Tag Archives: South Korea

Roh Lauds EU, Scolds Japan, and Calls for Regionalism

Japan Focus republished an April op-ed by South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun today. Choice quotes:

  • “[T]he Europeans, befitting of a people who invented democracy based on rational thought, are writing a new history based on the lessons learned from their long string of wars. …”Many scholars define the 19th century as the Age of Europe, the 20th century the Age of the Atlantic, and predict the 21st century will be the Age of the Pacific or Northeast Asia. I do not agree with this description. While we have seen the gravity of economic and productive power shift from Europe toward the Atlantic, and more recently to Northeast Asia, such a shift does not necessarily put Northeast Asia at the heart of world civilization.

    “… I believe that the EU is still at the center of world civilization because it has been shaping an order of co-existence through peaceful and cooperative means.” (Emphasis mine.)

  • “I had hoped and believed that Japan would act decisively to resolve the burden of its wartime history through an appeal to its own conscience and rational wisdom. Thus, I chose not to raise this subject as an official agenda or issue during my earlier summit talks with my Japanese counterpart. My goodwill was not answered. On the contrary, Japan undertook a series of actions to justify its grim history of wartime aggression by paying tribute to the Yasukuni Shrine, distorting and airbrushing history textbooks, claiming territorial sovereignty over Korea’s Dokdo islets, and denying that the Japanese Imperial Army forced huge number of Asian women into sexual slavery during World War II.”
  • “Efforts need to be made to foster the creation of a regional community of peace and prosperity, outlined in the following:”First, we need to create a new regional order for economic cooperation and integration. Although economic interdependence among Korea, China and Japan has intensified in recent years, the countries have not been able to institutionalize economic integration, even in the most rudimentary form, namely, a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). …

    “Second, we need to forge a regime for multilateral security cooperation in Northeast Asia. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which helped bring down the Cold War wall of distrust and laid the foundation for an integrated Europe, provides a valuable lesson for multilateral security cooperation in this region.”

A Shame Scare as VT Shooter Thought to be Chinese

Shortly after yesterday’s tragedy made its way into the U.S. media, reports that the shooter appeared to be Asian appeared on television and online. Before authorities identified the man as 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui, a South Korean national and English major at Virginia Tech, several news outlets including the Chicago Sun-Times (with a link from Drudge) and The Times of London reported that a suspect was Chinese.

Readers will note that both of the articles linked above now reflect the correct shooter. The papers apparently have used the same URL for their online story on the shooting, continually editing it. In this case, the Times has removed any mention of its previous statement regarding a Chinese suspect. (I’m trusting Josie Liu that the page did reflect this mistaken information before.) On the other hand, the Sun-Times includes the following statement in it’s current story:

The initial investigation had led law enforcement authorities to a preliminary suspect who was a Chinese national, accompanied by details and a description. The man was placed on the suspect list before fingerprints could be verified. The list in turn was distributed to law enforcement officials via a national network in place to check on possible terrorism in the United States.

Cho was identified following an analysis of fingerprints and ballistics.

Journalistically, it is clear to me that the Chicago paper has the right idea. If you’re going to make a mistake and then delete it, you ought to mention that you had made the mistake in order to inform readers who got false impressions from you before. While the mistaken speculation was out there, a strong reaction was erupting among Chinese on the internet, according to Josie Liu:

[A] huge sensation rose among Chinese media and the public regarding a false speculation that the shooter was a Chinese student.

The gossip started with an article written by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed, who wrote that a 25-year-old “Chinese national who arrived in the United States last year on a student visa” was being investigated for the shooting.

Before long, some Chinese newspapers in the United States and state-run China News Services picked up the story. Soon after, China’s major news websites such as sina.com and sohu.com also posted the story that a Chinese student was regarded as the suspect.

Information online even provided two specific names of the alleged killer, one with the surname Jiang, from Shanghai, and the other with the surname Guo, from Liaoning. Apparently the news, especially those in Chinese, had made it seem real that the shooter was from China.

Upon receiving such information, people in China started to post comments expressing feelings like “very sad” and “ashamed.” Some even tried to assess the reasons for such “extreme behaviors” of Chinese students in the US, such as pressure to excel and the disparity between their high self-esteem and humble reality.

Liu also has a bunch of links to forum comments on the topic, for those interested. But one other interesting element concerning the journalistic element emerges in her post: Chinese media removed some comments that referred to the mistaken information when they changed the story to remove the Chinese suspect. I would appeal to my above principle on this: to avoid confusion, the comments should stand, and a note explaining the former mistake should accompany the correct information. Not that anyone cares about my advice on this, but I think it’s interesting.


