Tuesday, January 26, 2016

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

Jan 16, 2016
Shota T. Ogawa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 8, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 08, 2016

Monday, August 17, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 14, 2015

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 3, 2015

Support Nan Hui!

April, 1, 2015 -- Eclipse Rising member Kei went to Sacramento today (actually close by) for Nan Hui Jo's sentence hearing. It was extended to April 28, since a new trial lawyer took her case. He is supposed to be one of the best criminal lawyers in the country and we're hoping he might be able to contest the jury's decision to find Jo guilty. The sad thing is that she'll have to be detained at the Yolo County jail until then.
Today's experience hit many of those who attended, hard. We had a short debrief afterward. It was shocking to see Jo, herself, looking so small in a striped green jumpsuit and shackles. It was even more shocking to see the father of Jo's child in person at the hearing. This is the man who admitted in court he abused her "once," was described by the DA as a "victim" since he claimed Jo kidnapped his child, and now has full custody of their daughter. I was told by the campaign organizers that unfortunately there are too many cases similar to Jo's where the abused is punished.
Despite all the struggles, there are 4 things you can do to support! I wanted to encourage you all to take part in one way or another and please share this with your networks. The following, I wrote for my students. You may want to check out their facebook pageand official campaign page for up-to-date info and background info.
1.) The organizers of her campaign are asking folks to write her letters in the mean time. If you can write in Korean, great, but if not, English should be fine, since she'll hopefully receive help translating. She's also a photographer and an artist, so if you want to draw her pictures, I'm sure she'd love that! She is finding a lot of comfort in these letters. Please read the following guidelines for letters at this link: bit.ly/dearnanhui
2.) The new trial lawyer costs a lot of money, so the campaign needs help fundraising! If you are part of an organization, or would like to organize a fundraiser, please do so! Here's the link to the online fundraising page: https://crowddefend.com/campaign/stand-with-nan-hui-2/
3.) No matter what happens with her criminal case, Jo is still at high risk of being deported to Korea and never seeing her child again. The little girl has already been cut off from calling and speaking to her grandparents in Korea. She only speaks Korean and is cut off from any communication with family members who she really knows and speak the language. You can still call, email, or tweet ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and demand they drop the deportation hold on Jo. Click on the following link to see the ways you can contact ICE and CBP: bit.ly/1BKhC70.
4.) Follow the case on social media (https://www.facebook.com/standwithnanhui?fref=ts) or (@STANDWITHNANHUI on Twitter) and stay tuned for details about the new sentence hearing court date: April 28. We need to pack the court room this time and can use as many bodies to show support!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Critical Voices From "Japan" is presenting 4 films in February & March in the Bay Area. Thank you to those who came to the screening of "Our School" and "Sayama"! 
Here's our next film!!!

My Heart is not Broken Yet (2007, dir. Ahn Hae Ryun: English subtitles)

Presented by Eclipse Rising
Co-sponsored by Asian Women United and SFSU Asian American Studies Department
Opening introduction by Professor Grace J. Yoo, Asian American Studies
Tuesday, March 3, 6:30 pm
J. Paul Leonard Library, Room 121
San Francisco State University (mapdirectionsparking​)
Suggested donation: $3-15 (no one turned away for lack of funds)

Ms. Shindo Song is the only Korean resident who has sued Japanese government for the human rights violation she experienced as a “comfort woman.” Born in 1922, Ms. Song was forced into sexual slavery for Japanese imperial army in China at age 16. In 1993, nearly half a century after the war ended, Ms. Song sued Japanese government, demanding an “official apology.” Even after losing the 10-year-long courtroom battle in 2003, Ms. Song wasn’t defeated and stayed strong as she told her supporters, “Although I lost the case, my heart is not broken.”The documentary was made possible with the donations of 670 individuals who have built a loving and trusting relationship with Ms. Song, and it portrays her as someone who’s more than just a “former comfort woman,” but a super witty, talented, kind and caring human being.
Trailor (Japanese): youtu.be/dM02FM51Ng4

For questions, e-mail Kei Fischer at: kfisch@sfsu.edu
Also save the date for our last film showing from Critical Voices from "Japan" series!! 
For details, please visit our FB event page!!!
  • March 10: Iitate Village: Investigates the challenges of a farming village in Fukushima after the nuclear disaster@ New Parkway, Oakland 7p
P.S. Eclipse Rising is leading the global petition to stop Abe regime of Japan to deny Japan's imperial past and miseducate youth using revisionist history textbooks! Please sign and spread the word!!
Say NO to ‘Revisionist History’ that glorifies Japan’s WWII aggression and war crimes! 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Eclipse Rising presents "Critical Voices from 'Japan'" Film Series (Feb & March 2015)!!!!!

