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(DV) Petersen: Perverted Principle in Japan







Perverted Principle in Japan
by Kim Petersen
October 15, 2005

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On 5 October, Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Shoichi Nakagawa urged economic sanctions against the DPRK (Democratic Republic of Korea; northern Korea) because of the Cold War kidnappings of Japanese citizens by DPRK agents. "If it helps solve the abduction issue, I believe [the sanctions] should be launched as soon as possible," Nakagawa reasoned.


Clearly, Nakagawa believes that people who commit the crime of kidnapping should be punished. This is fine. But should an entire society be targeted for the decades-old crimes of its dictatorial government? Sanctions will indiscriminately affect DPRK citizens and presumably the perpetrators behind the abductions will be least affected. Indeed, what kind of cabinet minister would advocate sanctions against a half nation recovering from famine?


Reaching for the heights of what Japanese term gizen (hypocrisy) seems to be a hallmark of imperialists and their sycophants. Consider that Japanese imperialists invaded and militarily occupied the Korean peninsula from 1910-1945. During that occupation, the Japanese usurped Korean resources and attempted to crush Korean culture as Koreans were forced to take Japanese names, practice Shinto (the Japanese state religion), and communicate in Japanese. During World War II, tens-of-thousands of Korean women were forced to work as ianfu (comfort women) -- that is, sex slaves -- for the Japanese military. A total of 370,000 Koreans were pressed into Japanese military service. Also, as revealed by government documents, 667,680 Koreans were unwillingly shipped to Japan as slave labor. Some researchers, however, put this figure at 1.5 million kidnapped Koreans. [1]


Post-occupation, according to both the DPRK and the ROK (Republic of Korea; southern Korea) officials, Japan has yet to satisfactorily deal with outstanding issues. While some Japanese prime ministers have expressed remorse for Japan’s historical iniquities [2], there has been no formal government mea culpa. Japanese history textbooks notoriously sanitize this period of Japanese history. [3]


To the mentally and morally balanced observer, it seems axiomatic that whatever principle one applies to others, this principle should apply equally (if not more so) to oneself or one’s own group. Therefore, in the case of applying sanctions for abductions, it is Korea that has the longest unresolved case demanding redress.


Japan did “normalize” relations with the ROK in 1965. As part of that normalization, Japan provided “economic assistance”; Japan eschews the terminology of “compensation” or “reparations. Initially, North Korea held steadfast to claims for compensation, but it suddenly and inexplicably dropped such a demand in 2002. [4]


Japan and the ROK reached an $800 million settlement -- $300 million as a grant. Estimates in 2001 dollars for the deal range from $3.4 billion to over $20 billion. [5]


Not everyone in the government of South Korea, however, considers the compensation issue as completely settled. Yu Chong Sang, a senior prime ministerial official averred, We cannot see that the normalization treaty resolved such inhumane crimes as comfort women, in which Japan's state power, such as the government and military, was involved. He added, Japan's legal responsibility remains. [6]


Following negotiations toward normalization with northern Korea, Koizumi announced at a press conference on 22 May 2004, “humanitarian assistance measures . . . through international organizations.” He also stated that so long as the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration is observed, Japan would not invoke sanctions against northern Korea. Koizumi emphasized that the humanitarian assistance was not “in anyway a form of compensation or payback.”


Japan lives under the purported threat of nuclear attack by the DPRK (therefore, one should expect a degree of sympathy from Japanese for how northern Koreans feel about having a nuclear hyperpower in their backyard). Nonetheless, insofar as the DPRK’s nuclear potentiality is extant then it is not surprising that Koizumi prefers normalized relations with the DPRK to the imposition of sanctions.


Five Japanese kidnap victims were repatriated, but the Japanese government expresses doubt about the DPRK’s claims that a further eight kidnap victims are dead.


While Japanese individuals undoubtedly were victims, it is preposterous that the Japanese state should equally lay claim to victimhood. It is likely geostrategic machinations of imperialists that underlie this squeeze on the DPRK. Japan squeezes the DPRK over past abductions while ignoring its own far greater crimes, and the US hostilely lines up allies to exert pressure on the DPRK to relinquish its alleged nuclear capability. In both cases, Japan and the US are asking the DPRK to open itself up to prove a negative.


Japanese imperialists waged wars of aggression during World War II under the pretext of liberating Asian countries from their European colonizers, something transparently false to occupied Koreans. Japanese imperialism was defeated and it has been under US occupation ever since, preserving Japan’s place within the capitalist order.

Japan has served as a bulwark for US geopolitical aims in Asia, as has occupied southern Korea. The DPRK is unoccupied. But with US imperialists observing the economic and military rise of China, expansion to the Yalu River would place US imperial interests in a desired militarily geostrategic footing.

Kim Petersen, Co-Editor of Dissident Voice, lives in the traditional Mi'kmaq homeland colonially designated Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at:

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[1] Kyodo, “Mass grave contains Korean slave laborers,” The Japan Times, 23 November 2002.


[2] PM Koizumi himself acknowledged the “tremendous damage and suffering to the people of Korea” during the occupation.


[3] “Japan history texts anger E Asia,” BBC News, 5 April 2005


[4] Kang Sang Jung, “Japan-North Korea Rapprochement: A State of Maturity,” Shukan Kinyobi, 27 September 2002. It was reported that northern Korea “agreed to give up its claims for compensation for Japan’s aggression on the Korean Peninsula before and during World War II, and it agreed to be compensated through financial cooperation in the same manner as South Korea was.”


[5] See Mark E. Manyin, “North Korea-Japan Relations: The Normalization Talks and the Compensation/Reparations Issue,” CRS Report for Congress, 13 June 2001


[6] Kyodo, “Seoul ups ante on war crimes,” The Japan Times, 27 August 2005.


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