Monday, October 12, 2015

Sejong-daero winner announced

For the site of the former IRS branch between the Anglican Cathedral and City Hall (see '"Sejongdaero" competition officially started'), Seoul opted for an American team, Terminal 7 Architects.

Their concept, 'Seoul Chronicle', keeps it simple, with a lawn discretely revealing the existence of underground levels - the piece de resistance in last July's brief. Gone from the surface are the pilars of a building that anyway didn't deserve any memorial. The actual stars become the Deoksugung walls and trees, the Cathedral, and passers-by.

So what has been swept under this new green blanket? 3 underground levels of whatever fits in, and more interestingly a vast space that could become a popular venue with its vertical garden and its spectacular urban slice exposing bare layers of Hanyang / Seoul.

As is often the case in this most central neighborhood, more artifacts are likely to be unearthed across the site during the work.

Overall, a rather minimalist approach that comes as a relief compared to "Seoul Tsunami City Hall, The Other Korean Wave" on the other side of Taepyeongno / Sejong-daero. Let's hope local authorities don't plan colorful LED dialogues between both landmarks: there's already enough cuttlefish chatting at night across the capital (City Hall, N-Tower, SMPA...).

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A postcard from LEE Ungno's Hongseong

From his Hongseong birthplace, LEE Ungno enjoyed a view on two mountains he revered: he nicknamed the tall and rocky one 'father', and the gentler one 'mother'.

Unlike Cezanne's Montagne Sainte Victoire, these mountains don't appear recurrently his work, but the artist did draw them from memory in his prison cell, and certainly countless times in his mind during his exile in France. LEE died without seeing them again.

One more reason to enjoy the appeasing 'appasan' on a lovely August day, during the visit of the Goam Lee Ungno Birthplace Museum:

LEE Ungno's 'appasan'
The artist's home
Inaugurated in 2011, the museum itself blends in the landscape, and its earthen faces provide a unique natural air con system; even the outer walls exposed to a hot summer sun felt surprisingly cool.
If, by contrast, it feels a bit austere inside, that's on purpose: the architect, JOH Sung-yong, kept in mind the artist's deprivation of freedom. Indeed, I could at the same time better focus on the collections, and better appreciate the landscape from well thought out openings.

Exposure time (with the architect, on Facebook)
Both cursed and gifted in many ways, Lee ventured into both figurative and abstract territories, using a great diversity of media with a sincere and sensitive authority. Of course, the biggest collection of his works is in the Daejeon museum. I'm jotting down below both addresses, plus the references for "이응노의 집, 이야기", a great book about the story of this special place in Hongseong:
  • Goam Lee Ungno Birthplace Museum: 386-1 Junggye-ri, Hongbuk-myeon, Hongseong-gun, Chungcheongnam-do. Tel: (041) 630.9232
  • Ungno Lee Museum of Art (architect: Laurent Beaudouin): 157, Dunsan-daero, Seo-gu, Daejeon. Tel: (042) 611.9821

"이응노의 집, 이야기" (이응노/수류산방중심/2012): Suryusanbang's book is available on Interpark.


PS: if Hongseong has become the capital of Chungcheongnam-do, it remains a small provincial city with its traditional market (and great hanoo restaurants), and even an old style smithy.

To start with, the short trip from Seoul put us in the right mood; a laid back, time capsule of a train (Saemaeul) dropped us in a welcoming Chungnam landscape:

My last journey in a Saemaeul train was 23 years ago. This stewardess wasn't probably even born yet.
'Once upon a time in the West': Hongseong Station. No bad guys in dusters to wait for us (I forgot my Bronson harmonica anyway).

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Seoul Station 7017: Forget 2017?

Seoul city announced Friday that MOUs have been signed with five downtown buildings for connections to the future Seoul Station 7017.