2015 is a very important year for Zainichi Koreans as it marks:
  • the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II; 
  • the 50th anniversary of the (re)establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Republic of Korea (South Korea);
  • the 4th anniversary of the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters that hit the greater Tohoku region.
In commemoration of these historical "endings" and "new beginnings" that have continued to shape our lives in Japan and beyond, Eclipse Rising is thrilled to present a social justice film series in collaboration with other progressive organizations!!!

Save the dates for Critical Voices from "Japan"!!
(film descriptions at the end)
- Feb 17: Our School: Depicts every day life of Korean school in Japan @ New Parkway Theater, $8
Opening remarks by the award-winning filmmaker, Deann Borshay Liem

- Feb 24: Sayama: Follows an untouchable buraku couple's life after unjust conviction and decades of incarceration of the husband, Mr. Kazuo Ishikawa
@ New Parkway Theater, $10
Discussion with Asian Prisoner Support Committee & East Point Peace Academy 

- March 3: My Heart Is Not Broken Yet: Humanizes a former Korean "comfort woman" residing in Japan, co-sponsored by Asian Women United
J. Paul Leonard Library Room 121, San Francisco State University, $3-15 suggested donation (No one turned away for lack of fund)

- March 10: Iitate Village: Investigates the challenges of a farming village in Fukushima after the nuclear disaster, co-sponsored by No Nukes Action
@ New Parkway Theater, $10
Poetry reading by Suzy Huerta

Check out our Facebook event page for updates!

------------------------------ film descriptions --------------------------

FEB 17
OUR SCHOOL (2006, Dir. KIM Myung Joon: English subtitles)
Our School depicts the every day life of Koreans in Japan or "Zainichi Koreans," particularly, the "North Korean" school and 3rd generation Korean students. It illuminates an invisible aspect of North Korea through the history of the diaspora of Korean people who believed in one unified and liberated Korea. It offers a poignant counter-narrative to the popular representation of "North Korea" as seen in The Interview or any other media in the West or in Japan. Through Our School, a narrative put together by South Korean director, Kim Myung Joon, we witness a very small but misunderstood community of Zainichi Koreans who dream of a unified Korea that transcends the Cold War and negotiate complicated systems of nationality, identity, and belonging as Koreans in Japan.

FEB 24
(2013: Dir KIM Soung Woong)
Sayama follows everyday life of Mr. Kazuo Ishikawa and Ms. Sachiko Ishikawa in their struggle for justice. Kazuo, a descendant of buraku --Japan’s outcast group-- was wrongly convicted of rape and murder of a schoolgirl in Sayama-city in 1963 (known as the “Sayama Case”) and imprisoned for more than 30 years until he was conditionally released in 1994. At age 74, Kazuo and Sachiko still continue their weekly demonstration at the Tokyo High Court to demand retrial and seek justice, in addition to touring all over Japan to meet their supporters and raise awareness around the case. Although one tends to see Kazuo and Sachiko simply as “freedom fighters,” the film does a beautiful job humanizing the tireless warriors by showing the “back-stages” where they get to do “ordinary” things such as doing house chores, having haircuts and going on a vacation. Director Kim invites all of us to join the movement and be part of Kazuo’s dream of getting back to school after retrial.
Official website: http://sayama-movie.com/
Trailer: http://sayama-movie.com/notice/
English Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2KeJwGCcJY&feature=youtu.be

My Heart is Not Broken Yet
(2007: Dir. AHN Hae Ryung)
Ms. Shindo Song is the only Korean resident who has sued Japanese government for the human rights violation she experienced as a “comfort woman.” Born in 1922, Ms. Song was forced into sexual slavery for Japanese imperial army in China at age 16. In 1993, nearly half a century after the war ended, Ms. Song sued Japanese government, demanding “official apology.” Even after losing the 10-year-long courtroom battle in 2003, Ms. Song wasn’t defeated and stayed strong as she told her supporters, “Although I lost the case, my heart is not broken.” The documentary was made possible with the donations of 670 individuals who have built loving and trusting relationship with Ms. Song, and it portrays her as someone who’s more than just a “former comfort woman,” but a super witty, talented, kind and caring human being.
Official website: http://www.geocities.co.jp/WallStreet/7486/
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=JP&hl=ja&v=dM02FM51Ng4

