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Tag Archives: Politics

Given that there are only a few months to the July 2008 G8 Summit in Toyako, Hokkaido, it seems awfully seredipitous that the abduction issue is hitting the headlines again. In May, so far, the Japan Times has thrice reported stories relating to the issue.

On May 4th, it reported:

Don’t delist North: abductee group

A senior member representing families of Japanese abducted by North Korea urged the United States on Friday to keep North Korea on its list of terror-sponsoring nations until the abduction issue is resolved.

Teruaki Masumoto, secretary general of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, made the pitch with supporters in a meeting with Christopher Hill, the top U.S. envoy to the six-party North Korea denuclearization talks.

“If North Korea is delisted, it will give the country breathing space and make efforts to rescue our families take longer. So we want North Korea to be kept on the list,” he told reporters after emerging from the meeting at the U.S. State Department.

[…]

“My impression is that Mr. Hill takes what North Korea says at face value and may not believe the victims of the abductions are still alive,” Masumoto said. “We believe the victims are definitely alive.”

Whenever the Kazokukai are in the US, you can be sure that more news will follow as the cohorts renew their politicking.

From May 10th:

Tokyo denies asking Seoul for Yokota meeting

The government Friday denied a media report that Japan asked South Korea to help arrange a meeting between the parents of Megumi Yokota […] and her granddaughter, who still lives in the reclusive state.

“The media report is not based on facts,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told a news conference. “It is a very regrettable article when considering the feelings of the Yokota couple,” he said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported Friday morning that Kyoko Nakayama, an Upper House member and special adviser to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on the abduction issue, asked Seoul to help arrange with North Korea a meeting in South Korea between Shigeru and Sakie Yokota and Megumi’s daughter and former husband.

Citing a source knowledgeable of Japanese-South Korean relations, the article said Nakayama made the request during her visit to Seoul last month and said she intended to return cremated remains that North Korea handed to Japan in 2004 claiming they were those of Megumi, if such a meeting were arranged.

Nakayama flatly denied making such remarks when she visited Seoul on April 25. Nakayama told reporters that while she is aware the Yokotas want to meet with their granddaughter, it is not something that can be achieved by making a request to Seoul for help.

Nakayama also said the issue of the cremated remains was not even mentioned in her talks with the officials and repeated that Japan’s policy is that it will not return them to North Korea.

Has North Korea even asked for those ashes back? Doesn’t it still maintain that they are Yokotas, questioning the DNA testing along with assumedly neutral Nature, the science journal/magazine? The story seems absurd, so much so that I wonder what prompted it. Slow news day, perhaps? That the Yokotas would like to meet their granddaughter seems assured, but to suggest that the government would attempt to use the dodgy ashes to bargain with North Korea by way of the warier Lee Administration seems a little far-fetched. Such a policy doesn’t fit within the framework of dialogue and pressure, but, were it true and if it succeeded, it would have made for a good photoshoot ahead of the G8 Summit, in line with the raised stature of the abduction issue while all (some?) eyes are on Japan. Thus, I am on the fence with this one. Was it the Yomiuri trying to show up the government, or was it the matter of the government trying to prepare to raise the abduction issue in the context of the G8 Summit? I can’t tell.

Finally, from May 12th:

N. Korea suggested existence of other abductees in 2004

North Korea suggested to a Japanese official in early 2004 that there were abductees other than the 15 officially recognized as abduction victims by Tokyo at that time, government sources said Sunday.

Yoshiyuki Inoue, who was in charge of the abduction issue at the Cabinet Office, sought information on abductees other than the 15 when he visited North Korea several times between late 2003 and January 2004, and officials there indicated readiness to reveal the fates of some of them, according to the sources.

[…]Inoue was discussing with North Korea repatriation of family members of five abductees who had returned to Japan in October 2002, and examination of the whereabouts of another 10 abductees, the sources said. But Pyongyang suspended the talks in February 2004 when his visits to North Korea came to light in a media report.

This is the clincher. If North Korea can be shown to willfully withheld information from the Japanese government in its 2002-2004 diplomacy efforts, then there is justification for the further pursuit of the abduction issue (beyond the slightly naive notion that Yokota Megumi is alive). However, that Inoue failed to comment is notable: this is surely untrue. Would Abe Shinzo, most particularly, have failed to have levied such a charge against the North? I doubt that.

