Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
from Global News Journal:
(Photographs by Lee Jae-won)
North Korea said on Tuesday it had detained a U.S. citizen who entered its territory, apparently confirming a report that an American activist crossed into the
state to raise awareness about Pyongyang's human rights abuses. Robert Park, 28, walked over the frozen Tumen river from
China and into the North last Friday, other activists said. The Korean-American told Reuters ahead of the crossing that it was his duty as a
Christian to make the journey and that he was carrying a letter calling on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to step down.
Park had an exclusive interview with Reuters last week before starting on his journey. The following are excerpts from the conversation. He requested that the comments be held until he was in North Korea.
Reuters: Why are you planning to go into North Korea?
Robert Park: The North Korean human rights crisis by murder rate is the worst in the world. An estimated 1,000 people a day die by starvation and starvation is a murder case. North Korea has been sent more food aid than any nation in the world but the food has not gone to the people who need it. So this is murder.
But not only that, there are concentration camps in North Korea that are of the same brutality as in Nazi Germany.
North Korea, one of former President George Bush's "axis of evil" countries and one of the few remaining Stalinist states, deserves to be re-evaluated given the prospect of a power succession and the changing economic landscape in the region, according to Goldman Sachs.
Apart from the robust military establishment (absorbing at least 20-30% of GDP vs 3% of GDP in South Korea), Goldman says North Korea has large untapped potential, including rich human capital, abundant mineral resources (valued at around 140 times 2008 GDP) and significant room for productivity gains.
The tearful homecoming of two U.S. journalists released from a North Korean jail during a lightning visit by former U.S. President Bill Clinton this week left relatives of Japanese abducted by Pyongyang’s agents dissatisfied with their own government’s efforts.
“Why is it that Japan has been taking so long to bring them back, while the United States negotiated a release that quick?” Kyodo news agency quoted Kayoko Arimoto, the mother of a missing abductee as saying this week.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il‘s reported annointing of his youngest son, offspring of a Japan-born dancer, as heir highlights a dark chapter in Japan’s history and a possible refugee headache if the regime collapses.
Apparent heir Kim Jong-un is said by South Korean media to be a son of Ko Young-hee, one of about 100,000 Koreans who returned to the North from Japan in the 1960s hoping to find a workers’ paradise. Many were brought to Japan as forced labour before World War Two and faced discrimination after the war.
North Korea hasn’t yet rejoined the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, but weekend comments from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the nation was mulling the possibility were replayed by Japanese media with the same gusto they gave reports on Japan qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.
Pyongyang, an initial member of President George Bush’s “axis of evil” in 2002, was removed from the U.S. blacklist last October, after agreeing to a series of nuclear site verification measures.
That was pretty much the reaction in Japan when U.S. President Barack Obama tapped California lawyer and campaign donor John Roos as ambassador to Tokyo.
News of the choice sent Japanese diplomats and U.S.-Japan watchers scrambling for information about Roos, whom one U.S. expert described to me in a hurried email as a “Silicon valley mover and shaker, not with any link to Japan, though clearly to Obama”.
Japan, perhaps the most nervous neighbor of unpredictable North Korea, is also the least able to overtly make its fears felt, after this week’s nuclear test.
Analysts point out the combination of Tokyo’s history of antagonism with the North and the fact that Pyongyang boasts missiles that could hit almost anywhere in Japan pose particular risks for the world’s second largest economy.
Nothing can get in the way of a cherry blossom party in Japan, not even North Korea’s test-launch of a rocket.
A couple weeks ago I blogged about Japan’s cherry blossom season and how the sakura-crazy nation was preparing to pop open the sake and party.
An anonymous Japanese official has raised eyebrows with off-the-cuff comments as the country prepares for an expected rocket launch by neighbouring North Korea.
First, the official questioned whether Japan could really shoot down a stray rocket if its territory was threatened, next he — well, most likely ‘he’ — compared the looming launch to a wayward golf ball that would prompt the shout of “Fore!”, the traditional warning to watch out on the golf course.
The Japanese and U.S. military are deploying land and sea-based missile interceptors and ships with high-tech radar, Japanese local authorities are holding drills and a Tokyo resident is dreaming of missiles as the date nears for a rocket launch by Japan’s secretive neighbour North Korea.
Pyongyang has said the launch planned for April 4-8 is for the peaceful purpose of sending a satellite into orbit, but the United States, South Korea and Japan see it as a disguised test of a Taepodong-2 missile that in theory could reach Alaska or Hawaii.