In case you missed the previous episodes listed below, the highly controversial SS7017 (a.k.a. Seoul's Highline) is Mayor PARK Won-soon's pet project to crown his mandate in 2017:
Here are the 5 buildings, all in Jung-gu (I listed their addresses), all around the Toegye-ro / Tongil-ro intersection facing the station:
  • Metro Tower (10, Toegye-ro) 
  • Daewoo Foundation Building (18, Toegye-ro) 
  • Hotel Manu (19, Toegye-ro) 
  • Seoul Square (416, Hangang-daero) 
  • Yonsei Jedan Severance (Yonsei Severance Foundation - 10, Tongil-ro)
Among other buildings likely to plug in later, the Namdaemun Church, and the Hilton Hotel*, which itself shall serve as a gateway to Namsan Park. Seoul confirmed April 2017 as the target for the inauguration.


Now these MOUs were signed in January. So what's the actual message? 

That Seoul Mayor is not giving up his dream.

The Seoul Station  7017 project is officially dead because national authorities have blocked it for many good reasons: major safety concerns, awful design ruining the surroundings of the old Seoul Station, unsolved traffic issues...

One more good reason is the fact that many people don't want PARK Won-soon to parade with a spectacular new landmark just months before the 2017 presidential elections. If Saenuri's KIM Moo-sung is closing the gap, PARK is still leading in polls that, one should note, don't include BAN Ki-moon (will the UNSG run for South Korea's most suicidal job?):

PARK Won-soon still leads in polls for 2017 prez, but KIM Moo-sung up (NB: no BAN Ki-moon):

Every month of delay makes less likely a delivery on time for the elections.

Personally, I wouldn't have bet on this very risky SS7017 as my main option for a landmark. For instance, solving the Seun Sangga conundrum was also very tricky (starting with safety issues), but much more important for Seoul's balance and urban regeneration.

Still time to reassess priorities, I guess.

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* The Hilton was not among the 5, as I wrongly thought last Friday:
Seoul announced 5 MOU with buildings for connection with Seoul Station 7017 (Hilton etc). National authorities nixed projects, PWS needed lobbying power. (

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

"K-Experience Culture Complex" To Replace KAL's Songhyeon-Dong Project. Really?

The Songhyeon-dong drama reminds me of the 'Trou des Halles' feuilleton in Paris. In both cases, a massive lot in the dead center of the capital remains empty for years while all stakeholders debate over its purpose. I wish a better ending to Seoul than the site of the former Paris wholesale market: then mayor Jacques Chirac opted for the behemoth of an urban mess that to this day cripples the city center (under renovation, Le Forum des Halles will reopen next year).

Left: Les Halles, Paris (from the 'trou des Halles' to the Forum des Halles to the new - and improved? - Forum des Halles) / Right: Songhyeon-dong, Seoul (from a hole in downtown Seoul to Mario Botta's caprice for KAL, to...?)

In case you missed the previous episodes*: 
  • Korean Air wants to build a 7-star hotel on prime land, the 30,000 sqm site formerly used for US Embassy staff in Songhyeon-dong, between the Gyeongbokgung and Insadong. 
  • To tame conservationists opposed to the project, KAL pledges to give it a 'hanok-ish' look.
  • But the main hurdle is legal: regulations forbid certain activities in the vicinity of schools. Intense lobbying to move the school and change the law ensues.
  • CHO Hyun-ah's "Nutrage" incident torpedoes KAL's ambitions on a land Hanjin Group (the chaebol piloted by her family) doesn't even own
  • Last May emerges a new path, more culture-oriented: (20150518 @theseoulvillage)

Since yesterday's presser**, we have a clearer picture of what may come next:
  • all the land shall be occupied by a "K-Experience Culture Center", to be completed by 2017
  • the government and Hanjin Group shall collaborate on the project
  • the building will respect hanok architecture, but with top notch technologies
  • no hotel (even if KAL didn't abandon all hope), no casino - but no formal pledge that they'll never appear...
Authorities seem trapped by binding engagements with Hanjin. Politically, they cannot let KAL do what they want, or they would face public outcry. But at the end of the day, behind the cultural alibi, the group must somehow get some decently fat cash cow to milk.

This "traditional" "K-Experience Culture Center" is a classic gimmick for empty cultural shells build in downtown Seoul, and I don't think that at this stage authorities have more clues about how they will fill it than they do for the similar hanokish traditional center planned across Changdeokgung (see "Gwanghwamun, Donhwamun, and the Tale of two Royal Roads"). Expect some tribute paid to long-gone Choseon landmarks.

