January 4, 2016

"Japan and South Korea: A New Beginning?"

By John Feffer

December 29, 2015

A Statement by Korean NGO on Korea-Japan Agreement on the "Comfort Women" Issue

Here is a statement from the South Korean NGO working on the "comfort women" issue on the recent governmental agreement on the issue, citing the absence of legal responsibility by the Japanese government and the lack of Korean government's consultation with the survivors:

The Official Statement from the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan regarding the Agreement on the Military Sexual Slavery (“Comfort Women”) Issue during the Korea-Japan Ministerial Meeting

Today’s meeting between the foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan concluded with an agreement on the resolution for the military sexual slavery issue. The survivors of the “Comfort Women” system as well as the Korean citizens sincerely hoped for the rightful resolution on the issue through this meeting, on the year which marks the 70th anniversary of Korea’s independence.

The Agreement specified that: first, Japanese government feels its responsibilities for the military sexual slavery; second, Prime Minister Abe apologizes as the representative of the Japanese government; and third, the Korean government establishes a foundation where Japanese government provides the funding while the two governments collaboratively manage initiatives.

Although the Japanese government announced that it “feels [its] responsibilities,” the statement lacks the acknowledgment of the fact that the colonial government and its military had committed a systematic crime. The government had not just been simply involved but actively initiated the activities which were criminal and illegal. Also, the apology was not directly made by the Prime Minister himself as the official representative of the government but was read by a diplomatic representative, while it was unclear to whom he was actually apologizing. Hence it is hard to believe if it was a sincere apology.

In addition, the announcement specified that Korean government will be responsible for establishing the foundation, despite the fact that Japanese government must be actively involved in follow-up initiatives, including acknowledgement of its criminal responsibilities and legal reparations. It appears that Japan will pass the future responsibilities on to the government of the victims’ country after simply paying off the money. Also, it is notable that the Agreement did not specify anything on preventative initiatives such as truth seeking and history education.
The Korean government’s attitude towards this Agreement, which is vague and incomplete, is rather shocking. The government concurred that this Agreement represents a “final, irreversible” settlement of the issues, as long as the Japanese government is committed to the due diligence in the future. Meanwhile, the Korean government promised that it will seek a resolution for the matter of the Peace Monument in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul in order to maintain the dignity of the Embassy, and will limit its criticism against Japanese government internationally. This is a diplomatic humiliation.

The Korean government accepted the Japanese government’s absurd condition on the Agreement which demanded the removal of the Peace Monument. Moreover, the attitude of the former which declared that it will not even mention the military sexual slavery issue in the future is shameful and disappointing.

The Peace Monument cannot be a condition or means for any Agreement. It is a public property and a historic symbol representing the peaceful spirit of the Wednesday Demonstrations, which has been continued by the survivors and the citizens for over a thousand Wednesdays. The Korean government cannot mention anything about the removal or moving of the Monument. While the survivors and the civil society cannot accept the Agreement, the governments cannot push their own agenda. Such an act of arrogation only adds to the pain of the victims even more.
All these years, the survivors, supporting civil society organizations and citizens demanded that Japanese government acknowledge its national, legal responsibilities clearly and commit to due diligence in order to recover dignity and human rights of the survivors and prevent any such tragedy in the future. However, the Agreement today is only a diplomatic collusion which betrays the demands from all.

The military sexual slavery issue must be resolved to bring true friendship and peace between Korea and Japan while more survivors are still alive. However, this cannot be rushed while defying proper principle and common sense.

In 2012, the 12th Asia Solidarity Conference for the Resolution of the Military Sexual Slavery by Japan Issue adopted recommendations for the Japanese government to commit to its governmental, legal responsibilities. In order to make such a commitment actually happen, the Korean Council will continue to work tirelessly with the survivors and the domestic and international civil society.

28 December, 2015

The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan

December 10, 2015

"North Korea Wants to Negotiate a Peace: U.S. Should Sit Down and Talk"

North Korea Wants to Negotiate a Peace: U.S. Should Sit Down and Talk

The Korean War ended more than 62 years ago, but not really. The warring parties only agreed to an armistice. Technically everyone still is at war. Of course, no one wants to start fighting again. Not even the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which would lose badly since its erstwhile ally China wouldn't again intervene to save the North.

Indeed, North Korea has proposed negotiations over a formal peace treaty. In October Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong used the UN as a platform to urge the U.S. and DPRK to agree to a treaty ending the conflict. North Korean television reiterated the call a few days later.

In the past Pyongyang's proposals appeared pro forma. But now might be different. Cha Du-hyeogn, national security adviser to the previous South Korean president, suggested that the repetition was "a possible sign that North Korea is serious about holding a conversation with U.S." READ MORE

December 2, 2015

 In South Korea, a Dictator’s Daughter Cracks Down on Labor

In South Korea, a Dictator’s Daughter Cracks Down on Labor
By Tim Shorrock, The Nation 

Following in the footsteps of her dictator father, South Korea’s President, Park Geun-hye, is cracking down on labor and citizens groups opposed to the increasingly authoritarian policies of her ruling “New Frontier” party known as Saenuri.

