Tag Archives: japan


Shinzo Abe Invited to Address Joint U.S. Congress Session

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will speak before a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress on April 29, reports Yonhap News Agency. House Speaker John Boehner officially announced the invitation on Thursday.

“As the United States continues to strengthen our ties with Japan, we look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Abe to the United States Capitol. His address will provide an opportunity for the American people to hear from one of our closest allies about ways we can expand our cooperation on economic and security priorities,” Boehner said in a statement.

“That, of course, includes working together to open markets and encourage more economic growth through free trade,” he added. “Prime Minister Abe will become the first Japanese leader to address a joint meeting of the United States Congress, and we are proud to host this historic event.”

Abe was poised to make a trip to the United States this spring in late April to early March before the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in August. He is expected to meet with President Barack Obama over discussions on security and trade agreements. His speech before Congress is expected to mark the partnership the two countries have enjoyed and the peaceful path Japan has taken since the end of the war.

There is intense speculation in Tokyo and other Asian countries about how he will mark the anniversary. Abe has stirred fierce controversy over signs that his government was looking to reexamine and revise previous statements and apologies from former Japanese leaders.

In response to speculation over Abe’s visit, a number of Korean American activists and U.S. veterans groups called on Abe earlier this month to issue a clear apology for Japan’s war crimes, including sexual slavery, committed during World War II. U.S. Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) also added that “nothing less than” a clear apology would be enough for Abe to be a global leader in women’s rights, as the prime minister said in a speech at the United Nations last year.


Subscribe to our daily newsletter



Shinzo Abe Urged to Clearly Apologize for Sexual Slavery, War Crimes Before U.S. Trip

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

As all signs point to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe making a trip to the United States later this spring, several activists in the U.S. have called for him to issue a clear apology for war crimes, including sexual slavery, committed by Japan during World War II before he is expected to appear before a joint session of Congress.

Yesterday, Korean American civic groups, including the Korean American Forum (KAF) and Korean American Civic Empowerment (KACE) took out an advertisement in The Hill, an American political newspaper, demanding, “Mr. Abe must apologize to the victims of military sexual slavery by imperial Japan during WWII … before seeking a speech to a joint session of U.S. Congress.”


The ad also includes the photos of former “comfort women” Jan Ruff O’Herne and Yong-soo Lee, who both testified before Congress in 2007. Another photo shows Abe visiting the Yasukuni Shrine in 2013, an act that infuriated Koreans and Chinese, as the shrine honors a number of Japanese soldiers who were tried as war criminals.

U.S. Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), who has previously spoken on behalf of sexual slavery victims, also issued a statement that said Abe fully “acknowledges the systematic kidnapping of girls and women during the 1930s and 1940s during the second world war, that they were responsible for, that he apologizes on behalf of the government, that the apology be unambiguous, and that he accepts the historical responsibility.”

Honda added that “nothing less than” a clear apology would be enough for Abe to be a global leader in women’s rights, as the prime minister said in a speech at the United Nations last year.

A U.S. veterans group, which includes former American prisoners-of-war and their relatives, sent a letter to lawmakers in Congress, saying Abe should only be invited to give a speech if he admits Japan’s wartime conduct. The American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society called the speech a “unique opportunity” for him to deliver the apology.

Tokyo and Washington were in final preparations a month ago for Abe to address Congress during a visit to the U.S. in the spring. Although the invite hasn’t been confirmed, it would be the first time a Japanese prime minister has spoken before a joint session of Congress, as well as the first time a Japanese prime minister has addressed Congress since 1961, according to the Japan Times.

Abe will travel to the States during the Golden Week holidays from late April through early May. His speech is expected to touch on Japan’s peaceful path since the end of World War II and strengthening Japan-U.S. ties for the future, particularly on the economic front through completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

This all comes before the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in August. The Washington Post notes that there is intense speculation in Tokyo—and in other Asian countries—about how he will mark the anniversary.

A Japanese government study in 1993 led to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono to issue the “Kono Statement,” which officially acknowledged that the Japanese Imperial Army had forced “comfort women” to work in military brothels during WWII. The statement’s wording was negotiated with the South Korean government, then led by President Kim Young-sam.