Iitate Village
(2012: Dir. DOI Toshikuni)
“Iitate Village” follows 2 families and several villagers in the rural farming town of Iitate in the Soma District of Fukushima, Japan during the aftermath of the March 11, 2011 Tohoku Tsunami and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Famous for its beef, most residents depend on cattle breeding, yet due to radiation contamination, we witness the families having to throw out fresh milk, sell off their cows, and slowly shut down the very farming facilities their families have depended on for generations as a way of life. Within a month, the town is forced to evacuate its residents and we observe the nuanced challenges that result from family separation and what was once a tight-knit community quickly dissipates. Doi interviews these family farmers in their most vulnerable and intimate moments when they are forced to let go of all they know: their families, their farms, their livestock, their way of living, and most importantly, the town of Iitate, a place that Minori Takahashi, a young mother, called, "A place you come home to, where you're comfortable, you belong."
Official Website: http://doi-toshikuni.net/j/iitate/
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmrfiF4nQBE

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Reclaiming the Cherry: Questioning what it means to be from "Japan"

Note: I was moved to share this piece as a way to convey my deeply personal motivation for supporting the global petition campaign currently under way to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan to stop the whitewashing of Japan's wartime history in history textbooks in Japan. In order to contribute to peace in the region, and peaceful Japan that reflects our values, I believe we must reclaim what it means to be from Japan on our own terms, rather than assume what it has come to represent in the minds of the far-right revisionists in power in Japan today. Only then, there is a potential for a perspective that is wholly Nikkei and also sides with the victims and not the aggressors, shielded from the characterization of the historical revisionist issue as a matter of geopolitical maneuvering by China and Korea vying to squeeze Japan out of the evolving sphere of influence in the region.

Join our social media photo campaign and use‪#‎TruthTodayPeaceTomorrow‬ and sign the online petition at chn.ge/1AH44aa today!

I've had the privilege of getting to know the members of a small Native American Tribe up in Shasta the last decade. Despite unimaginable violations and assault by settler government(s) and corporations that seeks to obliterate them "from the map," they continue to carry out their traditional ways of life and fight for their right to exist as a unique nation of peoples. It was at one of their ceremonies, an elder said to me, "we always say 'you must know where you come from in order to know who you are, and also, where you're going, and supposed to go.'"

This elder, actually is by blood, a Nikkei, Japanese American. And she's also a proud Tribal elder and fierce advocate for social justice and human rights. She sighed upon learning about Japanese government's attempt to deny its own history of aggression and wartime atrocities. She later posted on Facebook:

From Meiji times, Japan has deliberately embraced American white supremacy attitudes, making white supremacy policies and stand in the world in order to build an empire. White supremacy, violence, hate go hand in hand with what destroyed Japan from the inside out.

She also said to me: "When Japan lost their clan ways, they lost their path." This surprised me.  The reason for the surprise, is that from my experience, very few people know of any Japan other than one that these revisionists refer to, such as the Japan that actually was full of hundreds of 'clans,' such as Emishi, Satsuma, Kumaso and Izumo, and oh so many more, that flourished with their respective distinct cultures and ways, even languages. One needed an interpreter travelling from Kyushu to Honshu. I doubt she knew, but after I thought about it, I came to a realization, that she spoke universal truth not just about Japan but human souls, as well as nations. She didn't need to know that Japan actually really had 'clans' prior to 'Contact.'

Nikkeis must reclaim our indigenous roots in the land that Abe now calls "Japan" on our own terms in order to transcend the failed historic legacy of White Supremacist ideology-influenced Imperial ideology and the worldview Abe is trying so hard to revive with his administration as a vessel to resurrect the Empire to its past glory.

Our ancestors in Japan less than two centuries ago may not have identified as "Japanese" the way Abe defines "Japan" today. In fact, they may not have identified as Japanese over Korean. For example, Izumo had long historic relationship with the Shilla Dynasty, and their religious worldviews are more similar than that of Izumo and Yamato to the north, both part of what is now "Japan." Asuka era left us with many historic shrines still frequented by the faithfuls in Kyoto and beyond -- and it's recognized as fact, that Asuka began when fallen princes from warring states in what is now the Korean peninsula fled and settled there. When you see a map of the Far Eastern Archipelago (I just made this up but it suits the worldview I choose to have for that region much better than Japan/Korea binaries) as a mediterranean without any regard to today's modern nation-state boundaries, you might be surprised how we've managed to come so far with this unquestioned, deeply imbedded assumption, that the Far East is divided into territories neatly divided into three: China, Korea, and Japan. There are literally thousands of islands splattered all over the fringe of the continent. Of course cultures and civilizations mixed every which way for tens of centuries.