The situation could reach a critical point this weekend, when tens of thousands of workers organized by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) join forces with farmers, students, and other civic organizations in a national action in Seoul to protest Park’s conservative labor, education, and trade policies.

On Saturday, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency banned the march, with Park’s Justice Minister Kim Hyun-Woong vowing to “uproot illegal and violent demonstration…no matter how much sacrifice is required.” Meanwhile, the president herself equated the protesters—some of whom wear masks as protection from riot police—to terrorists.  READ MORE.

November 6, 2015

The Legacies of the Korean War

New Resource:The Legacies of the Korean War (http://legaciesofthekoreanwar.org/)

Launched in September 2015 at UC Berkeley.  Includes video, audio, and text oral histories, Korean War Timeline, comprehensive Additional Resources, scholar essays, and much more.  

[From the site description]

In the United States, the Korean War, known as the “forgotten war,” more often than not is commemorated as a matter of national security between this country and South Korea. Seldom are the legacies of this brutal war recalled from a human-centered perspective. Rarely is attention given to the fact that, some several decades later, no peace process has brought the Korean War to a close. Korean American war survivors are now in their eighties and nineties, and the time is ripe to foreground their memories as vital to both the historical record and community reflection. Not just a geopolitical reality but an ongoing tragedy, the war’s irresolution has been borne out in the lives of aging Koreans in the diaspora, many of whom witnessed the ruin of their hometowns, were separated from their loved ones, were orphaned, were pressed into military service, and have longed for decades to be reunited with family in North Korea.

For many years, memory of these experiences was suppressed, pushed to the margins of official Korean War histories and silenced within Korean American communities fractured by Cold War divisions. But as survivors age and pass away and second- and third-generation Korean Americans seek to understand their historical origins, these often-painful memories stand as testaments not only to the generational trauma of war, but also to the strength and heart of the Korean American community.

This archive seeks to honor and to give voice to these memories and the hopes of the Korean American community for peace and reunification in Korea.

October 15, 2015

South Korea To Reinstate State-Issued Textbooks on Korean History

Below is a dated New York Times editorial, but it is still pertinent in light of the recent South Korean government's decision, despite wide opposition from citizens and academia, to reinstate state-issued textbooks on Korean history, that will attempt to whitewash the true nature of colonial period's pro-Japanese collaborators and post-liberation dictatorships. The last time these textbooks were state-issued was during the Park Chung Hee (father of the current South Korean president Park Geun-hye) dictatorship.

[The New York Times, Jan. 13, 2014,

Both Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and President Park Geun-hye of South Korea are pushing to have high school history textbooks in their countries rewritten to reflect their political views.
Mr. Abe has instructed the Education Ministry to approve only textbooks that promote patriotism. He is primarily concerned about the World War II era, and wants to shift the focus away from disgraceful chapters in that history. For example, he wants the Korean “comfort women” issue taken out of textbooks, and he wants to downplay the mass killings committed by Japanese troops in Nanking. His critics say he is trying to foster dangerous nationalism by sanitizing Japan’s wartime aggression.

Ms. Park is concerned about the portrayal of Japanese colonialism and the postcolonial South Korean dictatorships in history books. She wants to downplay Korean collaboration with the Japanese colonial authorities and last summer pushed the South Korean Education Ministry to approve a new textbook that says those who worked with the Japanese did so under coercion. (A majority of professionals and elite civil servants today come from families that worked with the Japanese colonizers.) Academics, trade unions and teachers have accused Ms. Park of distorting history.
Mr. Abe and Ms. Park both have personal family histories that make them sensitive to the war and collaboration. After Japan’s defeat in the war, the Allied powers arrested Mr. Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, as a suspected class A war criminal. Ms. Park’s father, Park Chung-hee, was an Imperial Japanese Army officer during the colonial era and South Korea’s military dictator from 1962 to 1979. In both countries, these dangerous efforts to revise textbooks threaten to thwart the lessons of history.

[See also related article from South Korea:
 http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/712608.html ]

August 18, 2015

70th Anniversary of Korean Independence/Division Marked

    August 15, 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from the Japanese colonialism, and also the 70th anniversary of Korea’s division into two occupying zones that led to a tragic war and divided states, with seemingly perpetual animosities and conflicts.
    2015 is also the 62nd anniversary of the signing of the Korean War Armistice, an armistice that has not been replaced with permanent peace treaty that will officially end the Korean War. Without a peace treaty i...n place, occasional military confrontations, spiraling arms race, collective suspicions and hostilities ensue without an end in sight.

    On August 15, where numerous events marking the day took place in Korea and overseas, the National Campaign for Peaceful Resolution in Korea also held activities in the DC area (a rally at the White House and a forum at The William Cho Peace Center in Fairfax, VA. The Campaign calls for "the signing of a peace treaty to end the Korean War as a prerequisite first step, and urge the stakeholders and policymakers to engage in negotiations aimed at reduction of tensions that will pave a way for a lasting peace settlement in the Korean Peninsula that includes normalization of relations, nuclear disarmament and conventional arms reduction."