Worse: the "K-Experience" part has the sirupy "hallyu" flavor Korea must ASAP stop spreading all across its cultural spectrum (see "Heralding cultural diversity - a stronger and more sustainable Korean Wave"). That's more like the "classic gimmick for empty cultural shells" built on the other side of the river (BTW yet another kpoop / kdrama center has been announced near Jamsil).

Meanwhile, on the other side of Sejong-daero, the Four Seasons Seoul is getting ready for inauguration (October). The 'hanok' touch lies mostly on its curves (not to mention Hwang Ran's installation in the lobby!)...
Hanok curves for the Four Seasons Seoul (Jongno, Seoul) -

... and Airbnb keeps growing its base in the Korean capital, still under regulatory radars...

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* e.g. "From The Outside, KAL's "7 Star Hanok Hotel" Showcases Excellence in Freight", ""Korean Air Grounded : Seoul 7 Star Hotel Delayed"
** featuring the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, as well as KAL's JO Seong-bae - see "[일문일답] 조성배 대한항공 상무 "송현동 부지에 호텔 건립 포함 안돼"" (Newsis 20150818) or "Korean Air hotel plan turns into culture center" (KJD 20150819)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Decoding the Abe Statement: "why apologize for crimes Japan never committed?"

As expected*, Shinzo Abe delivered for the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII an official statement that at the same time includes the required keywords, and excludes the required key elements.

In short: not only Abe never apologizes, he never acknowledges any crime from Japan, and even deletes previous apologies. For this revisionist, Japan never did anything wrong beyond being part of a war, like all other nations. War crimes, colonization, aggressions, sexual slavery never happened: Abe wants to erase these facts from all memories, from all records.

Of course that's not the message most readers will get, but this is classic Shinzo I-know-I'm-Under-Maximum-Scrutiny Abe (last time we witnessed it was in the US, earlier this year - see ""History is harsh" and other sick jokes"). As we frogs say, this man is very good at 'drowning the fish', and beyond an utterly blurred and confusing speech, he delivers crystal clear messages to his base.

I'm copying below his statement (in blue), and adding my comments after each paragraph (NB in red), to help you more clearly understand what he actually said, and what he actually meant.


Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Friday, August 14, 2015

  • NB I already explained the likely motivations behind this change of date...: 
"Regardless of the content, Abe decided to deliver his Statement on August 14th instead of August 15th, which fundamentally undermines its significance (that day, the world will more talk about the reopening of the US embassy in Cuba), and confirms to his base that in his mind, the Empire never surrendered. Furthermore, August 15th is the day Abe usually pays tribute to War Criminals by either visiting Yasukuni, or sending his best wishes... " (August 11 in "2015, 1965, 1945... how about 1915?")
  • ... and right on cue, Cuba did come before Abe on all major international headlines the 14th (the good thing is that for a change we had images of a few angry Cuban Americans instead of a few angry Koreans), and August 15th remains Yasukuni day:

The times, they are not a-changing in Japan - 'Stop the idiot wind', a negationist poster accusing the Western media, the Chinese, the Koreans, the Jews (NHK too, maybe not revisionist enough to their taste?) of telling lies about sex slaves ('prostitutes'), forced labor ('illegal immigrants'), Nanking massacre ('fake'), and the Holocaust ('fiction')
Photo sent from Yasukuni this morning by David McNeill
Yasukuni visits. That's what August 15th are for in Shinzo Abe government (Minister Haruko Harimura, a Nippon Kaigi supporter, visited the controversial shrine this morning) -

  • On a more positive note, Emperor Akihito, who is known to disagree with Abe and his revision of Japan's peaceful postwar constitution, issued the closest thing to a political message he is allowed to make this morning by expressing the 'remorse'* his PM never mentioned.

Cabinet Decision

  • NB: one of the concessions Shinzo Abe had to make to his coalition (he wanted to dodge his duties, and enjoy as much editorial freedom as possible, nothing formal or binding). 
  • Anyway, the vast majority of his Cabinet members are like him affiliated to  Nippon Kaigi, so it was easy to agree on a revisionist message. The main technical difficulty is to camouflage it, so that the international community doesn't get the true message.