On the 50th anniversary, then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama said that Japan, through its colonial rule and aggression, “caused tremendous damage to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. In the hope that no such mistake be made in the future, I regard, in the spirit of humility, these irrefutable facts of history, and express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology.”

Abe’s government has drawn outrage for signs in the last few years that they were looking into reexamining and revising previous statements, including the ones listed above. This hasn’t helped thaw relations with South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s government, and the two leaders never met face-to-face until President Barack Obama held a joint meeting with them last year and Abe told the Japanese parliament that he would not revise the 1993 apology.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the Korean American Civic Empowerment (KACE) organization. We have also clarified that Prime Minister Abe has not been officially confirmed to appear before Congress, but that he is expected to during his trip to the U.S. in late April. We sincerely regret the error. 


Subscribe to our daily newsletter



South Korean and Japanese Students Talk About English-Language Education

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

On this side of the Pacific, we often hear about our friends and peers heading over to Asia to teach English. But we rarely hear from the student perspective.

South Korea and Japan spend billions of dollars each year on private tutors and academies in addition to what is taught in school curriculums just for that extra edge in English. However, according to the folks at YouTube channel Asian Boss, majority of South Korean and Japanese students have trouble communicating in English even at the most basic level. Asian Boss took to the streets of Sydney to ask a few young men and women, likely international students, about their own experiences—and struggles—learning and conversing in English.

All of the interviewees reveal that they began studying English at a young age—one commented that children begin to learn English as early as kindergarten in Korea. But for some, English isn’t just difficult. They loathe it.

“I just hate English,” one young male student commented. “Whenever I hear English or meet foreigners, I get dizzy and I start sweating. … That’s how bad it is.”

Most students expressed that learning English felt like picking up another subject, like math—an assessment tool to measure academic performance, as one student put it. Their experiences were limited to memorizing vocabulary terms and grammar rules without properly applying that they had learned. After their exams were done, they would forget everything.

Besides opportunities for conversations, one Korean student said there’s an aspect of shame Koreans run into. They’re afraid to make any mistakes, he said, and they miss out on speaking because they worry about trying to sound perfect.

Overall, the interviewees agreed that learning English should be more fun and cultivated at an early age as an important communication skill instead of a mandatory subject. The education system needs to go away from treating English as “a problem to be solved, like a math problem.”

Take a look at what else the young Japanese and South Koreans had to say below.

Reader Grace Lung pointed out that Asian Boss, an Australia-based channel, interviewed their subjects in Sydney in an area where many international students hang out. Thank you for the heads up, and we apologize for our error.

(H/T to RocketNews24)


Subscribe to our daily newsletter



3 Things to Know Before South Korea Enters Asian Cup Semifinals

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han

It has been a bumpy ride, but the South Korean men’s national soccer team is entering the semifinals of the 2015 Asian Cup on a four-game win streak, during which it hasn’t conceded a single goal.

Korea scored just one goal in each of its three games in the group stages, but scraped through with 1-0 wins every time thanks to a combination of luck, desperate defending and goalkeeping heroics from Kim Jin-hyeon. Beating Oman and Kuwait were more difficult than expected, and although the gritty win over hosts Australia was plausible, the Koreans endured a lengthy spell of domination from their rivals. In the quarterfinals, Korea needed extra time to edge past Uzbekistan, a team it hasn’t lost to since 1994.

Aiming to win its first continental title in 55 years, Korea is set to face Iraq in the semifinals on Monday in Sydney. The winning team will then play against either Austrailia or UAE in the final match, which airs on Saturday, Jan. 31 at 8 p.m. PT.

Here are three things you should know about the Taegeuk Warriors as they prepare for the semifinals game.

1. Korea is playing without two of its key players.

Korea’s German head coach Uli Stielike has long made it clear that he considers five players on the current team as its nucleus–Son Heung-min, Ki Sung-yueng, Park Joo-ho, Lee Chung-yong and Koo Ja-cheol. Unfortunately for Stielike, he will now have to lead Korea without two of those five players for the remainder of the tournament.

Right winger Lee has been ruled out after sustaining a hairline fracture in his right leg from a vicious tackle made by an Omani player during Korea’s first match. In addition, attacking midfielder Koo tore a ligament in his elbow after falling and landing on his arm in a game against Australia.

