliance. For travel planner link,

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Winner of Nuclear Peace video short

The winner of 2009 Swackhamer Video Contest founded by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation was teenager Erik Choquette of Santa Barbara. In this age of nuclear proliferation and constant tensions between major world powers, the American public really needs to push for an end to nuclear weapons and war once and for all! I hope the world is listening to our youth, who will be inheriting the world rigged with nuclear weapons unless we take some serious action to end this crisis.

Please take a look at this amazing 3min. footage of the winning video (to the right or click on title of this post for the link to the video) and check out the website for other winners and honorable mentions in the contest.

17-year-old Wins
National Peace Video Contest
For Second Year Running

July 15, 2009

Contact: Steven Crandell, 805 965-3443,

SANTA BARBARA -- Teenager Erik Choquette has created a remarkable animated video to claim the $1,000 first prize in the 2009 Swackhamer Disarmament Video Contest for the second year in a row.

Called The Nuclear Genie, the three minute video uses inventive graphics to connect nuclear weapons history with a way to “get the genie back in the bottle” through public participation in the democratic process.

The top three videos, as well as the four receiving honorable mention, can be viewed on line at:

Choquette, 17, had a clear strategy for this year’s competition. “I focused on a call to action and how this issue has influenced our society for so long,” he said. “It's an issue that many people simply ignore, never fully realizing, or wanting to realize, the possible effects of using a nuclear weapon again especially in our modern society.”

There were 120 videos submitted to this year’s Swackhamer competition. They displayed a variety of approaches from animation to claymation to live action drama. There was even one nuclear disarmament rap – “War on Nuclear Warheads” – which ended up getting Honorable Mention

“The judges and the staff of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation were all overwhelmed at the research, creativity and countless hours that went in to each of the videos,” said Rick Wayman, Director of Programs for the Foundation and contest coordinator. “It was difficult to pick the winners for this year’s contest; there were many videos contesting for the top spots. We honor each and every one of the entrants for their commitment to the cause.”

Choquette enters his senior year at Santa Barbara High School this fall. It promises to be a very busy time in his life.

“I'm applying to roughly 9-10 major film schools like USC, NYU, and UCLA. My dream school is USC, but it's going to take a lot to get in. For now, I'm starting to focus on narrative filmmaking. I'm starting production soon on a film I wrote several months ago which will act as an application film for colleges, but also as a film to enter into festivals.”
Second prize, and $750, went to the animated video, "Numbers of Destruction" by Tyler Short of Portland, Oregon. Third prize, and $250, was awarded to "Beautiful World" by Calvin Brue of Fergus Falls, Minnesota.
All videos had to be three minutes or less.
The topic for the contest was: “Breakthrough: Putting the Nuclear Genie Back in the Bottle -- How can we achieve a world free of nuclear weapons by the year 2020? Once this is achieved, how can we make sure that the “nuclear genie” stays in the bottle forever?”
The video contest will be held annually. There will be an announcement about the next contest in March 2010.

Please contact Steven Crandell, 805 965-3443 for interview requests and information.
Steven Crandell
Director of Development & Public Affairs
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
PMB 121, 1187 Coast Village Road, Suite 1
Santa Barbara, CA 93108-2794

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Need Your Help for the Transnational Korean Peace Candlelight Vigil

Dear Eclipse Rising members, supporters and zainichi/Korean/Japanese/Bay Area communities,

July 27 marks the 56th anniversary of temporary armistice agreement to end the fighting between the United States and Korea. However, that was not a peace treaty and the war between the US and Korea has technically never ended.

With recent escalating tensions between North Korea and the US (nuclear testing, missiles, military training, the detention of the American journalists) highlighted by the media, the horrendous thought of the "forgotten war" starting up again is not such a far-off reality.

On Sunday, July 26, there will be an international candlelight vigil held to voice our concerns and convince Washington, President Obama, and the international community that we must end the Korean War, the ongoing militarization and occupation of the Korean peninsula, and move forward toward a peace treaty and a reunification of the Korean peninsula.

The candlelight vigil will be happening in the following US cities: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Oakland, Washington DC, and possibly Chicago and Minneapolis. Also, some South Korean peace groups are going to join us along with the delegation of Korean Canadians and Korean Americans visiting North Korea this summer through the DPRK Exposure and Education Program.

