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South Korea Pressured on Japan Military Information Pact

SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported in the first half of November 2019 by the Shingetsu News Agency.

Rolling Coverage: South Korea Relations

—House of Councillors President Akiko Santo writes letter to South Korea National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-Sang asking him to withdraw his comments from earlier this year in which he asked for then-Emperor Akihito to apologize for Comfort Women policy. Moon hasn’t answered.

—South Korean National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-Sang has sent a letter of personal apology to former Emperor Akihito over Speaker Moon’s February demand that the then-Emperor apologize about wartime Comfort Women and Forced Laborers.

—US State Department’s Mark Knapper on end of Japan-Korea General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA): “Nobody is happy with the situation. Actually not nobody; there are people happy with the situation, but they happen to be in Beijing, Moscow and Pyongyang.”

—South Korean Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-Doo tells the National Assembly that the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan should be maintained, taking a different public position from the government he allegedly serves.

—The US Pentagon is increasing the political pressure it is putting on Seoul not to scrap the Japan-South Korea General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of the US-Korea Combined Forces, says ending it sends “the wrong message.”

—Shinzo Abe and Moon Jae-In met in Bangkok for a brief discussion on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit. Moon called for “high-profile talks” to solve the dispute, and Abe repeated his claims that the 1965 treaty effectively dealt with the forced labor compensation debate.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has a bright plan to resolve the Comfort Women and Forced Labor disputes with South Korea: He says that all these matters were entirely settled in the 1965 bilateral treaty and there’s nothing to talk about. The Koreans just need to be quiet.

—Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi cautions the (mainstream) media not to get too excited about the Abe-Moon meeting: “We shouldn’t give too high an evaluation of this ten-minute conversation.”

—Abe government expresses disinterest in South Korean President Moon Jae-In’s call to hold bilateral talks to resolve issues of Comfort Women and Forced Labor. The Abe position remains that there’s nothing to talk about; Japan is 100% right and Korea 100% wrong in the matter.

—Seoul court holding its first hearing on a compensation suit filed by twenty former Korean Comfort Women and family members against the Japanese government. Amnesty International states “The plaintiffs in this case were subjected to sexual slavery that was clearly unlawful.”


—Former Land Minister Sumio Mabuchi has reportedly been in an automobile accident in Nara Prefecture. He has apparently sustained serious though not life-threatening injuries.

—Aside from the 2020 Olympics, Tokyo will also be holding a gubernatorial election next summer in which incumbent Yuriko Koike is thought likely to run for reelection. The election period now set to begin on June 18, with Election Day on July 5.

—Ruling party still undecided about 2020 Tokyo gubernatorial election. The Tokyo Chapter wants to run its own candidate to defeat Yuriko Koike, while Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai is strongly arguing that Koike should be supported.

—Japanese Rightwingers’ War on Art continues as the Japanese Embassy in Austria withdraws its endorsement of an exhibition because some of the “Japan Unlimited” artwork satirizes Japan’s subservience to the United States, criticizes Fukushima nuclear accident, etc.

—Response Japan could have made on Vienna exhibition: “Art’s purpose is to stimulate debate. Not everyone will agree with the contents of this exhibition. The Japanese embassy continues to endorse it as a symbol of our commitment to free speech and support of Japan’s artists”

—Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi makes clear the Abe government is happy to support art (so long as Japan isn’t criticized), saying Vienna exhibition “did not fit the criteria for a commemorative event. It is not a judgment concerning freedom of speech.”

—Ruling party has resumed debate on revising Article 9 of the Constitution for the first time in a couple years. It’s not climate change, trade wars, relations with Asia, post-Abenomics economic policies, but Article 9 that forms Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s great priority.

—Lawmaker Shiori Yamao again calls for debate on Constitution revision, annoying most of her own Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan colleagues and earning a rebuke from party leader Yukio Edano, who says this is something to be decided collectively as a party.

—Government proposes keeping Reconstruction Agency in place until March 2031. The debate over when special economic support for regions hit by the March 11 tsunami and nuclear disaster should be wrapped up. Currently, the government is suggesting five more years of support.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rejects suggestion that he may seek a fourth term as LDP president. He notes that the party’s rules permit only three terms. Abe emphasizes that, during his remaining two years, his goals include resolving the abductions and Northern Territories.

—The Abe government’s contempt for transparency again revealed as it emerges that Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi’s critical comments were edited out of the minutes of the first meeting of the social security reform panel.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe again complains that he is required to spend a lot of time listening to opposition lawmakers in the National Diet, while other G7 nation leaders are more free to avoid long hours of parliamentary debate.


—Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike ends her opposition to moving the 2020 Olympics marathon events to Sapporo. She makes clear that she doesn’t like the decision and Tokyo won’t pay for it, but she won’t stand in the way of the IOC’s unilateral decision.

—Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) survey finds that more than 70% of Japanese manufacturers in the United Kingdom have been negatively affected by Brexit policies and, of course, Brexit hasn’t even occurred yet, so the main shock may still be coming.

—Some US Marine Corps Iwakuni pilots have been found to be taking selfies and engaging in other inappropriate behavior while flying fighter jets over Japan. An investigation finds “a command climate of general unprofessionalism and misconduct,” making accidents more likely.

—Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi criticizes the Trump government for beginning the formal process to pull out of the 2016 Paris Agreement: “Creating a decarbonized society is a pressing issue and it is very disappointing.”

—China’s detention of a Hokkaido University professor risks affecting plans for Xi’s visit next spring. Since 2015, China has detained 13 Japanese on spying charges. This case particularly serious as the man is a quasi-public servant who has worked for government ministries.

—Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi on death of Hong Kong protester: “Self-control and peaceful dialogue are helpful. It wouldn’t be beneficial to say anything further.” Once again, Abe government has no interest in promotion of democracy either at home or abroad.

—Russian saxophonist Veronika Kozhukharova has been denied a Japanese visa on account of having been born in Crimea. Japan has a policy of not issuing visas to residents of Crimea. Ms. Kozhukharova received a Russian passport in 2014 and lives in Moscow.


—Kutchan town, Hokkaido, imposes a 2% lodging rate on visitors to hotels and private lodgings. It is the first local government in the nation to create a fixed rate lodging tax, but many others expected to follow, with the idea that it will help develop tourist facilities.

—Environment Ministry reports that about 90 bags of radioactive waste from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant were swept into rivers by Typhoon Hagibis. They also claim that this incident has not increased radiation levels in the area.

—Japan residents with more than 50 million yen (US$460,000) in overseas assets to be required to submit records to the government about the transactions they make with these funds and assets. The government wants to crack down on tax evasion regarding overseas assets.

—Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations not going as well as hoped, with an agreement before the end of the year now regarded as unlikely. RCEP would create an economic bloc accounting for about half of the world population and some 30% of global GDP.

—METI Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama calls on India to reconsider its decision to leave Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations. Kajiyama suggests that the notion India has formally left the process hasn’t yet been confirmed.

—Microsoft Japan reports a 39.9% improvement in worker productivity during August when the firm experimented with a four-day workweek. Electricity costs also down 23.1%. So what to do now? Why, return to the usual Japanese five-day workweek, of course!

—METI survey underlines that convenience store owners in Japan are among the most overworked and unprotected by labor laws. 85% of these store owners work long hours 6+ days per week.

—Abe government preparing bill that will require major tech giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon (GAFA) to make regular reports to the government about some aspects of their policies, such as how they manage search results.

—Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to begin offering its power services in all parts of the nation, except for Okinawa. This is a product of the laws which now allow the former regional monopolies to expand into one another’s territories.

—FamilyMart becomes the first major convenience store chain in Japan to allow each franchisee to decide whether or not to have a 24-hour open policy. From March, FamilyMart store owners can choose to close from 11pm to 7am if they want.

—Foreigners predictably not exactly jumping at the Abe government brainchild of the new “five-years-and-then-go-home” working visa. Of the 47,550 visas that might be issued by next March, so far only 219 foreigners have obtained the new visa status.


—The government will require retailers to begin charging their customers single-use plastic bags within the coming year. It appears that such charges won’t be uniform, but the retailers will be asked to charge some extra amount.

—Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres declares, “There is an addiction to coal that we need to overcome because it remains a major threat in relation to climate change.” The Abe government has been a keen promoter of coal power plants.

—Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike moves to accelerate the establishment of 5G networks by making available about 8,300 buildings and 4,500 land lots for installing base stations. Japan has already fallen behind both China and South Korea in the 5G race.

—For the third time, Kansai International Airport temporarily suspended airplane takeoffs and landings due to the sighting of a suspected drone in the area. As drones increasingly become integrated into the mainstream economy, will they continue such suspensions of services?

—Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry considering a nearly US$1000 subsidy for purchases of ultracompact electric vehicles for elderly drivers. This is being portrayed mainly as a way to help Japan’s elderly to stay mobile and reduce lethal car accidents.

—Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirms that the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft has left the asteroid Ryugu and has begun its 300 million kilometer voyage back to Earth. It is expected to arrive back on our planet in late 2020, carrying samples from the asteroid’s surface.

—The first “Lawson Go” expected to open next year. This will be a convenience store that will not require checkouts and have no cashiers. Money will be taken via smartphone payment services and customers to be identified by facial recognition technology.


—The Kawasaki Shinyuri Film Festival has reversed its decision to not show a documentary on Comfort Women after facing a backlash. Organizers told AFP that the reversal was made because “lots of voices [offered] cooperation to address our safety concerns.”

—Advanceconsul Immigration Lawyer Office in Yokohama identified as engaging in highly suspect employment practices, forcing foreign employees to hand over their passports and then refusing to return them. When confronted by the media, the company hasn’t responded.

—Investigators believe that Shuri Castle fire was most likely caused by an electrical short circuit. Meanwhile, a crowdfunding campaign by the Naha municipal government has raised more than US$1 million in public pledges for rebuilding.

—A hunger strike has broken out Osaka Regional Immigration Bureau. Ten foreign detainees, most of whom have been locked up for more than two years, are refusing food. The Osaka immigration authorities are trying to keep the matter out of the news media and declining comment.

—Nippon TV report reveals that many Japanese employers have been ordering their female employees not to wear glasses, ostensibly because glasses don’t look “attractive” or “feminine” enough. Japan is once again outed as the most backwards wealthy nation on gender equality.

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