Friday, July 27, 2012

The Atlantic Needs To Try Harder

Someone writing about Chongryon (in J. Chosen soren). Neat!

Not so neat.
The Strange Rise and Fall of North Korea's Business Empire in Japan
The Atlantic

Armin Rosen

Since its 1950s founding, a Pyongyang-linked group called Chongyron has run everything from banks to newspapers, pushing propaganda out and pulling hard currency in. But now that's ending.

It's been a big couple of weeks for North Korea's 29-year-old dictator. Kim Jong Un appointed himself titular head of the country's military last week and took his marriage public on Tuesday. But amid the celebrating, Kim's Stalinist regime suffered a little-reported setback on the other side of the Sea of Japan. At a time when North Korea is as desperate as ever for hard currency, one of its few reliable generators -- and one of its few links to the outside world -- has gone broke, likely ending the bizarre but significant half-century history of Japan's once-formidable North Korea lobby.

In late June, a Japanese court ordered Chongryon, a business, education, and banking organization formally representing pro-North Korean members of Japan's ethnic Korean minority, to auction off its ten-story office building in downtown Tokyo, effectively ending its mission of bringing money into North Korea and pushing propaganda out. The group's problems are essentially financial: Chongryon owes the Japanese government nearly $750 million for a late-90s emergency bailout that rescued the group's network of credit unions, which were rapidly de-capitalized because of remittances to North Korea during the country's devastating mid-90s famine, an economic and humanitarian catastrophe that killed up to 2 million people...

The author talks to Kong-do Oh, who is as knowledgeable a person as there is about what has gone on in North Korea, what is going on there, and about those who have either escaped from or are passing in and out of that country.

The author talks to Michael Green, getting Dr. Green to wax anti-Liberal Democratic Party over the Tanaka-Takeshita Faction's embrace of the DPRK and its Japan-based operatives and operations.

But why must all good things come to an end? Why does the author...

- claim that Korean residents of Japan suffer discrimination even today, offering as evidence an inoffensive but informative Minoru Matsutani article on the new foreign registration law (E)? The Matsutani article makes no a claim of discrimination, unless you consider the convenience of going to the local ward or municipal office for one's new foreign registration card, as the non-naturalized have always done, discrimination. Of course the law discriminates, but not in a pejorative sense.

- state that Koreans of the two nations of the Peninsula make up the largest group of foreign residents of Japan? That status belongs to the Chinese (J). This has been the case for several years now.

- provides as a reference for Chongryon's use of pachinko parlors as as main funding mechanism a page from an aggregator "Japan stuff" website that does not even once make such a claim? What there is on the linked page is a further link to the website of an anonymous British blogger who makes this claim, without supporting evidence.

- quote the English-language page of a North Korea friendship organization as the source for numbers of Chongryon's members at the height of the organization's wealth and influence?

The fall of Chongryon over the government's bailout of its credit unions should be a fascinating tale. However, this is not the article to read about it.

How this rubbish slipped past the editors at The Atlantic is beyond me.

Later - The need to run an errand prevented me from noting the caption to the seven-year old file photo accompanying the article. You will love it; I am sure. Just click on the below image for a larger view.

The operatically minded have to ask: what has made Rosen so cavalier?


Anonymous said...

Are there any good books about the development of Japan's pachinko industry and why it became the exclusive domain of Koreans?

W. David Marx

Avery said...

I was about to say the same thing, I have often heard the pachinko-DPRK link but only as a rumor, from the same people who claim that Daiso is owned by Soka Gakkai.

Avery said...

Found this fluffy AP story on Japanese Wiki. Looks like it really is the stuff of rumors.

That article also suggests that this book might say something.

Bryce said...

- How this rubbish slipped past the editors at The Atlantic is beyond me.

Really? The Atlantic has printed some howlers about Japan lately. Remember that article about "Japan in uproar" over the Emperor's "anti-nuclear" speech? Or the magazine's musing on whether the Happiness Realization Party could constitute the basis for a tea party movement in Japan? This seems pretty much par for the course.

Bryce said...

Or rather, this article seems to actually be an improvement on the other two.

MTC said...

Bryce -

I had tried so hard to forget the Happiness Realization Party article I had forgotten who was responsible for it. Why did you have to remind me?

Johntaro said...

I believe The works from the Cole Porter book of journalism -“Anything Goes.” There’s a report about the photo error on the news monitoring site,, and The Atlantic was notified. I doubt if they’ll fix it though and I kind of hope they don’t. It adds entertainment value.

TheStrawMan said...

Interesting post.

"Unless you consider The convenience of going to the local ward or municipal office for one's new foreigener registration card"

It isy understanding that, under the new system, you will have to go to a "local immigation office" to obtain or make modifications to your foreign registration card. For most people in Tokyo, that means a trip to Shinagawa.

In my opinion, that's the main downside of this new system. No more handling minor matters (change of address, employer, etc.,) at the local ward or municipal office.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but none of the official information about the new system that I have seen has stated otherwise

MTC said...

TheStrawMan -

According the Mitsutani artcle, all resident foreigners except the Zainichi Koreans and Taiwanes will record each major and minor change in status via a trip to the nearest immigration office -- which, as you note, will be an annoyance for some, a major pain for others.

The Zainichi Koreans and the Taiwanese, however, will be allowed to conduct their immigration-related business at their local ward or municipal office, just as they have always been able to do.

If this is discrimination, then please discriminate against me too!