Save South Korean shorebirds

This video from South Korea says about itself:

Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus) @ Geum Estuary

One of 15 [+] Spoon-billed Sandpipers observed foraging within the Saemangeum Estuarine System, on October 2, 2011. This film is included in a series of videos taken as part of Birds Korea research on the feeding ecology of Spoon-billed Sandpipers.

From BirdLife:

New agreement for the conservation of South Korea’s top coastal wetland

By Mike Crosby, Tue, 10/11/2015 – 07:35

BirdLife International and the Government of Seocheon County have signed a new Memorandum of Understanding on the conservation of the Geum Estuary in the Republic of Korea.

The MoU was signed by Mr Pakrae Noh, the Governor of Seocheon County, and Patricia Zurita, BirdLife’s Chief Executive at the BirdLife office in Cambridge, UK on 9 November 2015.

Through the MOU, BirdLife and Seocheon County have agreed to work together to safeguard the biodiversity of the Geum Estuary. The county government has pursued enlightened policies based around nature-based sustainable development. The BirdLife Partnership will support this through the provision of technical expertise on migratory bird conservation.

The Geum Estuary is now the most important wetland in the Republic of Korea for migrating shorebirds, following the reclamation of the extensive mudflats at nearby Saemangeum. It supports internationally important numbers of 16 shorebird species, including the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper.

“We are delighted to sign this agreement with Seocheon County Government to work collaboratively for the conservation and sustainable development of the Geum Estuary,” said Patricia Zurita. “Protecting this site and properly managing the coastal wetlands in the Yellow Sea is vital to maintain the East Asian Australasian Flyway alive. Shorebirds like the Great Knot and Far Eastern Curlew depend on healthy tidal mudflats to recharge and continue their voyage”.

“We are grateful to have the support of a great partner as BirdLife, an organisation that recognises the importance and value of Yubu-do,” said Mr Pakrae Noh. “We look forward to further collaboration with BirdLife in protecting biodiversity and especially the migratory birds that need Geum Estuary. We will strive to strengthen eco-tourism in Seocheon County, with the further support of BirdLife’s expertise”.

The Geum Estuary is of outstanding importance for Great Knot and Far Eastern Curlew. These species have both been upgraded from Vulnerable to Endangered on the 2015 Red List because of the rapid loss of the intertidal wetlands in the Yellow Sea region of East Asia which they rely on to refuel on their long migrations from the breeding grounds in Eastern Russia to South-East Asia and Australasia.

In addition to its rich wetlands and biodiversity, Seocheon County has a distinctive local cuisine, in particular excellent seafood and the best rice wine in Korea, and a rural village lifestyle. BirdLife is working with the government to developing nature and culture based tourism in the county.

Spike Millington, Chief Executive of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership said “I congratulate the Government of Seocheon County and Birdlife International for signing this MOU to extend their cooperation at this internationally important site, which offers a different perspective on development than the rapid infrastructure expansion model typically associated with the Republic of Korea”.

During their visit to the UK, the mayor and his colleagues from Seocheon County will visit RSPB’s Titchwell and Rainham Marshes Nature Reserves, where staff from the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) will showcase the restoration and management of the wetlands, and the benefits of the reserve to visitors and the local community.

South Korean self-immolation in anti-Japanese war crimes protest

This video from South Korea says about itself:

This documentary aims to highlight the issue of “Comfort Women” or girls forced into sex slavery by the Japanese Army during World War II as grave violation of human rights that affected AND continues to affect women all across Asia and Europe.

The film begins in South Korea and moves on to meet victims in Wuhan, China, Shanghai, the Philippines and Australia.

It was aired on March 1st, 2013 on Arirang TV, Korea’s only global network.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

South Korea: Man sets himself alight in protest over WWII Japan

Thursday 13th August 2015

AN ELDERLY man set himself on fire in Korea yesterday during a protest demanding Japanese recognition of its war crimes in the 1930s and ’40s.

