Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Japan Enveloped in Sentimentalism in the Name of Humanitarianism
YOSHIDA Suzuka / Journalist

June 14, 2002
The Japanese government, Foreign Ministry and the media alike seem to have panicked over the dramatic asylum bid involving a family of North Korean refugees that occurred in Shenyang, China. With the gate in between them, armed policemen were using brute force to pull the refugees outside. A two-year-old girl was thrown off her mother's back and began crying amid the screams of the mother and another woman - the Japanese people witnessed the spectacle over and over again on their TV screens. Politicians who also saw the scene pronounced it a "serious incident which warrants the resignation of the Consul-General, Ambassador and perhaps even the Foreign Minister." Television joined in the chorus of criticism. The reason - rejecting pitiful people asking for protection was inhumane, and in particular, the women and the child had risked their lives and yet the Foreign Ministry had failed to act. Some offered indifferent commentary on the theatrical nature of today's asylum bids. And the Foreign Ministry chose to resolve the impasse from a 'humanitarian' standpoint.

The impertinence of covering it all up in 'Humanitarianism' instead of pursuing the defects in the government's refugee policy, the banality of arguing that women and children are a pitiable existence, and tear-jerking coverage by the media as if it had come across the plight of the North Korean people for the first time - all aptly reflect the current state of Japanese society. The government, the people and the media alike lack first-hand knowledge about global conflicts and the outflow of refugees, nor had they been interested. And so a single utterance of "how pitiful" is enough for them to give in to sentimentalism.

The number of refugees multiplied several-fold in the decade following the end of the Cold War. Such refugees and conflicts were the results not of war between nations, but of civil war. And here, the common tactic is to make shrewd use of women and children who are the social underdogs. The hard-and-fast rule among rebels is to deploy women and children along the frontlines of military conflict. In Bosnia, ethnic groups which had co-existed in the past were overwhelmed by a single ethnic identity from some point, and those who suddenly found themselves in the minority were ordered to dig trenches on the battlefront. This included men, women and children old enough to hold a shovel. Without food provisions, they were treated as slaves. Meanwhile, across the river in enemy camps confronting them, there is anger against such inhuman treatment of members of their ethnic group, as well as hesitation that any rash provocation may lead to their deaths. However, in the end fighting did broke out, leading to an escalation in the atrocities. A similar pattern is found all over the world.

In our world today, where human rights has become the accepted philosophy and saving the weak a keyword for the international community, it can be used as a tool for instantly toppling the power structure. Who operates the South Korean NGO (Non-Governmental Organization), where lies their source of funding and what are their aims? - Has there been an adequate effort at gathering such information? I feel deep despair rather, that there was a near-complete absence of any media that appealed for reorganizing diplomatic policy without falling into sentimentalism and explaining it to the public. How does a mass media that serves the government by avoiding the heart of the matter expect to contribute in any meaningful way to the current debate over the Emergency Security Bills?

The writer is a journalist and representative of SUE International, Ltd.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

吉田 鈴香  / ジャーナリスト

2002年 6月 14日




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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Japan Enveloped in Sentimentalism in the Name of Humanitarianism