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.”