On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, we must calmly reflect upon the road to war, the path we have taken since it ended, and the era of the 20th century. We must learn from the lessons of history the wisdom for our future.

More than one hundred years ago, vast colonies possessed mainly by the Western powers stretched out across the world. With their overwhelming supremacy in technology, waves of colonial rule surged toward Asia in the 19th century. There is no doubt that the resultant sense of crisis drove Japan forward to achieve modernization. Japan built a constitutional government earlier than any other nation in Asia. The country preserved its independence throughout. The Japan-Russia War gave encouragement to many people under colonial rule from Asia to Africa.

  • NB: Abe delivers here the classic Nippon Kaigi fairytale. At the turn of the century, Imperial Japan was neither the symbol of Asian resistance to Western colonialism, nor a liberating force in Asia; and long before WWI started,"many people under colonial rule in Asia" were already under Japanese colonial rule. Of course, Abe doesn't mention Korea or China.
  • The Meiji era was indeed characterized by 'modernization' and profound reforms spurred by Western colonial ambitions in Asia, but also by the rise of nationalism, militarism and imperialism. Typically, the constitution is not that of a peaceful democracy; from 1900 on, the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy even hold veto powers for the constitution of all governments.

After World War I, which embroiled the world, the movement for self-determination gained momentum and put brakes on colonization that had been underway. It was a horrible war that claimed as many as ten million lives. With a strong desire for peace stirred in them, people founded the League of Nations and brought forth the General Treaty for Renunciation of War. There emerged in the international community a new tide of outlawing war itself.

  • NB: Japan is never mentioned, only implied as a nation of "the world", a member of the League of Nations. Was Japan a force of good then?
  • Even before WWI, Japan offered to take down German positions in Asia in case of war. The aim was to control more key entry points across the region, particularly in China, where the Empire had its own definition for the expression 'self-determination'... And after WWI, Japan did not necessarily have "a desire of peace", but it was facing economic problems that undermined its negotiating power and slowed its expansion (e.g. led to troop withdrawals from Siberia). But don't start believing that when Abe mentions 'brakes on colonization that had been underway', he's including Japan: remember how the Empire dealt with Korea's March 1st 'movement for self-determination'?

At the beginning, Japan, too, kept steps with other nations. However, with the Great Depression setting in and the Western countries launching economic blocs by involving colonial economies, Japan's economy suffered a major blow. In such circumstances, Japan's sense of isolation deepened and it attempted to overcome its diplomatic and economic deadlock through the use of force. Its domestic political system could not serve as a brake to stop such attempts. In this way, Japan lost sight of the overall trends in the world.

  • NB:  Remember that Shinzo Abe persistently denies the existence of any 'aggression' from Japan towards any other country. If you read quickly these confusing paragraphs, you may think that he is somehow talking about Japan imperialism, but here too, he never says that the Empire did anything wrong beyond its borders, and as usual, he only mentions colonialism for Western powers.
  • The "use of force" is not directly associated with overseas actions (mentioned in the next paragraph), but blurred in a more 'domestic' context. It could refer for instance to the multiplication of political murders in Japan. as the most radical factions got rid of the little resistance left within power circles.

With the Manchurian Incident, followed by the withdrawal from the League of Nations, Japan gradually transformed itself into a challenger to the new international order that the international community sought to establish after tremendous sacrifices. Japan took the wrong course and advanced along the road to war.

  • NB: I must applaud Abe for this well crafted paragraph, which could pass for a very elliptical and cryptic way of describing the ultimate victory of fascism in Japan, how the country cured that 'sense of isolation' by invading Manchuria or joining forces with Hitler and Mussolini, how it changed the terms of its dialog with the US by bombing Pearl Harbor... Heck, Abe goes as far as  saying, at long last, that Japan did actually something "wrong"! The Japan that "kept steps with other nations" does more than just "(losing) sight of the overall trends in the world", it actually "took the wrong course"! ... Now read again. With Abe's revisionist eyes.
  • And what's the message? That Japan took the wrong course only because it ended up in war, but it never did anything wrong like provoking a war, invading or aggressing another country (of course, no mentions of fascism, Hitler, Mussolini, Pearl Harbor or Manchuria). For revisionists, Japan has always been a pacific nation. Where do you see that the regime was responsible for the "Manchurian Incident"? A few rogue Japanese soldiers might have done something wrong, but Japan was unfairly blamed for that distant event, and as a consequence was forced to leave the League of Nations, to become alienated from other nations. Inevitably, when the overwhelming tide of war arrived (where does Abe say that Japan caused it?), Japan followed along the other nations on the same doomed course...

