Tag Archives: japan

osaka mayor

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

by REERA YOO

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

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Japan Soccer Coach Wants To “Take Asian Games Away From Korea On Their Own Turf”

by STEVE HAN

South Korean under-23 men’s soccer team is vying for a gold medal at the Asian Games for the first time in 28 years, but it will have to overcome arch rival Japan in the quarterfinal match on Sunday to have a shot at achieving the ultimate goal in Incheon next week.

Host nation South Korea advanced to the quarterfinals after beating Hong Kong 3-0 on Thursday in the round of 16. Led by head coach Lee Kwang-jong, the team won all four matches in the tournament so far and has yet to concede a goal. But Japan will pose the biggest threat for the Korea, which hasn’t faced serious competition thus far as its opponents included minnows such as Laos and Malaysia.

“I wanted to play South Korea here,” Japan head coach Makoto Teguramori told Kyodo News. “It doesn’t get any better than this. I mean, imagine what it would be like if Japan took the tournament away from Korea on their own turf. I can sense how badly Korea want to win this competition … We’ve got to be prepared mentally. We cannot allow ourselves to get beaten mentally.”

Since 2002, teams are only allowed to include players younger than 23 for men’s soccer at the Asian Games. FIFA, international soccer’s governing body, levies the age cap on international tournaments sanctioned by organizations other than itself (including the Summer Olympic Games) as part of its plan to make the World Cup the most glamorous soccer event in the world. As a compromise, men’s soccer teams at both the Asian Games and the Olympics, both organized by the IOC, can have up to three players over 23.

Although the age cap is at 23, the entire Japanese roster consists of players aged 21 or younger as Teguramori wants the less heralded Asian Games as something of a dress rehearsal for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Japan also played at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China with its under-21 team, consisting of players who would still be young enough to satisfy the age limit at the Olympics in 2012, and still impressively managed to win the competition.

Unlike Japan, no player in South Korea’s roster is younger than 22. Additionally, head coach Lee further emphasized his “win now” mentality by even utilizing all three of his over-aged player slots with those who represented Korea’s senior national team at this past summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Taking the all-or-nothing approach at the expense of drawing a larger picture for the bigger tournament in the Olympics remains a hotly debated topic for Korean soccer fans.

However, such a decision for the Koreans is also the most suitable way to accommodate their most talented players from obtaining military exemption, which is granted to all of South Korea’s gold medalists at the Asian Games. Many believe that the country’s 21-month compulsory military service for all able-bodied male citizens is detrimental to the development of young athletes whose careers are generally short-lived compared to other professions.

Image courtesy of KPPA

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After Calling Japan “Easy,” Korean Soccer’s Whiz Kid Keeps His Word

by STEVE HAN

Days before the quarterfinal game against Japan, South Korean soccer’s 16-year-old prodigy Lee Seung-woo said that the rival team is “easily beatable” because he said he felt that “a team at the level of Japan” couldn’t be all that difficult to topple.

In the pivotal game in which a berth in next year’s FIFA Under-17 World Cup was at stake, Lee kept his word by lifting Korea’s under-16 national team past Japan with a 2-0 win. The stylish teenager, who scored both goals for Korea, demolished Japan’s defense with his individual skills and no shortage of swagger. After the game, even Lee’s opponents admitted that he was simply unplayable.

“It felt like we were outnumbered [when Lee had the ball],” said Tomiyasu Takehiro, Japan’s defender who was tasked with marking Lee during the game. “The only way to stop him was to commit the worst fouls possible. Our defense just couldn’t react.”

Japan began the game by playing its traditional short passing, possession soccer which kept Lee quietly isolated for much of the first half. But in the 42nd minute, Lee played a cheeky give-and-go pass with Kim Jung-min before scoring easily to give Korea the lead.

But it was Lee’s second goal of the game that showed just why he is touted by fans and media alike as Korea’s brightest ever prospect and perhaps also why the Spanish giants FC Barcelona signed the youngster three years ago when he was just 13 years old.