The one planned in Oakland will be at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center (88 9th St # 290, Oakland, CA 94607-4295) from 6 - 8pm. The vigil will be co-sponsored by other local organizations and feature light snacks and refreshment and possibly a presentation of community folks sharing their thoughts about the Korean war and the need for a peace treaty through artistic means like poetry, song, and dance!

Eclipse Rising has committed to bring some zainichi foods, share a slideshow presentation of our families and our stories, and possibily sing "Imjim River" with the antendees.

We are looking for volunteers in our lovely community for the following:
1. help us cook or prepare zainichi foods (if you've never made a "zainichi" dish you can still help - we'll send you a recipe or we can cook together)
2. if you are zainichi - e-mail photos of your family that you are willing to share through a slide show. If you can also include a short blurb about your personal experience or family experience and maybe include how you or your family are affected by the division, even better! Please send those (2-3 photos only please) to
3. We know there are some musically talented folks we're sending this to! We want to play Imjin River for our small and intimate audience that night and we'd love it if anyone could join and play a musical instrument or sing along!
4. Write up a short piece or create an artistic expression (essay, poem, song, photos, painting) on how the division and war of Korea has affected you or your family as zainichi in some way and be willing to share it
5. Lastly, we're looking for help in outreach and publicity for the event once fliers and PR stuff are created and the event does need volunteers day of - set up, clean up, maybe during stuff too

In closing, please let us know if you can jump in on any aspect of this important project, and please ASAP because July 26 is fast approaching! You can e-mail us at

Please save the date (July 26 6-8pm)!

Check out this website:
Eclipse Rising

Friday, July 10, 2009

Okinawa Radio -

Please check out the following link to an Okinawan Radio station on line, with Okinawan music, links, and an online shop!*

*Website is in Japanese

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sending Another "Jimmy Carter" to North Korea

Reading this made me think of what might happen to the zainichi Koreans who reside in Japan if there was a war between North Korea and Japan.

You can read the article here or click on this link:

Sending another "Jimmy Carter" to North Korea

Selig Harrison | July 8, 2009
(Originally published June 20, 2009 in The Hankyoreh)

North Korea is often accused of dishonoring the commitments it makes in negotiations. However, in North Korean eyes, it is the U.S. that has failed to live up to its promises. This is the main reason why military hard-liners have been able to take control of North Korean foreign policy in the past six months and justify an increasingly provocative series of nuclear and missile tests in internal policy debates.

Kim Jong-il's failing health and his reduced work schedule have made it easier for the hard-liners to consolidate control. Their strength is rooted in a cavalier U.S. disregard of its commitments that has vindicated their opposition to the 1994 Agreed Framework and the 2007 six-party denuclearization agreement.

For nearly eight years, from June 1994, to December 2002, the moderates in North Korea led by First Deputy Foreign Minister Kang Sok-ju prevailed, and North Korea suspended its nuclear weapons program over the bitter protests of the hard-liners. In return, North Korea was promised two light water reactors as a token of U.S. readiness for normal relations. The reactors were never built, however, despite large South Korean and Japanese financial outlays. The Bush Administration not only abrogated the Agreed Framework, but dissolved the Korean Energy Development Organization (KEDO) and bludgeoned South Korea into approval in order to leave no doubt that the U.S. had repudiated its commitment.

Despite this, the moderates were able to get Kim Jong-il to support the six-party process with help from China and to disable the Yongbyon reactor. In return, the six parties pledge of 600,000 tons of oil. Although Japan, angered by the U.S. decision to remove North Korea from its List of Terrorist States, refused to provide its share, 200,000 tons, and the moderates were once again discredited.

This is a very dangerous moment in our relations with North Korea, the most dangerous since June 1994, when Jimmy Carter went to Pyongyang with the grudging consent of the Clinton Administration. Carter negotiated an agreement with Kim Il-sung that headed off a war and paved the way for the Agreed Framework. Now, we are in urgent need of another high-level emissary, but the Obama Administration is not even prepared to give its grudging consent to Al Gore. Gore has expressed interest in negotiating the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the two imprisoned U.S. journalists and employees of Current TV, which he founded, and in the process pave the way for a reduction of tensions.