And, seventy years ago, Japan was defeated.

  • NB: Shinzo Abe can't deny here that Japan lost that war (a fact many revisionists have trouble swallowing), but he never mentions surrender. For him and for them, if the nation happens to have lost one battle, the war regime lives on. See how Abe's own war criminal of a grandfather was even spared a trial and later became a Prime Minister?

On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, I bow my head deeply before the souls of all those who perished both at home and abroad. I express my feelings of profound grief and my eternal, sincere condolences.

More than three million of our compatriots lost their lives during the war: on the battlefields worrying about the future of their homeland and wishing for the happiness of their families; in remote foreign countries after the war, in extreme cold or heat, suffering from starvation and disease. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the air raids on Tokyo and other cities, and the ground battles in Okinawa, among others, took a heavy toll among ordinary citizens without mercy.

  • NB: Abe refers to all Japanese victims at home and abroad. And for revisionists like him, who worship war criminals as gods in Yasukuni, each and every one of the Japanese victims were pure victims, Imperial Japan itself was only a victim of war, never causing any conflict, never committing any aggression or any war crime, always on the good side of 'mercy'.
  • As usual, the Tokyo raids, the atomic bombings, and the Okinawa tragedy are instrumentalized for their universal horror, but nothing about the responsibility of the regime that caused them (about this imposture, see "No, you can't honor A-Bomb victims in Hiroshima AND War Criminals in Yasukuni").
  • And the way Shinzo Abe mentions soldiers who suffer without giving the context, without showing the other side of the coin... as obscene as if Angela Merkel complained about a poor SS who caught a cold during his service in Auschwitz.

Also in countries that fought against Japan, countless lives were lost among young people with promising futures. In China, Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands and elsewhere that became the battlefields, numerous innocent citizens suffered and fell victim to battles as well as hardships such as severe deprivation of food. We must never forget that there were women behind the battlefields whose honour and dignity were severely injured.

  • NB: in full compliance with the usual revisionist storytelling, Abe describes this war as an ordinary war: unfortunately soldiers died, innocent citizens fell as collateral damage, and the usual rapes happened occasionally 'behind the battlefields', but that's what war is all about. War crimes? atrocities? Imperial Japan's sexual slavery system? They never existed. 
  • No mention of Korea, because Korea didn't 'fight against Japan', and Koreans always lived happily within the Empire, enjoying special atrocities long before war time even started.

Upon the innocent people did our country inflict immeasurable damage and suffering. History is harsh. What is done cannot be undone. Each and every one of them had his or her life, dream, and beloved family. When I squarely contemplate this obvious fact, even now, I find myself speechless and my heart is rent with the utmost grief.

  • NB: Abe plays the same "History is harsh" tune as at the US Congress. Indeed Japan inflicted great suffering, but as he just explained, that's normal in war times, on all sides. Abe cries for the loss of innocent life, but basically pleads non guilty for anything seriously wrong.

The peace we enjoy today exists only upon such precious sacrifices. And therein lies the origin of postwar Japan.

We must never again repeat the devastation of war.

Incident, aggression, war -- we shall never again resort to any form of the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes. We shall abandon colonial rule forever and respect the right of self-determination of all peoples throughout the world.

With deep repentance for the war, Japan made that pledge. Upon it, we have created a free and democratic country, abided by the rule of law, and consistently upheld that pledge never to wage a war again. While taking silent pride in the path we have walked as a peace-loving nation for as long as seventy years, we remain determined never to deviate from this steadfast course.