Lee collected the ball deep in South Korea’s defensive half, but in a matter of seconds, he left five Japanese defenders in dust and even dribbled past the goalkeeper to score on an open net at the other end of the field.

“Our tactic was to defend and then attack because we have a genius player in Lee Seung-woo,” Korean head coach Choi Jin-cheul said, according to Asian Football Confederation’s official website. “When he plays and trains all the other players look at him and follow him so he enhances our playing style as he is good for the other players.”

Since 2011, Lee has been dazzling in the youth ranks of Barcelona, Spain’s iconic professional soccer team. Over the years, Barcelona has produced some of the world’s best players, including Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, through its renowned youth academy, famously named La Masia, which literally translates to “farmhouse” in Spanish. Barcelona signed Lee after spotting him in an international youth tournament in South Africa in 2010.

In Europe, it is the professional sports teams that progressively develop young athletes by operating youth teams for different age groups, unlike in the U.S., where student-athletes represent their respective academic institutions until they’re old and talented enough to play professionally. Although the European system is comparable to Major League Baseball’s farm system in the U.S., the age group for youth soccer teams in Europe start from children as young as 4 or 5 years old.

At Barcelona’s youth academy at which Lee is considered as one of the best up-and-coming talents, only a few players who graduate the development program eventually make its senior team. But although some graduates may not make the cut at the senior level for Barcelona, many who show enough talent to graduate its academy have gone on to other top teams in Europe to establish respectable careers. Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta couldn’t find a place in Barcelona’s senior team after graduating from La Masia in 2001, but he now plays for Arsenal, one of the best teams in Europe and England.

Photo courtesy of Asian Football Confederation

SKorea

SKorea Wins Little League World Series Championship

by JAMES S. KIM

It’s called Little League, but if the 2014 Little League World Series tournament showed us anything, it’s that there’s nothing small about the heart, hard work and sportsmanship these kids bring to the ballpark.

With his team down 8-1 in the top of the sixth and final inning of the World Series championship game on Sunday, Illinois pitcher Trey Hondras nailed South Korea’s Dong Wan Sin in the helmet with a pitch. As Sin made his way over to first base, Hondras went over to apologize to the player, and the two competitors shook hands.

South Korea would go on to win the game 8-4 and capture the 2014 Little League World Series championship—their first since going back-to-back in 1985, but it was moments like this one that stood out during the tournament.

A day earlier, South Korea knocked out Japan, the reigning World Series champions, in dominant fashion, 12-3. After Japan won their third-place game against Nevada before Korea and Illinois took the field, many of the Japanese players stayed to cheer on Korea, donning blue shirts with the South Korean flag on them. You probably won’t ever see that outside of Little League.

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Sunday’s game wasn’t as much of a cakewalk for the South Koreans, but it was still more of the same: dominant pitching and a rock-steady offense. They led the game from the start, plating their first run on an RBI double by Jae Yeong Hwang in the first inning. After Korea scored another in the top of the third, Illinois finally got themselves on the board with a run in the bottom of the inning off of pitcher Jae Yeong Hwang.

In the top of the sixth, South Korea doubled their 4-1 advantage by scoring four runs, capped by Hae Chan Choi’s home run. They would need every single one of them, because as it goes in Little League, there is no such thing as too much offense–until the mercy rule takes over.

Illinois made things interesting in the final inning, knocking two straight base hits off of Choi, who had taken over pitching duties. With runners on second and third with one out, Darion Radcliff singled in both, and a hit and two passed balls allowed another to score.

Choi struck out Brandon Green, and after walking the next batter, he finally got clean-up hitter Ed Howard to ground into a force out to secure the win and championship.

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After the celebrations were said and done, the players from both teams lined up to shake hands. And to start off the line was an awkward, yet probably one of the more heartwarming handshakes you will ever see.

Bat flips, home runs and all that stuff aside, that’s pretty cool.

Images via ESPN

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Japanese Wrestler-Turned-Politician To Host Pro-Wrestling Event In NKorea

by STEVE HAN

Hoping to “ease tensions” between North Korea and Japan, wrestler-turned-politician Antonio Inoki is organizing an international pro-wrestling tournament at the end of the month in Pyongyang, reports The Washington Post.