Gore met Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on May 11 and asked for the cooperation of the Obama administration in facilitating a mission to Pyongyang and in empowering him to succeed in such a mission by exploring with him ways in which the present stalemate in relations between North Korea and the U.S. can be broken. She said she would "consider" his request, but the Administration has subsequently delayed action. The Administration's position is that the case of the two imprisoned journalists is a "humanitarian" matter and must be kept separate from the political and security issues between the two countries. In a News Hour interview with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on June 10, Margaret Warner asked Rice how the latest U.N. sanctions resolution would "complicate efforts to win the release of the two American journalists." Rice turned the question around, declaring that the issue of the two journalists "cannot be allowed to complicate our efforts to hold North Korea accountable" for its nuclear and missile tests.

This is an unrealistic position. It shows a callous disregard for the welfare of Laura Ling and Euna Lee. It ignores the danger of a war resulting from the Administration's naive attempts to pressure North Korea into abandonment of its nuclear and missile programs. Past experience with North Korea has repeatedly shown that pressure invariably provokes a retaliatory response that makes matters worse. The Administration should instead actively pursue the release of the two women through intervention in their behalf by a high-level unofficial emissary empowered to signal U.S. readiness for tradeoffs leading to the reduction of tensions, such as the provision of the 200,000 tons of oil that had been promised and not delivered to North Korea since the six-party talks broke off last fall.

Looking ahead, the goal of the U.S. should be to cap the North Korean nuclear arsenal at its existing level and to move toward normalized relations as the necessary precondition for progress toward eventual denuclearization. The prospects for capping the arsenal at its present level have improved as result of Pyongyang's June 13 announcement admitting that it has an R&D program for uranium enrichment. Since this program is in its early stages, and Pyongyang is not yet actually enriching uranium, there is time for the U.S. to negotiate inspection safeguards limiting enrichment to the levels necessary for civilian uses. Until now, North Korea's denial of an R&D program has kept the uranium issue off the negotiating table and kept alive unfounded suspicions that it is capable of making weapons-grade uranium.

Progress towards denuclearization would require U.S. steps to assure North Korea that it will not be the victim of a nuclear attack. In Article Three, Section One of the Agreed Framework, the U.S. pledged that it "will provide formal assurances against the threat or use of nuclear weapons by the U.S." simultaneous with complete denuclearization. Pyongyang is likely to insist on a reaffirmation of this pledge. Realistically, if the U.S. is unwilling to give up the option of using nuclear weapons against North Korea, it will be necessary to live with a nuclear-armed North Korea while maintaining adequate U.S. deterrent forces in the Pacific.

In my view, in the event of another war with North Korea resulting from efforts to enforce the U.N. sanctions, it is Japan that North Korea would attack, not South Korea. Some of the hard-line generals in the National Defense Commission, I learned on my January visit to Pyongyang, were outraged at Kim Jong-il's apology to Prime Minister Koizumi in 2002 and have alarmed moderates in the regime with their swaggering confidence that North Korea could win a war with Japan.

*Selig S. Harrison is director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy and a senior scholar of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He is the former director of the Century Foundation¹s Project on the United States and the Future of Korea. Specializing in South Asia and East Asia for fifty years as a journalist and scholar, he has visited North Korea over ten times and on two occasions, met with the late Kim Il Sung. He is the author of six books on Asian affairs and U.S. relations with Asia, including Korean Endgame: A Strategy For Reunification and U.S. Disengagement, published by Princeton University Press in May 2002. Dr. Harrison serves as an advisory board member of the Korea Policy Institute (KPI).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

9th Annual Malcolm X Jazz Festival

Seize the Time! The 9th Annual Malcolm X Jazz Arts Festival!

Saturday, May 30th, 11-7pm,

San Antonio Park (18th Ave + Foothill Blvd)

EastSide's 9th annual Malcolm X Jazz Arts Festival is one of the last free festivals in Oakland, so come and enjoy! One of the most important pieces of our festival are the community of local artists and food vendors.

They still need volunteers, so if you're interested, please e-mail

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Japan: Robot Nation

or click on title of post below

Japan: Robot Nation

Japan, the world's second largest economy, is facing a demographic crisis that will shrink the population dramatically. The Japanese aren't having babies, and the country won't accept immigrants to help bolster the population. But Japan may have a unique solution --- Robots!