Players Nam Tae-hee and Han Kyo-won, will most likely have to step up to fill the void of Lee, the two-time World Cup veteran, and Koo, who captained Korea’s bronze medal team at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

2. With rivals Japan and Iran eliminated, the stars are now aligned for Korea.

Two weeks ago in a preview story about the Asian Cup, I mentioned that Korea would have to overcome Japan and Iran to complete its mission of winning the continental title for the first time since 1960. Things have just gotten a lot easier for Korea as both Japan and Iran were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Iraq and UAE, respectively.

After failing to beat Japan in nearly five years and Iran in four years, Korea is now left with Iraq in the semifinals, which seems to look favorable for the Korean team. If Korea manages to win the semifinals, then it will either face Australia, a team it has previously beaten, or UAE, which has only secured two wins against Korea in the last 19 head-to-head matchups.

3. As expected, Cha Du-ri is the difference maker.

I also predicted in the aforementioned preview article that the 34-year-old fullback Cha Du-ri may just be the X-factor if Korea finally wins the Asian title. Set to retire from international soccer after the Asian Cup, Cha’s speed on the right flank has lifted Korea in decisive moments.

Against Kuwait, Cha dribbled past two defenders from the right wing and picked out a perfect cross for Nam Tae-hee’s goal, clinching Korea’s berth in the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals game versus Uzbekistan, Cha’s furious 60-yard run sparked a counterattack that Son Heung-min finished off to seal Korea’s 2-0 win.

Since the Uzbekistan game, a video of Bae Sung-jae, the play-by-play announcer for South Korean TV network SBS famously saying, “Why in the world did a player like this work as a broadcaster during the World Cup?” went viral among Korean soccer fans. Cha had worked alongside Bae in the broadcast booth as a color commentator during the 2014 World Cup after he was controversially dropped from Korea’s final roster. Bae’s viral comment sparked further criticism on former head coach Hong Myung-bo for excluding Cha from last summer’s roster.

South Korea will play against Iraq in the semifinals on Monday, Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. PT.


Featured photo courtesy of ESPNFC.com

Get our daily newsletter



South Korea, Japan and U.S. to Share Intel on North Korea

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

South Korea, Japan and the U.S. will sign their first joint intelligent-sharing pact on Dec. 29 to better prepare and respond to the increasing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea, reports the Associated Press.

Although the U.S. currently has separate, bilateral intelligence-sharing pacts with South Korea and Japan, the two Asian countries do not have such agreements, partly due to the unresolved tensions stemming from Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945. In 2012, Seoul and Tokyo almost signed an intelligence-sharing pact, but it was ultimately scrapped after public uproar in South Korea.

Under the new trilateral agreement, South Korea and Japan would share intelligence only on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, with the U.S. serving as the mediator, according to a statement from Seoul’s Defense Ministry.

“We believe that the arrangement will be very effective in deterring the communist country from launching provocations in the first place,” a ministry official told Yonhap. “The cooperation between the three nations is expected to boost the quality of the intelligence on North Korea, which will enable the allies to respond to possible provocations in a swifter fashion.”

The agreement comes after Pyongyang’s recent threat to carry out nuclear strikes in protest of a United Nations resolution on the regime’s human rights abuses. North Korea has also threatened to retaliate against the U.S. over Sony Pictures’ satirical comedy The Interview.

The vice defense ministers of South Korea, Japan and the U.S. will formally sign the trilateral pact on Monday.


Photo courtesy of AFP Photo/Saul Loeb


South Koreans Consume the Most Ramen in the World

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

The convenience of Korean instant ramen makes the dish a favorite among college students, single folk and the lazy alike, but there may be such a thing as too convenient.

South Koreans consumed the most ramen (ramyun or ramyeon) per person in the world last year, according to a study by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the World Instant Noodles Association (WINA). The average Korean eats 74.1 servings ramen per year, followed by Vietnamese people, who consume about 60.3 servings a year. Indonesia, China and Hong Kong round out the top five out of a total 15 countries in the study.

Japan did not make the top five list for ramen servings per person, but they do consume the third-most amount of ramen as a country. Meanwhile, Hong Kong and China come in first place, followed by Indonesia Japan, and Vietnam. South Korea came in seventh in overall consumption.