  • Meanwhile, in an article headlined “It’s like when 9/11 happened,” Salon reports that some South Korean students are afraid to stay on campus. I truly hope it’s nowhere near as bad.
  • The Asian American Journalists Association issued an advisory admonishing reporters not to mention racial identifiers unless it’s key to the story. A former AAJA member writes to media blogger Jim Romenesko in disagreement. I’m staying out of this one.
  • And a last point: In the United States, most gun control advocates who might usually try to make a political point surrounding a gun killing kept quiet out of respect. Well, Liu’s entry goes there, running under the title “Virginia Tech Massacre Let Chinese Public Appreciate China’s Gun Ban.” I can’t put my finger on why, but this framing of the issue bothers me less than U.S. commentators calling for gun control for the occasion. Perhaps people outside the United States have less of an obligation to set politics aside in times of national crisis. Liu is a graduate of the University of Missouri journalism school, so maybe I should be harder on her. Then again, I’m discussing somewhat less divisive politics on the blog right now. So in sum, I’m sorry if I’ve offended anyone with this discussion.

Cross-posted at my work blog

UPDATE: James Fallows writes on the same issue, with examples of reports quoting the Sun-Times columnist who apparently triggered many stories about the Chinese suspect. So does China Newspeak.

China and South Korea Appear Ready to Deal With Abe

You could say I’m behind, not yet having addressed Abe Shinzo’s official announcement that he’s running for LDP president, and the more important announcement that he would get behind constitutional revision full-force as prime minister. “I’d like to draft a new constitution with my own hands,” he said.

In fact, top LDP officials have said publicly for months that the U.S.-imposed “Peace Constitution” should be revised to more accurately reflect present day military realities. Certainly, the existence of the Self Defense Forces and Japan’s status as the fourth largest military spender in the world betray the reality that Japan does not adhere to Article 9 of that constitution, in which it “forever” renounces force or the threat of force as an instrument of foreign policy and bars the maintenance of armed forces. That Abe came out in support of a change is no surprise, and it’s probably not a bad idea.

What’s surprising is that regional reaction seems to be subdued. My experience in reading public rhetorical exchanges from across the East China Sea led me to expect a firm negative response to the revision; I expected that the Chinese regime would hail this change as part of a “new rise in Japanese militarism.” I expected a similar response from South Korea.

On the contrary, China’s state-controlled media have been mostly silent (from what I can see in English) on Abe’s announcement, with only a straight news-style report from Xinhua. Meanwhile, South Korea has invited Abe to meet with Roh Moo Hyun, who has refused to meet with Koizumi since November over his Yasukuni visits.

Abe has said that improving regional ties is a key goal of his presumed premiership. A Voice of America online article notes that this common-sense sentiment is not unique to Abe. Although Foreign Minister Aso Taro has essentially no chance of winning election, he has weighed in, saying that personality differences between Koizumi and regional leaders were the problem, not his shrine visits. (This makes sense from a man who is perhaps more of a nationalist than Koizumi and who advocates the re-nationalization of Yasukuni.) The finance minister, Tanigaki Sadakazu, another long-shot LDP candidate is the only candidate to say he would not visit the shrine as prime minister. Japanese finance ministers, who need to work with Chinese and South Korean counterparts even in a tense diplomatic climate, tend to be less controversial internationally.

No one knows whether Abe will continue visiting the shrine, but the mere change of leadership gives all sides the opportunity to recast the Yasukuni issue, which had been mired in Koizumi’s rhetoric since 2001. It is by no means inconceivable that Abe will visit the shrine and improve ties with China and South Korea. If the debate is reframed so that no one has to go back on any strong public stances, then there is a great deal of diplomatic wiggle room in Northeast Asia.

Japanese Foreign Minister Machimura Nobutaka acknowledged that fact Sunday, saying: “The Japan-China relationship is not so simple that it does not go anywhere unless we decide what is right on the Yasukuni issue.” Machimura sees a Japan–China summit as possible as early as November, at the APEC meeting.

One thing is for certain, Yasukuni has been no one’s litmus test in the selection of Abe. It has stayed mostly out of the picture, and we will have to wait and see what happens to the site’s symbolic significance following Koizumi’s departure.

N. Korean Warning Over U.S.-South Wargames

Via BBC:

North Korea has threatened to take pre-emptive action in response to US-South Korean military drills currently taking place in the region.

According to the official KCNA news agency, Pyongyang described the drills as “an undisguised military threat” and a “war action”.

US and South Korean troops began the military exercises on Monday.

The drills are an annual event, and the North usually issues a strongly-worded statement against them.

But this year, tensions are higher than normal because of international anger at the North’s recent decision to test-fire a series of missiles.

The North Korean military “reserves the right to undertake a pre-emptive action for self-defence against the enemy, at a crucial time it deems necessary to defend itself”, an army spokesman is quoted as saying by KCNA. [full story]

Abe, MoFA Aim For High-Level Meetings

Japan’s Foreign Ministry is looking to arrange high-level meetings with South Korean and Chinese officials in November at the APEC forum in Hanoi and at the ASEAN+3 meeting in December.

The lead candidate for LDP president, Abe Shinzo, said on Aug. 3 he would work as prime minister to resume top-level summits with Chinese leaders. “To avoid single issues from affecting the overall development of Japan-China relations, we need constructive discussion through direct dialogue,” he said.