Vanguard is Current TV's award-winning documentary series. Whether it's half a world away or in our own backyard, Vanguard goes there to bring you stories about the most important issues of our time. Led by reporters Laura Ling, Christof Putzel, Mariana van Zeller, Adam Yamaguchi and Kaj Larsen, Vanguard airs on Wednesday at 10 pm Eastern and Pacific and can be found online at

There is a brief mention of zainichi Koreans in Japan and how foreigners are treated there.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Richard Aoki Remember

Richard Aoki Remembered

Richard Aoki speaking at an Asian American Political Alliance reunion in 2008. Photo courtesy of Andre Nguyen.

Here is an obituary on activist and former Black Panther Richard Aoki, who passed away last Sunday at his home in Berkeley, CA. I learned a lot about Richard Aoki from writing this obituary though honestly it was very difficult, especially talking to his friends and colleagues who were grieving and still in shock.

There is little out there in the public sphere about Aoki, and perhaps that is why he is mostly known in activist circles. There are several articles, some excerpts from books, a radio interview, and video footage. The most popular image we have of him is of the stern Richard wearing a beret and shades. He was that -- the staunch revolutionary -- but so much more.

I was astonished to learn the many facets of Aoki. I knew he was fiercely loyal to his friends and to social justice causes. You could tell he loved his friends. For example, he spoke so highly of -- and defended -- Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton. He was also wary of the media for the same reason, because of the way his friend was described in his later years before and after his death. Even though Aoki played a major role in many events, his most proud, according to close friends, was his role in the Black Panther Party.

Aoki was already sick when he checked himself out of the hospital to take care of his mom who had had a heart attack. And even though his own health wasn't good, he organized a funeral service for his mom and spoke at it upon her death. Just about a month after his mom's service, he passed.

Aoki remained politically active despite his ailments in recent years, including supporting Lt. Ehren Watada, who refused to deploy to Iraq, and attending rallies with friends like activist Yuri Kochiyama. He also supported political prisoners. He made sure to attend Black Panther Party reunions and commemorative events, as well as events for the Asian American Political Alliance and other groups he had been involved in over the years.

He would speak with revolutionary fervor at some of these events. In the last several years, these speeches would wipe him out for several days afterwards but publicly, he never showed that his body was wearing down, according to friends.

His friends have put together a blog where people can share photos and memories. I was particularly struck by this entry by Kei Fischer. Here, she talks about how when Richard was in the hospital two weeks ago, he was worried about getting a letter of recommendation that he had written for her, even though he was so sick. "That small act alone truly characterized the giving, nurturing and self-less human being Richard was," she writes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Zainichi Korean Quarterly Film Series Featuring “Woori Hakkyo” - Our School

Eclipse Rising and Eastside Arts Alliance present…

The Zainichi Korean Quarterly Film Series

Featuring “Woori Hakkyo” - Our School

by Kim Myeong-Joon

Sunday, May 17

1:00 PM

Eastside Cultural Center

2277 International Blvd. at 23rd Ave., Oakland

(510) 533-6629

About the Film: Woori Hakkyo is a documentary film that gives audiences a glimpse into the daily lives of 3rd and 4th generation Korean residents of Japan who attend a K-12 Korean school in the northern most prefecture of Japan: Hokkaido. As a critical response to the prevailing negative connotation the broader Japanese society has associated the Korean schools with because of their relation with the DPRK, Woori Hakkyo reveals an honest look at what life is like, particularly for the youth, in this unique community of Japan.

Historical Background of the Korean Schools in Japan: After liberation from Japanese colonization in 1945, 1st generation Zainichi Koreans built Korean schools in order for their descendants to learn the “mother tongue” – a right that had been deprived of the Korean community in Japan as a result of colonial assimilation policies. Hundreds of these Korean schools that are operated all over Japan are not recognized as “formal educational institutions” by the Japanese Ministry of Education and Science to this day.

Eclipse Rising is a US-based Zainichi Korean group founded in the winter of 2008, by Zainichi Koreans who came together in the Bay Area to recognize and celebrate the rich and unique history of Koreans in Japan, promote Zainichicommunity development, peace and reunification, and work for social justice for all minorities in Japan and around the world.

e-mail: blog: Find us on Facebook!

Eastside Arts Alliance is dedicated to nurturing ans supporting the work of the Lower San Antonio District’s African American, Latino/Chicano, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Indigenous artists and cultural workers, many of whom have not found a home within Oakland’s mainstream arts community.

ESAA Websites:

Suggested Donation of $7 - 15

Film is in Korean and Japanese with English Subtitles


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Eclipse Rising March Meeting!