  • NB: I must again applaud Abe for the way he cuts paragraphs and inserts key words to bring confusion. Here, he is never saying that Japan was responsible for incidents, aggressions, wars, or colonialism, but three distinct things:
    - Japan is a peaceful nation that suffered considerable loss of innocent lives (first paragraph)
    - all nations must pledge to do the right thing ('We must never again repeat the devastation of war' and 'We shall never again' paragraphs)
    - Japan made that pledge to remain a peaceful nation
  • Again, when Abe expresses 'deep repentance for the war', he deplores the fact that Japan experienced war, and never says that Japan caused it or perpetrated atrocities. Note how, for Japan, 'never again' is focused on the very neutral 'waging war'.
  • Of course, the message is also meant to reassure the Japanese people and the international community: the 'war bills' he's been pushing very hard for years are not 'war bills'.
  • The only thing that could make a revisionist frown is the "we have created a free and democratic country". As if there were a disruption from the very free and democratic Imperial Japan! Well technically, they could argue that after the war, Japan was not free but occupied by the US...

Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war. In order to manifest such feelings through concrete actions, we have engraved in our hearts the histories of suffering of the people in Asia as our neighbours: those in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, and Taiwan, the Republic of Korea and China, among others; and we have consistently devoted ourselves to the peace and prosperity of the region since the end of the war.

Such position articulated by the previous cabinets will remain unshakable into the future.

  • NB: Abe says that apologies were made by past cabinets, and that they will not be altered in the future. But he doesn't give the official position of his government in this present time, neither agrees or disagrees with them. 
  • Worse: he rewords past apologies in terms that empty them from all substance, to the point they are not apologies anymore! What's the point of repeating the key words 'deep remorse and 'heartfelt apology', if that's for unspecified 'actions during the war'? To reduce said apologies to the simple reality that Japan participated to the war, like everybody.

However, no matter what kind of efforts we may make, the sorrows of those who lost their family members and the painful memories of those who underwent immense sufferings by the destruction of war will never be healed.

  • NB: in other words, whatever we do, the past can't be undone. We've already apologized, doing more is pointless, time to forget the past and move on.

Thus, we must take to heart the following.

The fact that more than six million Japanese repatriates managed to come home safely after the war from various parts of the Asia-Pacific and became the driving force behind Japan’s postwar reconstruction; the fact that nearly three thousand Japanese children left behind in China were able to grow up there and set foot on the soil of their homeland again; and the fact that former POWs of the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia and other nations have visited Japan for many years to continue praying for the souls of the war dead on both sides.

How much emotional struggle must have existed and what great efforts must have been necessary for the Chinese people who underwent all the sufferings of the war and for the former POWs who experienced unbearable sufferings caused by the Japanese military in order for them to be so tolerant nevertheless?

That is what we must turn our thoughts to reflect upon.

Thanks to such manifestation of tolerance, Japan was able to return to the international community in the postwar era. Taking this opportunity of the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, Japan would like to express its heartfelt gratitude to all the nations and all the people who made every effort for reconciliation.

  • NB: sorry, but Japan did not do 'every effort for reconciliation'. And tolerance or peaceful relations never meant that all issues have been resolved. 'Praying for the soul of the war dead on both sides' never meant 'praying for the soul of war criminals'.

In Japan, the postwar generations now exceed eighty per cent of its population. We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize. Still, even so, we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past. We have the responsibility to inherit the past, in all humbleness, and pass it on to the future.

  • NB: It's not for Japan - and certainly not for Abe - to decide if apologies are needed or accepted, particularly when they have never been fully made.
  • You can't 'have the responsibility to inherit the past (and) pass it on to the future', and at the same time reject the responsibility of the past, reject the past itself.
  • What Abe has been doing for decades is rewriting history, and he longs for the moment when all witnesses have disappeared who can contest his revisionist version. And that version cannot include apologies. 

Our parents’ and grandparents’ generations were able to survive in a devastated land in sheer poverty after the war. The future they brought about is the one our current generation inherited and the one we will hand down to the next generation. Together with the tireless efforts of our predecessors, this has only been possible through the goodwill and assistance extended to us that transcended hatred by a truly large number of countries, such as the United States, Australia, and European nations, which Japan had fiercely fought against as enemies.

We must pass this down from generation to generation into the future. We have the great responsibility to take the lessons of history deeply into our hearts, to carve out a better future, and to make all possible efforts for the peace and prosperity of Asia and the world.