Abduction politics comes in fits and starts. How extensive this current concentration of noise becomes will not be clear until the G8 Summit begins, but I imagine that Japan will once again call upon the other 7 members to stand against North Korea’s human rights abuses and finally, although perhaps impossibly, bring Yokota Megumi home.

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Abe may be gone, but the propaganda keeps on coming. The Headquarters of the Abduction Issue, the Cabinet-level office in charge of bringing the Yokota Megumi story to the world, released the 25-minute animation at the end of March, and can be found here.

I’ve skimmed through it, but have not brought myself to  stomach the horrible voice acting in the English version. Doesn’t the Japanese government know that subs are the way? (Joking, of course: dubbing, no matter how terrible, allows them to possibly reach a larger audience). I was unsurprised to find the Paul Stookey song slapped over the credits. It seems that every time the government releases a new piece of what can only be called propaganda, they are going to subject us to the god-awful song.

[via Japan Probe]

An interesting, if a little dubious, editorial from The Japan Times:

Paranoid android Abe blind to reality when it comes to eye contact
By PHILIP BRASOR
Sunday, Aug. 26, 2007

Image and issues always compete for voters’ attention on the campaign trail, with the former usually winning. A successful candidate is the one who uses the media most effectively in shaping an image that’s acceptable to more people than the next candidate’s. Issues, on the other hand, have become more or less window dressing that give a general indication of a candidate’s ideological bias.

Media critic Yukichi Amano took this dynamic for granted in his analysis of last month’s Upper House election, which appeared in the Asahi Shimbun recently. Amano not only believes that the Liberal Democratic Party lost because of image problems – an assertion few people would deny given all the scandals the LDP has suffered through recently – but pins the reason for the loss on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s use of eye contact.

Since taking office last September, Abe has continued the daily, casual press conferences started by his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi. Amano believes this is a good idea but it’s only effective if you understand how TV works. Unlike Koizumi, who proved himself a master at media manipulation, Abe has no clue as to how unflattering TV can be.

One of his main problems is his use of language. The prime minister has no knack for the colloquial and often says things that go over the heads of most citizens. Where Koizumi immediately got his point across when he said that one of his goals was to “kill off the old LDP,” Abe expressed the same idea by saying he wants to “escape from the postwar regime.”

But the real problem is sincerity, or, at least, the illusion of sincerity. “Sometimes the face reveals more than words,” Amano writes, and Abe’s real problem was his decision to address the camera directly when answering reporters’ questions. “When someone asks you something,” Amano says, “you should look at that person when you answer. Not to do so is considered bad manners.”

Amano isn’t the first media person to find fault with Abe’s mesen (eye contact) policy. The prime minister’s reasoning is that he wants to talk directly to the people during press conferences, but the unnaturalness of his gaze has the effect of making everything he says sound insincere and meaningless. Koizumi also rarely said anything of substance, but he looked at the reporters who asked him the questions, thus making it seem as if he meant what he said. Abe says insubstantial things that sound insubstantial.

And because Abe is less confident in his abilities than Koizumi was, he is more likely to buckle under criticism. When pundits started questioning his mesen strategy, he stubbornly refused to abandon it. Instead, he tried to make his facial expression more forceful, which had the singular effect of making it look as if he didn’t even know the reporters were there – as if he were answering questions in his head. During one casual press conference back in the spring, reporters asked Abe directly if he didn’t think his mesen strategy was “strange,” and, without missing a beat or taking his eye off the camera, Abe said, “Rather than answering to you, I intend to talk to the people.” Monty Python couldn’t have come up with a funnier dig at political vacuousness.

Since the election, Abe has only compounded the problem by trying to modify the practice without seeming to modify it. According to an Aug. 12 article in the Tokyo Shimbun, Abe has “returned to zero” in his strategy of dealing with the press. But his effort to act as normal as possible is transparent. He looks at reporters now, but can’t resist glancing up at the camera. The effect is even more distracting than it was before. With his eyes wandering all over the place, Abe appears not only indecisive but paranoid.