Photos by Richard Plunk (except the first one)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Journey Home: Visiting North Korea by Kei Fischer

This past summer, two Eclipse Rising members ventured into the unfamiliar territory of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or North Korea as it is more popularly referred to. One member, Kei Fischer, wrote a reflection on the trip and it has been posted on the Nodutol website. Nodutol is a group that organizes the annual visit to North and South Korea. For more information about Nodutol, please visit:

For the website of the article, visit:

A Journey Home - Visiting North Korea
by Kei Fischer

My mother’s ethnic heritage is relatively unheard of in the United States. She is ethnically Korea, but was born in and grew up in Japan. Her mother came to Japan when she was 10 years old with her mother from Wonson, a port city in the northern region of Korea, so that they could find a new life. Her father came from Cheju island, off the southern coast of Korea, also in search of a job, when he was only 17. When they came to Japan, they came as Japanese nationals, because Japan had occupied Korea. Many Koreans were also forced to come as laborers in Japan. In 1945 when the occupation ended, the over 600,000 Koreans that stayed in Japan became zainichi: permanent resident aliens without a country. Upon Korea’s division, most took on South Korean nationality, but some, like my grandmother, refused to declare sides.

My mother grew up in post-war Japan, not speaking any Korean, because her father was afraid she would be discriminated against. Therefore, my mother has always carried an alienated sense of identity, both literally and metaphorically, not feeling Korean or Japanese enough most of her life. That sense was passed down to my sister and me: both of us being biracial zainichis with US citizenship. With our mother’s family residing over 5,000 miles away and our own mother not knowing much about our Korean heritage, I was left to learning about Korean culture and language through library books and college courses. However, you can only learn so much through books. My desire to visit North Korea, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was personal: I wanted to find a connection to the land and the heritage that I stood to lose if I did not take the initiative to visit. I wanted to see the home of my grandmother, meet the people who might share a similar laugh, and eat the food my ancestors grew up on.

I visited North Korea in July of 2008 as part of a delegation called DEEP (DPRK Exposure and Education Program). To prepare for our trip, we met biweekly to read up on Korean history and be exposed to an alternative perspective of North Korea. I began to view North Korea in a different light. I read about guerillas in the north fighting for independence from Japan—fighters who, after World War II, prevented North Korea from being dominated by U.S. capitalism. Instead, North Korean revolutionary socialist ideals called for equality, self-reliance, and justice for the poor and oppressed.
I went to the north with a delegation of seven Korean Americans, two Korean Canadians and one other person who was also of zainichi Korean heritage. Our delegation was a diverse mixture of backgrounds, but we all held a desire to learn more about our northern half of the homeland. As our small plane began to descend onto Pyongyang Airport, my zainichi sister and I gazed upon the green land we were approaching. Our eyes welled up with tears. I am seeing a piece of land, I thought, that my mother has never seen – land that my grandmother lived on as a child –land closed because of a war. It was an overwhelming experience, but one I did not take for granted. I was here, I began to realize, to foster a relationship between Koreans in the north and the rest of the world and in doing so, to participate in a decades-old movement to end the Korean War and to reunify the peninsula.

The next two weeks changed my life. Not only were we greeted with the warmest embrace, much like that between long lost relatives, but we were asked time and again to recall what we saw in the north and to share that with the world. There was an amazing air of pride in the north’s revolutionary history, which was evident in the beautiful monuments dedicated to guerilla fighters, the intricate mosaic murals created with messages of resistance to US imperialism, and the historic sites delicately preserving what was left after the destruction of war. One delegate noted how amazing it was to see such monuments with faces that resembled hers. It made me sad to realize that my grandfather could not be openly proud of his Korean background in Japan. But, it gave me hope because as a third generation zainichi, I was restoring that connection to Korea.

As delegates, we were privileged to visit the demilitarized zone, the 38th parallel, and actually pay witness to how unnatural and cold the area was. We also visited the Sinchon memorial site where tens of thousands of Korean civilians, including women and children, were brutally murdered during the Korean War. We also experienced a more modern side to North Korea. We spent time at a flourishing cooperative farm where some youth farmers gave us a tour and showed us their small but clean living quarters. We visited babies and female patients at the maternity hospital in Pyongyang, where care varied from prenatal services to breast cancer treatment, all of which were free services. We took a short trip on their subway system, which was thoughtfully decorated with mosaic murals and floral-like chandeliers and with trains, we were told, that always ran on time.