  • NB: so the first lesson of history Abe intends to pass on to the next generations is that Japan should remain grateful to former enemies for their goodwill and assistance. Nice and positive thoughts, but wasn't there anything more significant?

We will engrave in our hearts the past, when Japan attempted to break its deadlock with force. Upon this reflection, Japan will continue to firmly uphold the principle that any disputes must be settled peacefully and diplomatically based on the respect for the rule of law and not through the use of force, and to reach out to other countries in the world to do the same. As the only country to have ever suffered the devastation of atomic bombings during war, Japan will fulfil its responsibility in the international community, aiming at the non-proliferation and ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons.

  • NB: now the second lesson of history is a bit trickier. Abe is using violent words, but  "Japan attempted to break its deadlock with force" doesn't mean "Japan provoked the war". If you read the paragraph, Abe repeats the same thing as when he said "Japan took the wrong course and advanced along the road to war" (only on a milder note because that was just an "attempt"). Likewise, "Japan will continue to firmly uphold" repeats the pledge he mentioned earlier.
  • Note that if Abe wants to get rid of nuclear weapons to honor the victims of atomic bombings, he is restarting Japan's nuclear power plants right after the Hiroshima / Nagasaki anniversaries, in spite of the opposition of survivors of the bombing, and against the will of a majority of Japanese citizens as the neverending Fukushima mess keeps unfolding.

We will engrave in our hearts the past, when the dignity and honour of many women were severely injured during wars in the 20th century. Upon this reflection, Japan wishes to be a country always at the side of such women’s injured hearts. Japan will lead the world in making the 21st century an era in which women’s human rights are not infringed upon.

  • NB: in other words, rapes were committed in all wars during last century, and Japan acknowledges that fact (without having anything to do with it), and pledges to always be on the side of the victims - except of course on the side of its own victims, sexual slaves who are still waiting for apologies and a resolution.

We will engrave in our hearts the past, when forming economic blocs made the seeds of conflict thrive. Upon this reflection, Japan will continue to develop a free, fair and open international economic system that will not be influenced by the arbitrary intentions of any nation. We will strengthen assistance for developing countries, and lead the world toward further prosperity. Prosperity is the very foundation for peace. Japan will make even greater efforts to fight against poverty, which also serves as a hotbed of violence, and to provide opportunities for medical services, education, and self-reliance to all the people in the world.

  • NB: like at the US Congress, Abe pledges to support the TPP initiative. 
  • BTW interesting to see how, before both speeches, his government aired propaganda campaigns on international news networks, each one finishing on Abe's face and painting the nation as a force of peace and good. One very controversial spot maintains that all historical issues with Korea have already been resolved. Another is based on the true fact that Japan invests a lot in international aid to South East Asia (one of the reasons why resentment is less acute in such countries as Indonesia than in Korea and China - along with inverted population pyramids, or the less advanced research on local victims of Imperial Japan's sexual slavery system)

We will engrave in our hearts the past, when Japan ended up becoming a challenger to the international order. Upon this reflection, Japan will firmly uphold basic values such as freedom, democracy, and human rights as unyielding values and, by working hand in hand with countries that share such values, hoist the flag of “Proactive Contribution to Peace,” and contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world more than ever before.

  • NB: following the same pattern as in many previous paragraphs, Abe mentions Imperial Japan in a confusingly neutral manner (challenger to the international order), and then the unwavering pledges made by postwar Japan either in favor of positive values (here 'freedom, democracy, and human rights') or against negative ones (e.g. previously 'incident, aggression, war'), but Imperial Japan is never directly responsible for negative stuff.

Heading toward the 80th, the 90th and the centennial anniversary of the end of the war, we are determined to create such a Japan together with the Japanese people.

  • NB: in other words, Abe is determined to see Japan forget its past, and the last surviving sex slaves of the Imperial Japan military die without a resolution fir their ordeal.

August 14, 2015

Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan

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* see "2015, 1965, 1945... how about 1915?"
* "Reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse over the last war, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never be repeated" ("Address by His Majesty the Emperor on the Occasion of the Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead (August 15, 2015)")

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

2015, 1965, 1945... how about 1915?