The most notable participant is American pro-wrestler and former mixed martial artist Bob Sapp, who’s popular in South Korea for fighting Choi Hong-man in 2005. At least 21 fighters around the world will head to Pyongyang for the event, including Eric Hammer, Bobby Lashley and wrestlers from Japan, Brazil, France, China and the Netherlands, according to Inoki.

“Sports events bring people together,” Inoki, a 71-year-old who achieved fame by fighting the likes of Muhammad Ali and Hulk Hogan, told The Post. “That’s what I’ve been saying for a long time. This is sports entertainment. Olympic Games are a competition between countries, but here spectators can freely choose which star to cheer for and unite as one.”

The 6-foot-3 Inoki is now a lawmaker in Japan’s upper house, but still wears his trademark red scarf from his wrestling days. He added that the event, which will incorporate techniques of Korea’s taekwondo and Japan’s aikido as well as pro-wrestling, will help ease the strained relations between North Korea and the rest of the world.

Inoki’s relationship with North Korea began in 1995 when he hosted a tournament in there that was also meant to smooth relations between countries. He was inspired by his mentor and the late Korean Japanese pro-wrestler Rikidozan, better known among Koreans as Yeokdosan. His trip next week will be his 30th visit to Pyongyang.

As a politician, Inoki boasts a track record of using sports to promote peace and humanitarian efforts. In 1990, he paid several visits to Iraq when over 100 Japanese citizens were abducted by Saddam Hussein’s regime to be used as shields during the Persian Gulf War, said The Post article. He hosted a wrestling-centered “peace festival” in Baghdad at the time, and that effort, along with the Japanese government’s negotiations with Iraq, eventually led to the release of the Japanese hostages a few days later.

The geopolitical relations between North Korea and Japan have been contentious, to say the least. While North Korea stands at odds with Japan’s reluctance to admit to its wartime atrocities, it didn’t help its own cause by abducting at least 17 Japanese citizens during the 1970s and ’80s to coerce them into teaching the Japanese language and culture to train North Korean spies.

fall6Fight between Antonio Inoki and Hulk Hogan on the cover of a wrestling magazine

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SKorea Beats Japan, Advances to Int’l Championship in Little League World Series

by JAMES S. KIM

The South Korean Little League World Series team is headed to the International Championship game after edging out a very strong Japanese team 4-2 Wednesday in .

The matchup of the top two international teams did not disappoint. World Series defending champion Japan came in with a dominant pitching staff, while South Korea came in boasting one of the top offenses in the tournament thus far.

Scoreless into the third inning, pitcher and first baseman Choi Hae-chan helped his own cause with a two-run home run to right center field to give Korea the lead. Japan responded immediately by tying the game with two runs of their own in the bottom of the third, one off a sacrifice fly by Shingo Tomita and another off a wild pitch.

Both teams remained scoreless until the top of the sixth (the final inning per Little League rules), when Hwang Jae-yeong lifted a solo homer to score the game-winning run off of Suguru Kanamori. Sin Dong-wan added an insurance run with a double to center field.

In the bottom sixth, Hwang Jae Young struck out the first two Japanese batters before giving up a single. The next batter, Kanamori, flied out to center field to end the game.

South Korea now holds a 9-0 Little League World Series record, while Japan broke its 12-game win streak.

Japan isn’t completely out of it as it will play Mexico tomorrow for a chance to get back into the International Championship game on Saturday, where South Korea awaits.

At the time of publication, the top two U.S. teams are set to slug it out in an highly-anticipated game, featuring a potent offense in Nevada and the superstar Mo’ne Davis-led Pennsylvania team.

The winner of the International Championship will face the winner of the U.S. Championship game, also Saturday, for the World Series Championship game on Sunday.

Meanwhile, you can watch a couple of South Korea’s spectacular bat flips from the tournament. Mind you, they’re both on flyouts.

Photo courtesy of Korea Little Baseball Association

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Chan Ho Park To Be Honored At SKorean All-Star Game

by STEVE HAN

Retired pitcher Chan Ho Park, South Korea’s pioneering major leaguer, will be honored Friday at the Korean Pro Baseball’s All-Star Game in Gwangju’s Champions Field.