Although the technology, buildings, transit systems, and hospital tools may not be cutting-edge, North Korea is not a place of despair and hopelessness. The famine in the mid-1990s was undeniably horrible but the North Koreans did their best to press on. If we in the U.S. truly want to help, we must focus on officially ending the Korean War and supporting the reunification of the country. North Korea feels the same. Everywhere we went, there were signs for tongil or reunification. We were repeatedly asked to send the message of tongil to people in our countries. North Korea wants peace on the Korean peninsula and has made concrete steps with South Korea towards that end.

As a part of our agreement to participate in the DEEP delegation, we were asked to conduct a report back of our experience. I also plan on continuing to talk to as many people as I can to simply get that negative image of North Korea out of people’s minds. The push for reunification cannot happen until we feel we can work with the people of North Korea. The people we met and the stories that were told were of a dignified, thoughtful, and genuine people.

Our bus ride back to the airport was a solemn one. We had all formed bonds with our guides, driver, and English translators, and we were not ready to go home. Inspired to share with our North Korean hosts what was in my heart, I read from my journal: “Coming to North Korea, I feel 100% accepted for the first time in my life, regardless of my ignorance of Korean language, history, and culture. I have learned to be proud to be Korean and that is a gift I will always cherish. You have inspired me to learn more about my heritage and to teach my family about what I learn. I finally have a homeland and I look forward to the day when my mother can return ‘home’ to one united Korea, her heart swelling with pride.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

END US funded military aid for Israeli - END the occupation of Gaza - FREE Palestine!

Recently the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation created a 30-second commercial about the US role in Israel's war against the Gaza strip. This commercial was censored by DirectTV. The Campaign is asking all blogs to show the commercial instead to spread the word about how our taxes are working to support occupation, war, and terror. Please click on the link below or on the title to see the ad.
The Campaign has listed below 4 ways you can take action:

1. Help Us Spread the Word. Do you have a blog, social networking site, or website? If so, then please consider reposting our ad above and linking it to this page on our website.

2. Tell All Your Friends to Watch Our Commercial. Watch the commercial on-line by going here:

3. Contact President Obama about His Budget Request for Military Aid to Israel. Our ad campaign is designed not only to educate people about the U.S. role in enabling Israel's war on and siege of the occupied Gaza Strip; it is also designed to get people to take action to change our country's policy toward Palestine/Israel to support human rights, international law, and equality.

On February 24, President Obama is scheduled to deliver his FY2010 budget "blueprint" to Congress, which is expected to contain $2.775 billion in military aid for Israel. Contact the President today and urge him to hold Israel accountable for its misuse of U.S. weapons instead of increasing arms transfers.

4. Make a tax-deductible contribution to the US Campaign. Help us to continue this advertising campaign and future ones by making a generous donation today. Help us to continue to get our message of human rights, international law, and equality broadcast to tens of millions of people by making your contribution today.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Overseas Koreans get voting rights

The Korea Herald (February 6, 2009)

"Some problems in electoral procedures may inevitably occur, such as how to handle electoral irregularities. But all other nations went through such things, and I believe, after some period of trial and error, we can overcome them," Kim said.

Rival parties have begun efforts to court their potential voters.

The ruling Grand National Party launched a "U.S. GNP forum" in Los Angeles last month. The party also plans to establish another in Canada as early as this month, officials said.

The main opposition Democratic Party is seeking to establish an overseas government agency dedicated to enhancing the legal status of Korean nationals abroad.

In 1972, President Park Chung-hee stripped overseas Koreans of the right to participate in domestic elections, as many of them opposed his dictatorship.

How many people will be affected?

According to the National Election Commission, an estimated 3 million Koreans live in foreign countries - 1.45 million as permanent residents and 1.55 as temporary residents.

The NEC estimates the number of eligible voters aged 19 or more is about 2.4 million, or 80 percent of the total. In parliamentary elections, 2.4 million votes would be enough to win at least 10 proportional representation seats in the 299-member legislature, analysts presume.

Based on its internal survey, about 1.67 million people among them are expected to register with the NEC. Some 1.34 million are expected to actually vote, the NEC projected.