In that context, in retracing our 'roots,' how helpful is it, if at all, to use today's definition of "Japan" as unit of analysis and reflection? Really, is "Japan" even relevant to our hidden story of where we REALLY come from?

What if, by accepting "Japan" to be however it is defined by the Abe regime, we are inadvertently internalizing the impact of an explicit strategy of conquest Meiji leaders exercised for the sake of national cohesion? Local 'kami' worshipping practices and rites were made illegal (while only State Shintoism was recognized 'Japan's official' religion); language was homogenized ; US creators of public education system (designed to support settler expansion) were recruited to Japan to appropriate indigenous controlled territories (Hence, first university is Hokkaido, Ainu territory)... and the list goes on.

And so, I feel quite easefully, the elder made a very astute -- observation. Indeed, "Japan" had implemented a line of strategies designed for conquest of what was truly a diverse, multiethnic, multicultural archipelago, as gleamed from the US vis-a-vis mostly Native Americans. The clan roots would give this truth away. God forbid that we relcaim any roots other than one Abe would like us to believe is ours.

Therefore, I'm willing to bet, the "Japan" that is a victim of racist bullying by the international community, is not referring to the Japan that most of our ancestors would have identified with. Abe's grandfather (first post-war Prime Minister Kishi) was in a leadership position for the Imperial Japanese government, which unleashed unspeakable tyrannic rule over the Japanese people -- our ancestors -- and fiercely repressed and exploited farmers and rural peasants throughout Japan to fuel its empire-building effort. Japan's war capacity was built on the backs of our farmer and merchant ancestors, women, elders and children. Life was so incredibly difficult, so many chose to jump on a boat destined for some faraway distant land (like the United States) they knew nothing about. Nikkeis around the world share this history. Massive emigration from Japan in early 20th century is interestingly timed with the succession of popular riots and rebellion throughout the country for excessive taxation and other exploitative government practices. many of our ancestors stood up to protest the Japanese government - run by people Abe strongly identifies with, ideologically, and politically.  He fashions himself a self-appointed 'heir' to THIS throne.

Only in the "clan ways" we can trace the courageous legacy of our great-grandparents standing up to power, scaling the walls of the kura to liberate rice for the children, organizing and founding Japan's first national farmers cooperative, or the socialist party, or the Suiheisha, organization led by the bold and brave Burakumin which published modern Japan's first human rights declaration in history....

When we lose our "clan ways" we simply are left with "Japan" and it is unidimensional. We are simply consuming the Japan that is served up by the Abe regime and are fine with that because in absence of it, there is only emptiness. But if we choose to heed the message of the elder, then we just may come to discover, that our roots and the roots of Abe's are not only quite distinct, but at odds....

When Imperial Japanese Army occupied new territory, they planted cherry trees on the school grounds as they did so throughout schools in Japan. Public education was a means through which to instill imperial ideology and cultivate absolute, unconditional loyalty and surrender to the Emperor. As the cherry flower petals fluttered away with the slightest of a breeze at the height of its blooming beauty, as the Emperor once stated, "see, that, is the most virtuous way of life..." to give up one's life at the height of his youth. This, is how Kamikaze fighter spirit was born. Becuase the value of one's life is "lighter than goose feather." Yes, he was speaking about your life, and those of our ancestors. But probably not Abe and his ancestors.

In the course of its Empire-building effort, the Imperial Japanese Army appropriated cherries for its symbol precisely due to its sacred standing among the Japanese. The planting and harvesting of rice, our lifeblood, was informed by the timing of wild cherry blossoms in the mountains. Without cherry flowers, our ancestors would not have existed at least in the way we understand today. We can either reclaim our cherry flowers as source of life as our ancestors surely did, or as signifying the disposable nature of human life in absolute, unconditional service to the holy Emperor and his country, as the fascist leaders of WWII Japan (and Abe now carrying their torch) would have liked us to embrace with joy and gratitude.

Looking inward and backward is like looking into a hologram. It's never what it seems, and it's all of what it seems, all at the same time. It's hard to see past the distorted images or collages of pieces of images... but the important thing to note, is that you take that first step, acknowledging, but not engaging, all that illusion. All the path lead to the same place at the end of the day, as the elder would say. As long as you continue to seek the truth. When you do, you will know, to distinguish illusion from what is real.