Park, 41, retired in 2012 after 17 seasons in the major leagues. The highlight of his career includes nine seasons he spent with the L.A. Dodgers, during which he was a National League All-Star in 2001. Park also reached the World Series in 2009 with the Philadelphia Phillies, and pitched for the New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2010 season. His 124 wins in the major leagues set a record for the most wins by an Asian player.

“I’m proud that I’ve played for as long as I did,” Park told KoreAm in an in-depth interview upon his retirement two years ago. “There were a lot of obstacles.  The early years in the minor leagues and struggling in Texas later on … it was tough. I’ve been at a crossroads so many times, and thought about quitting and going back to Korea. But I stayed patient and endured everything.  That’s what makes me proud.

Hideo Nomo, Park’s former teammate in L.A. and Japan’s pioneering major leaguer, will also be honored the same day in a separate ceremony in Japan.

“Nomo and Park are both true pioneers,” said Peter O’Malley, the former Dodgers president, in a released statement. O’Malley was responsible for signing the two Asian pitchers from their respective countries in the early 1990s. “Today, there have been 40 players from Japan and 14 from South Korea who have played in the major leagues. I am very proud of their leadership and their ongoing commitment to youth baseball in Japan and South Korea” he said.

Park became South Korea’s first ever major leaguer when the Dodgers signed him out of Hanyang University in 1994. Including Park, there have been 14 players from South Korea who have played in the major leagues since then. One of them is current Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, to whom Park served as a mentor back in 2012, when the two played for Korea’s Hanwha Eagles.

Today Park is reportedly developing a baseball training center and entertainment complex in Korea.

To read more of KoreAm‘s interview with Park, where he speaks frankly about the highs and lows of his career, the support of the Korean American community and his baseball legacy, click here.

"Comfort women" memorial unveiled in Washington suburb

Peace Garden Seeks to Raise Awareness

story by RUTH KIM
photos by KYODO via AP IMAGES and GRETCHEN POWELL

Advocates in northern Virginia unveil a “comfort women” memorial that carries a message not just relevant to history, but very much engaged with the present.

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In the backyard of the Fairfax County Government Center in Virginia, a brick pathway trails into a quaint, circular garden, where an unassuming boulder stands at its center. Flanked by butterfly-shaped benches of a brilliant turquoise hue, the two by-two-foot boulder displays a brass plaque, and the garden, surrounded by green grass and an open expanse, offers a moment of peace and serenity for any passerby.

However, the inscription on the plaque engages in a much more agitated conversation. In part, it reads: “In honor of the women and girls whose basic rights and dignities were taken from them as victims of human trafficking during WWII…. May these ‘comfort women’ find eternal peace and justice for the crimes committed against them. May the memories of these women and girls serve as a reminder of the importance of protecting the rights of women and an affirmation of basic human rights.”

Situated near the 9/11 Memorial Grove, the Comfort Women Memorial Peace Garden pays tribute to the girls and women, referred to euphemistically as “comfort women,” who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War. An estimated 80,000 to 200,000 women who were enslaved—a figure that is still being debated today—were predominantly from Korea, but included others from China, the Philippines, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Netherlands, East Timor and other territories, where Japanese so-called comfort stations were set up to “service” soldiers at that time.

Installed by the Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues (WCCW), the memorial peace garden was unveiled in Fairfax, Va., on May 30 in a ceremony that featured Korean song and dance, a release of butterflies, as well as speeches by U.S. Congressman Mike Honda, Fairfax County officials and “comfort woman” survivor Kang Il-chul.

“I am grateful and excited to see you all, but somehow feel a little grief,” said Kang, 85, through a translator, expressing mixed feelings at the ceremony, which drew both smiles and tears from her.

Kang’s comments seemed to capture the overall tone of the discourse on the issue: a feeling of hope for the future, mixed with the bitter pain of the still unresolved past.