Korea's logically talking a lot about the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII (and of Korea's Liberation), and the 50th anniversary of the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea, particularly in the light of persisting denials of Imperial Japan war crimes and sexual slavery system ('Comfort women')*. It could be interesting for the Koreans as well as for the Japanese to learn more about the 100th anniversary of another yet to be resolved historical issue: the Armenian Genocide.
I pause here to make things clear to my - dear and many - Turkish friends and readers: 
. I love Turkey as much as I love Korea, Japan, or my native country France (and had this Summer, as always, a fantastic time in the great city of Istanbul)
. I believe that each nation grows stronger when it faces all sides of its history (and I keep repeating that Korea must set its own record straight to show a positive example to the world and its neighbors, instead of using the rise of revisionism overseas as an excuse to do the same at home)
. Denying the Armenian Genocide is as unacceptable as denying the Holocaust. 1,5 M died in the Armenian Genocide, which was fueled by an abject ideology, and involved concentration camps, mass deportations and murders (not to mention the destruction of whole neighborhoods and of thousands of cultural landmarks)...
For atrocities perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire a century ago, the Turkish government still refuses to officially accept the term 'genocide', in spite of mounting international pressure. Citizens who dare speak up in favor of a resolution are exposed to harassment, even when they are famous (one more reason to respect the great Ohran Pamuk). And nowadays, the soul of this great nation is threatened by its own leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is regularly accused of undermining democracy, fueling nationalism and international crisis, and trying to roll-back history - he even got rid of the usual local euphemisms to refer to the Genocide, rewording "the so-called Armenian Genocide" into "the Events of 1915"!

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? 

My first message is to the Japanese people: don't expect international outrage to abate with time; the worst thing to do is to do nothing, and to let corrupt leaders add further disgrace to your great nation; the only solution is to restore Japan's honor by doing the right thing.
Memo to #Japan: #Turkey still shamed for negationism 100 y after #ArmenianGenocide. Reject now #ShinzoAbe's #ImperialJapan revival (

My second message is to the Korean people: I wish you could have visited this most efficient 'Armenie 1915' expo in the Paris City Hall (April-July 2015). It was much more convincing than anything I've seen anywhere and particularly in Korea because it was on a purely factual, fair, and descriptive mode. If the visitor is moved, he is never manipulated, never played any emotional, nationalist, us-vs-them tune.

I don't have new messages for Shinzo Abe, who as usual will try his best to do his worst. 

He is under growing scrutiny regarding the content of his Abe Statement, and this time, Japanese audiences may pay closer attention, particularly after his controversial speeches in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If he ends up conceding such  key terms as 'aggression' or 'apology', they're bound to be surrounded by his usual smokescreens, double entendres, asterisks and footnotes**.

Regardless of the content, Abe decided to deliver his Statement on August 14th instead of August 15th, which fundamentally undermines its significance (that day, the world will more talk about the reopening of the US embassy in Cuba), and confirms to his base that in his mind, the Empire never surrendered. Furthermore, August 15th is the day Abe usually pays tribute to War Criminals by either visiting Yasukuni, or sending his best wishes...

Anyway, que sera sera, whatever will be will be...

Now I bet Abe is more than a bit jealous of Erdogan: not just because all survivors of the Genocide have already passed away (while our last, dear Halmonis keep demonstrating every week - see "One Thousand Weednesdays"), but also because unlike his dear JSDF, the Turkish military is already free to strike beyond its borders without declaring a war***.

#Erdogan provokes #Kurds on 100th anniv. of #ArmenianGenocide
#ShinzoAbe restores #militarism on 70th anniv. of #WWII
... #Peace please (

Seoul Village 2015
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*let's not go all the way to the 120th anniversary of the assassination of Empress Myeongsong (1895)
** if you want to revisit Japan history with pink glasses, read the report tailor-made for him ahead of the event ("Report of the Advisory Panel on the History of the 20th Century, on Japan's Role and the World Order in 21th Century"). Not fully Nippon Kaigi-friendly, but biased enough.
*** and with the benediction of the States (even if said strikes seem to target less ISIS than the Kurds who fight it, conveniently fueling in Turkey, weeks after a major electoral upset, both nationalism and tensions against Kurds)
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