According to the study, Koreans are also the most likely to purchase ramen at a convenience store: 25.6 percent of shoppers purchase ramen. Nongshim Shin Ramyun has been the most popular brand for four years, followed by Jjapaguri, Neoguri and Samyang Ramyun. The ramenritto, the ramen grilled cheese sandwich, the ramen pizza and the infamous ramen burger still have a ways to go to catch up.

The study also provided a number of interesting tidbits about ramen in general: From 2008 to 2013, South Korean ramen exports increased 64 percent, and cup ramen production increased 67 percent compared to 26.5 percent for bagged instant ramen in the same time period.

If you’re in the mood for Korean ramen, check out blogger Hans Lienesch’s list of Top 10 South Korean Instant Noodles for a few hearty recommendations.

Photo courtesy of Soompi


South Korea Refuses to Share 2018 Winter Olympics with Japan

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han

South Korea announced Friday that it will not share its right to host the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang with Japan after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suggested the idea of co-hosting to reduce cost.

IOC officials proposed the option of hosting bobsled and luge events of the 2018 Games in Japan to Pyeongchang’s organizing committee and recommended utilizing existing facilities rather than pouring resources into building new ones. This proposal sparked an angry response from South Koreans, many of whom still resent Japan over conflicting views on politics and history.

“There was no possibility of moving some events overseas, as the IOC suggested to Pyeongchang,” Cho Yang-ho, chairman of the Pyeongchang organizing commitee, said in a statement, according to the New York Times. “It was difficult for Pyeongchang to adopt [the IOC’s ideas] because the construction for all game venues has already started.”

The IOC’s proposal to South Korea came on Monday after its landmark decision to allow host cities of the Olympic Games to move competitions to towns in nearby countries in order to prevent potential bidders for future events from going into further debt. The Russian city of Sochi’s total budget of $51 billion for the 2014 Games has reportedly scared off potential bidders.

Although the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s estimated cost of the Pyeongchang Games is at $10 billion, the IOC suggested that utilizing the facilities in Nagano, Japan, which hosted the 1998 Games could save billions for Pyeongchang.

In 2002, FIFA made the unprecedented decision to allow South Korea and Japan to co-host the World Cup. The rivalry between the two countries was so fierce that it caused serious organizational and logistical problems. As a result, FIFA officially banned co-hosting bids in 2004. It’s safe to say that co-hosting the Winter Games with Japan will create similar conflicts as the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

Photo courtesy of Snowalps.com

osaka mayor

‘Hate Speech’ Debate Gets Ugly, Osaka Mayor and Anti-Korean Leader Hurl Insults


A debate on hate speech between Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and an anti-Korean group leader nearly ended in a brawl as security guards were forced to separate the two men on Monday, according to the Wall Street Journal.


Hashimoto agreed to debate Makoto Sakurai, the chairman of the Zaitokukai group, which is notorious for campaigning against “privileges” for ethnic Korean residents in Japan, such as the right to vote and access to welfare.

The debate was held amid rising concerns over incidents of hate speech towards Japan’s Korean population, which the Zaitokukai group has often instigated by holding rallies in Korean neighborhoods.

Within seconds of the debate, the two men began fighting over how they should address each other as Sakurai continued to use the disrespectful Japanese version of the word “you” to refer to the mayor.

Hashimoto, clearly irritated by his opponent’s lack of honorifics, replied, “Lumping together races and nationalities together and judging them — I want people to cut it out with those kind of statements.”

“So, you want people to stop criticizing Koreans at all?” Sakurai countered.

This comment caused Hashimoto to also abandon honorifics, calling Sakurai “annoying” and a “nuisance.” The two men then rose from their seats and took strides towards each other before being escorted back to their seats by security guards.

The scheduled 30-minute debate lasted less than 10 minutes.

The exchange abruptly ended with Sakurai firing insults at Hashimoto as the mayor prepared to leave the room with his security detail. However, Hashimoto did manage to land one final insult at Sakurai by tellling him, “We don’t need racists like you in Osaka.”

The YouTube video of the heated exchange attracted over 700,000 views.

According to the Guardian, the U.N. Human Rights Committee called on Japan to enact legislation to firmly address growing incidents of hate speech and racism against ethnic Koreans in August.

Photo courtesy of Kyodo via The Japan Times