It is unresolved because the government of Japan has yet to issue a formal apology to the “comfort women” and to provide reparations to survivors, even though allegations of these war crimes first came to light in the early
1990s. The closest it came to one was a statement of “sincere apologies and remorse” delivered by the country’s chief cabinet secretary in 1993, and a private fund established to assist survivors.

But, adding fuel to the flame is the fact that over the years there have also been a number of controversial statements given by various leaders about how the “comfort women” were prostitutes, not slaves. Current Prime Minster Shinzo Abe said this past February that he wanted to revisit the evidence that led to the 1993 expression of regret. He has since back-stepped on his own statement, as tensions between South Korea and Japan have intensified.

The WCCW, a nongovernmental organization, first formed in 1992 to advocate for Japan to issue a formal
apology and provide formal reparations to the women, according to Grace Han Wolf, the group’s co-chair. But she
added that, over time, the group’s focus has shifted somewhat to emphasize “more on outreach, education and awareness building,” and that’s how the memorial idea emerged. “It’s really about making sure these women were not forgotten, making sure the crime was not forgotten, and making sure Fairfax County stands vigilant against human trafficking,” said Wolf.

Wolf, the first Korean American woman elected to office in the Commonwealth of Virginia and serving her third term on the Herndon Town Council, joined the coalition in 2012 to help facilitate the memorial’s planning. “[The WCCW] had put together this idea of a memorial after some of the other memorials had been erected in other parts of the U.S., and they weren’t really sure how to go from the idea to reality,” Wolf said. That’s where she stepped in as a liaison between the group and the local government.

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The memorial serves as a reminder that this is not just a historic issue, but a contemporary one. “It’s one of those things where you think, ‘Oh, that happened so long ago,’ but, no, it’s happening right now. And that’s really where this group is really more focused on, to really educate people about what happened, and about what continues to happen,” Wolf said. “Human trafficking is still a big issue, and Fairfax just announced a big initiative in January of this year to combat teen sex trafficking, which unfortunately is still a [problem] here in Fairfax County.”

The peace garden is not the first memorial dedicated to “comfort women” to be constructed in the U.S. In 2013, a statue was erected in Glendale, Calif., portraying a girl in a hanbok sitting on a chair with an empty chair next to her; it is based on local resident and “comfort woman” survivor, Bokdong Kim. That memorial unleashed a storm of controversy. Since its installation, three delegations of Japanese politicians have complained, and Glendale’s sister city in Japan even canceled a student exchange program as a result. A group called the Global Alliance for Historical Truth filed a lawsuit in federal court to have the statue removed. Even counter petitions on the White House’s “We the People” website—one to take down and the other to keep the statue—each garnered over 100,000 signatures. Some opponents of the memorial have said that the statue promotes hate toward the people and nation of Japan, while others have said that this kind of international conflict should not be played out on American soil.

Although the Japanese Embassy and a nationalistic Japanese group have protested the Virginia memorial, Wolf said it has not sparked as much controversy as the Glendale memorial. “I think the [statue] in Glendale was probably more of a lightning rod for controversy,” she said. “The garden [here] is really positioned as awareness building not just for the history of comfort women, but more importantly the issue of human trafficking.”

She said the organization also reached out to many local community groups in the county in a conscious effort to be inclusive.

“We don’t really perceive ours as anti-Japanese nor particularly pro-Korean. We were really careful to position it that way because we didn’t want it to become just about that,” Wolf said. “The ‘comfort women’ is one of many sad stories about human trafficking, which disproportionately affects Asian American women and children. So we really took a pan-Asian approach…. We reached out to all [ethnic] groups equally. We didn’t make a special effort or not a special effort—we included everybody.”

One supporter of the Virginia memorial has been Congressman Honda, a Japanese American who spent part of World War II in an internment camp. He has also championed a congressional bill this year that called for Japan to issue an “unequivocal” apology to the “comfort women,” many of whom have already passed away. In a statement, Honda said, “For the women still alive, and for the countless who have passed, official recognition and acknowledgment is the only way to bring proper closure to this terrible chapter of World War II history.”

This article was published in the July 2014 issue of KoreAmSubscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the July issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).