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From Beijng to Tokyo, from Seoul to New Delhi, LinkAsia takes viewers into media about Asia – from Asia – offering unfiltered insight into one of the most diverse, fast-paced regions of the globe.

 

The LinkAsia blog features in-depth analysis from expert contributors and LinkAsia producers, as well as transcripts from NHK Japan reports.

 

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LinkAsia News Brief

Former Japanese PM Seeks to Mend Ties with South Korea

Former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama has stepped front and center into the argument over history between his country and South Korea. He is famous for the so-called ‘Murayama statement’ in 1995 apologizing for Imperial Japan’s aggression in the first half of the 20th century, he said, "Japan…through its colonial rule and digression caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly those of Asian nations," he further went on to say "[I] express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and submit my heartfelt apology."


During a recent visit to Seoul, Murayama said all Japanese prime ministers are bound by the apology he made back in 1995.  And the current one, Shinzo Abe, had no choice but to do the same.  Murayama’s statement got wide play in South Korea and Japan. Here's Japan's public broadcaster NHK.


Reporter:

Murayama is the former leader of Japan’s Social Democratic Party, which is currently in opposition. He is on a private visit to South Korea – invited by the country's opposition lawmakers.


Tomiichi Murayama:

I am convinced that my statement has national consensus. Therefore, I can assure you that Mr. Shinzo Abe, as prime minister of Japan, cannot deny my apology.


Reporter:

Murayama called on South Koreans to work to improve relations with Japan that have soured over historical and other issues.


Tomiichi Murayama:

Japan and South Korea must maintain friendly ties. For their mutual benefit, the development of the whole Asian region and world peace.


Reporter:

South Korean president Park Guen-hye reportedly considered meeting with Murayama, but decided not to.

 
 

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U.S. State Enters the Sea Naming Game in Textbook Controversy

South Korea and Japan seem to be in disagreement over what to call the body of water that lies between them. Japanese call it the Sea of Japan, but to South Koreans it's the East Sea. That dispute is now causing waves in the US. One state wants to publish both names in school textbooks. Here's Japan's NHK.

 

Reporter:

The delegates voted 81 to 15 to pass the bill. It’s expected to pass the state’s Senate and be signed by the governor. The bill would require new textbooks from July to note that the body of water that separates Japan from the Korean Peninsula is also known as the 'East Sea.' Japan's ambassador to the United States , Kenichiro Sasae has been urging the governor and state lawmakers to oppose the bill. Japanese officials maintain that the 'Sea of Japan' is the only internationally established name for the waters. They note that the US government recognizes it as such.

 
 

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China Debuts War Monument, Sparks Japan Protest
China's dedication of a memorial to Korean independence fighter, Ahn Jung-geun, raised tensions in Northeast Asia this week. While Ahn is a hero in South Korea for his stance against Japanese colonial rule in 1909, in Japan he's considered a terrorist. The controversial memorial has further stirred relations already troubled by ongoing territorial disputes between the three countries. Here's Japan's public broadcaster NHK.

Reporter:
South Korea’s Foreign Minister announced on Sunday completion of hall honoring Ahn in Harbin in Northeastern China. The monument was built at the Harbin train station. That's where Ahn, a Korean nationalist, shot dead Hirobumi Ito. At the time the Korean peninsula was a protectorate of Japan. It was annexed the following year. The Japanese Foreign Ministry has lodged a protest through Chinese and South Korean embassies in Tokyo.

Yoshihide Suga:
We see Ahn Joong-geun as a terrorist who was sentenced to death for assassinating Japan’s first prime minister.

Suga also criticized the coordination between South Korea and China. He said it does not contribute to peace and cooperation in East Asia. In June of last year, South Korean President Park Geun-hye asked Chinese leaders to build the monument while on a visit to Beijing.
 
 

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Abe's Aggressive Stance Puts Japan at Odds with Neighbors
Japan textbooksJapan's relations with its neighbors are getting worse. The most recent cause for friction is Japan's move to revise history and geography textbooks for middle and high school students. The books would say that a couple of small islands close to Korea's easternmost coast belong to Japan. Japanese call them Takeshima, the Korean name is Dokdo. South Korea has a coast guard station on the biggest island - itself only a rocky outcrop. The new textbooks will also say disputed islands in the East China Sea are sovereign Japanese territory too. There will be no mention of China's claims in the forthcoming books. Japan's minister of education defended the policy.

Hakubun Shimomura:
This policy is not directed towards China nor South Korea. It is something that should be included in education, seeing that Senkaku and Takeshima are both Japanese territories. We are simply including contents that thus far have yet to be taught.

Shimomura went on to say the current texts don't give Japanese students ammunition to debate the territorial issues with their Chinese and Korean counterparts. Students in those countries are taught the disputed islands are theirs. School curricula are only the latest problems facing Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. According to an opinion poll done by our Japanese broadcast partner, NHK, his popularity is slipping. The cause of the decline seems largely due to his rocky relations with Japan's neighbors. Here's NHK's report.

Reporter:
Prime Minister Abe started the year talking about something he mentioned again and again last year. He used his New Year media conference to emphasize his determination to revitalize Japan's economy.

Shinzo Abe:
It's time to take offensive action to end deflation. It hope that improved earnings among companies will lead to higher wages and more personal spending.

Reporter:
Abe's next challenge comes in April when the five percent consumption tax rises to eight percent. He's trying to minimize the impact with a 50 billion dollar stimulus package. Prime minister Abe took office at the end of 2012 following his Liberal Democratic Party's monster lower-house election victory. Then, the LDP and its coalition partner, the New Komeito Party, consolidated their hold on power in July by winning the Upper House. Abe's support rating hovered around 60 percent for most of the past year. That's higher than many of his predecessors during the past decade. But NHK's opinion poll in December suggested Abe's support dropped by 10 percentage points, and the latest poll indicates it hasn't quite recovered. In some ways the survey reflected how the public felt about his policy shift. After a year in power, he seems to be focusing on implementing some of his long-held goals. Last month, his ruling coalition passed a controversial secrecy bill. The law gives the government authority to designate official information as "special secrets." Many respondents to the December poll said they were concerned it may infringe on the public's "right to know." Then, before the end of 2013, Prime Minister Abe went to Yasukuni Shrine. The visit angered leaders in South Korea and China. The US government expressed "disappointment" as did many Japanese citizens. Abe is now pushing for Japan to be allowed to exercise the "right of collective self-defense", or the right to defend allies that come under attack. But to do that he needs to change the long-standing interpretation of the constitution that Self-Defense Forces can only protest Japan. Members of the LDP's coalition partner have already raised concerns.
 
 

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Are South Korea's Singing Bullies Promoting School Violence?
 
 

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