The figure is also significant, considering the slim margins between major candidates in past presidential elections. Former President Kim Dae-jung beat then Grand National Party chairman Lee Hoi-chang by a margin of 390,000 votes in 1997 while former President Roh Moo-hyun defeated Lee Hoi-chang by a margin of 570,000 votes in 2002.

Voting methods

Voting rights will be given for presidential elections and the proportional representation section of parliamentary elections.

Those with permanent foreign residency will not be allowed to cast ballots in elections for each electoral district as it is hard to identify which constituency an overseas Korean belongs to.

But Koreans with overseas residence will be able to vote in the country, if they register temporary residence here. This means they will be able to vote in the upcoming parliamentary by-elections slated for April 29 this year.

Temporary overseas Korean residents who have registered residency here can cast absentee votes.

All will cast their ballots in Korean embassies and consulates abroad rather than sending their votes by mail to avoid possible vote fraud.

Eligible voters must file an application with the National Election Commission via Korean missions from 150 days to 60 days before the election day.

Election campaigns will be conducted through candidates' or parties' internet homepages; speeches and advertisements via satellite broadcasting; and telephone.

Detailed measures aimed at preventing vote rigging have yet to be finalized, officials said.

Which party will benefit more?

The major bone of contention was how to define "overseas Koreans" in terms of voting rights.

The GNP contended that suffrage had to be given to as many overseas Koreans as possible. Permanent residents abroad tend to be older, and are regarded as more conservative in their political views, which some believe would benefit the conservative ruling party.

The main opposition Democratic Party had maintained that suffrage should be expanded in steps, first only to temporary overseas residents, including students and overseas Korean employees.

As voter turnout is expected to be lower due to the complicated and time-consuming voting process, and there are those who left their native land with hard feelings against the elite class, it is hard to say that the move will favor the ruling party.

Concerns raised by experts

Opponents have argued that Koreans outside the country could have too much of an influence on local elections regarding representatives and issues inside the country, given the small margins that often determine the outcome of presidential and parliamentary elections.

"I feel doubtful that overseas Koreans who are politically away from the country can determine political destiny here," said Choi Young-jin, a politics professor at Chung-Ang University in Seoul.

"In terms of ethnicity, entitling them to vote here is meaningful. But voters here are members of a particular political community, all of whom are contemporarily based in the same location, the Korean Peninsula, and mull over issues facing that community. This issue needs to be treated apart from the ethnic standpoint."

"Strictly speaking, granting suffrage to overseas Koreans contradicts the principle of representative democracy. The suffrage is given to elect those who would work on behalf of us with people paying taxes," said Choi Han-soo, professor of political science at Konkuk University in Seoul.

But some showed different views.

"We are living in a globalized world where people frequently transcend national boundaries at a fast pace. Where people are geographically based is an irrelevant issue. It is something that is not in line with global standards," said Chung Dae-hwa, professor of political science at Sangji University in Wonju, Gangwon Province.

Some have voiced concern that in extreme cases, a situation in which voters in Korea refuse to accept an election result could take place.

Experts also point out that it is difficult to regulate electoral irregularities overseas as many Korean expatriates are not used to local election rules, and applying domestic election laws in foreign countries is difficult.

Monitoring illegal election campaigns, safely shipping ballots and a shortage of staffers who will manage the voting procedures on election day have been cited.

Some professors have highlighted the need to allow overseas Koreans to vote to elect lawmakers in each constituency.

"The bills divide overseas Koreans into two groups - those with permanent foreign residency and temporary residents. Though the court ruled the laws unconstitutional as they stipulate only those whose residency is registered can vote here, there appears to be another discriminatory element here," said Song Seok-won, politics professor at Kyung Hee University in Seoul.

"All Korean nationals should be treated equally. Running counter to the Constitution, the bills do not allow those with permanent residency to vote in (the constituency part of) general elections while temporary residents can," said Song.

Song added that although some say those with permanent residency should be treated differently as they don't fulfill taxation and military duty, such people comprise only a small fraction.

Some worry that the suffrage could hold back overseas Koreans from joining mainstream society where they live, as they become focused on politics of their native country rather than taking interest in their current communities.

Some also say that voting rights divide the Korean expatriate community along political lines.

Some also point out that limiting voting places only to overseas Korean missions could seriously harm voter turnout as only a few would bother to travel long distances to vote. They stressed the need to allow overseas Koreans to send their votes by mail or vote online, something many here oppose due to security concerns.

By Song Sang-ho