Japanese diplomacy screwing up in Palisades Park, New Jersey

From the New York Times.

When my grandfather lived in Palisades Park, I don’t think that there was a Korean community. Nowadays, though, Palisades has a substantial community, and they have a small memorial to the comfort women (Korean sex slaves) of the Japanese Imperial Army during the Pacific War (1910-1945).

This memorial attracted the attention of the Japanese government, and they went and did something stupid: they asked the local government to get rid of it.

It makes me wonder when Japan is finally going to stop recruiting for diplomatic posts out of the same crop of college graduates; that is, when they are going to stop relying on the same families to produce their ambassadors and other officials representing Japan.

The treatment of Korea by the Japanese military junta of the early 20th century is one of the sore spots of Far East Asian relations. I don’t think that South Korea even allowed Japanese to be broadcast in that country until either 1999 or 2002. (So BoA could only sing the Korean version of her J-pop songs in Korea in her very early days.)

You would think if people had half the sense, they would have sent a delegation to Palisades Park to offer a formal apology (or repeat an apology) of Japan to the aggrieved Korean community. That’s what would have made sense, in terms of 21st century diplomacy. But no. That’s not what happened, was it?

This is a shame. For anyone who has spent some time in Japan, you know that the contemporary Japanese are very nice. Few people around today had anything to do with World War II, and the young generation is very open to international things, even while respecting traditions as they have been carried on in Japan. There are recalcitrants, of course. There always are.

I wonder whose brilliant idea it was, though, to show up in Palisades Park and make that request? Particularly in the era of social media and Facebook. It might not have been published in the New York Times like it was, but it would have gotten around in one way or another.

It should be no surprise that there are people coming out of Far East Asian communities who do not like what Japan did, and who aren’t going to forget. This will especially be so, as the grandmother generation tells the young kids today about what Japan did in the 1930’s. Just because Japan forgot about what Japan did, doesn’t mean the other people did.

But it is maybe an aspect our total victory over the militaristic Empire of Japan in 1945, that our peace loving, democratic ideals have become so accepted in Japan, that it is hard for younger Japanese generations to even believe that that country did the things that the victims allege that they did. It is either Tamogami Revisionism, or this other possible thing. One or the other, and lack of diplomat skills.

2 thoughts on “Japanese diplomacy screwing up in Palisades Park, New Jersey

  1. I’ve seen temporary exhibits set up by Korean-Americans in the US regarding the comfort woman issue – and the ‘facts’ as they presented them seemed biased. For example, they went out of their way to claim it was completely executed by the Japanese Imperial Army and conveniently ignore the significant degree of complicity involved with unscrupulous Korean recruiters. Even to this day, we see evidence of prostitution around US bases in ROK as well as Korean and Korean-American men and women establishing illegal brothels and and massage parlors offering sexual services in the US, Australia and elsewhere. Are these being done under the aegis of American ‘overlords’? Or is the evil Kung Fu of the Japanese so powerful that they cannot resist pimping their own women to this day?

    In Japan, depending on whom you ask, one convenient fiction that is still being propagated by organizations like the Chosen Soren (North Korean Residents Association) is that the majority of ethnic Koreans were brought over to Japan against their will. Often to Americans, they will use the analogy of African slaves being brought over to the US. However, that’s also false. Many individual ethnic Koreans will indicate they emigrated due to a perceived superior economic opportunity. And, for quite a few, that was a decision that made sense. The founder of Lotte Group, Akio Shigemitsu aka Shin Dong Bin, for example. That does not mean that there followed systematic forms of discrimination or justify it any. However, propagating the false African slave analogy is irritating and unnecessary.

    There is something else going on in New Jersey however that I believe you should also mention – especially as a lawyer. Frivolous lawsuits filed by a patriotic Korean-American lawyer, Jay J. Choi, against the New Jersey Japanese School claiming that it was teaching its students that Takeshima was a part of Shimane Prefecture (and not ROK) and that doing so was “inappropriate, biased, intellectually dishonest, and a form of propaganda”.

    Not your favorite website perhaps, but it was picked up by the JapanProbe as well as the Dokdo or Takeshima? blog:



    The case was dismissed BTW.

    1. The first paragraph in your comment seems silly. Do you actually mean to compare a brutal occupying army, which is what the Imperial Japanese Army was to Korea in 1910 through 1945, to the United States staffing bases around Far East Asia under various SOFA treaties? Do you mean to say that when women are exploited through intermediaries, that it is somehow better than if the actual military unit does it itself? Do you mean to imply that if a US base attracts prostitution services, it is really the fault of the base, and not of the government hosting the base?

      What was done to the Korean women was really bad. And if, somehow, Korean slavers were used as an intermediary, it does not make it less bad—or, in this current article, something that should be forgotten by planting cherry trees instead.

      You bring up a case filed by Jay Choi in New Jersey. You should know, first off, that it was not a court case. This is something that you (if I understand who you are, and it isn’t the late mayor of Philadelphia, Frank Rizzo) should have known before you posted. It was a hearing before an adminstrative law judge (ALJ) in the New Jersey Department of Education. This process is under the Governor, not the Supreme Court. You folks try to make your internet “finds” out to be something more than they really are, and on several occasions, I am really embarrassed for you.

      What the ALJ ruled was that Jay Choi didn’t have standing. The judge did not rule that the “case was frivolous”—only that Jay Choi couldn’t bring it. Beyond that, the judge gave further support for a dismissal by pointing out that the issue of what goes in state textbooks is one that leaves a lot of liberty to the local school board, or in the case of a charter school, to the charter trustees.

      The analogy to the African Slave Trade is something out of the Political Correctness movement of the 1980’s. It is a cousin to the argument that everything [that someone is attacking] can [somehow] be compared to the Nazi era of Adolf Hitler. It is unfortunate when certain people shorthand things this way, because it tends to leave out points that show how bad historical events have their own unique designs. But it is done with the idea that “bad is bad”, and so this is why Koreans might employ the device when they are talking about bad things that happened to them in an area of the world that not every American is well familiar with.

      I tend to shy away from Political Correctness, if not for the least reason that its strong adherents haven’t acknowledged the harm they caused with it from the ’80’s. But that doesn’t mean—as you seem to suggest–that because these bad events of long-ago history, of of modern times, have their shades of gray, that they are all somehow equivalent.

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