The rally outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul was held days before the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the liberation of Korea from Japanese colonial rule.

Protesters rushed to smother the flames after 80-year-old Choi Yeon Yeol poured a bottle of fuel on himself and ignited it in a nearby flowerbed.

Mr Choi was taken to Hallym University Medical Centre, where he was said to be unconscious and suffering breathing difficulties after sustaining third-degree burns to the face, neck, upper body and arms.

Police said that a five-page statement found in his bag, apparently written by himself, condemned Japan’s stance on issues related to its colonial rule of Korea and wartime conduct.

Since 1992 there have been weekly protests in front of the Japanese embassy to demand justice for South Korean women who were forced to work as “comfort women” — a euphemism for sex slaves — for the Japanese military during the war.

Hundreds of thousands of Koreans also were forced to fight as front-line soldiers or work as slave labour.

With the approaching anniversary, yesterday’s turnout was particularly high.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has evaded requests for an official apology, while moving to glorify wartime Japan and remilitarise the country in violation of its post-war constitution.

Japanese government whitewashes war crimes, historians criticize

This video says about itself:

Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

28 January 2015

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul.

By Ben McGrath:

Historians condemn Japan’s whitewashing of war crimes

11 May 2015

Last Tuesday, 187 prominent historians from universities in the United States, Canada, Australia and other countries published an open letter criticizing the Japanese government of Shinzo Abe for continuing to whitewash past war crimes.

The statement entitled, “Open Letter in Support of Historians in Japan,” takes aim at the Abe government’s stance on “comfort women,”—a euphemism for women coerced into becoming sex slaves for the Japanese army during the 1930s and 1940s. It calls for the defense of the “freedom of historical inquiry” in Japan and all countries against nationalistic distortions.

Among the signatories were notable historians such as Herbert Bix, professor emeritus at Binghamton University/State University of New York (SUNY), Ezra Vogel, professor emeritus at Harvard University, and Bruce Cumings from the University of Chicago. An earlier letter, released by 19 American historians in February, criticized Abe’s efforts to have references on comfort women altered in American university text books.

The comfort women system was established in the early 1930s. While the first women to be involved were Japanese, as the war spread throughout the Pacific, the military turned to its colonies, coercing poor women with phony promises of good jobs in factories. An estimated 200,000 women from Korea, China, the Philippines, and other Asian nations were then taken to brothels and prevented from leaving. Many committed suicide to escape their barbaric treatment.

The open letter stated: “The undersigned scholars of Japanese studies express our unity with the many courageous historians in Japan seeking an accurate and just history of World War II in Asia.” Historians, as well as journalists in Japan, who have published information on war crimes, have been criticized and in some cases threatened with violence by right-wing nationalists, who claim that comfort women were willing prostitutes and that stating otherwise is an affront to Japanese honor.

Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a leading Japanese historian on comfort women, received phone calls and letters threatening his life after he began publishing his research on comfort women in the 1990s. One such note read, “You must die.” In 1992, Yoshimi discovered extensive documents from the 1930s in the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s library (then called the Defense Agency), showing the military’s role in establishing “comfort stations” (military brothels) throughout Asia.

In January of this year, former Asahi Shimbun journalist Takashi Uemura filed a defamation lawsuit against Bungei Shunju, a publisher, and Tsutomu Nishioka, a right-wing professor at Tokyo Christian University and denier of the crimes against comfort women. Nishioka has accused Uemura of faking the information in his articles.

Uemura stated when he filed his lawsuit: “There is a movement in Japan to stop people who want to shine a light on the dark side of history, on the parts of the war that people don’t want to mention.”

Uemura first became the target of Japanese nationalists in 1991, following two articles he wrote on Kim Hak-sun, who is considered to be the first comfort woman to come forward. Uemura was accused of faking his stories and was attacked as the journalist who “fabricated the comfort woman issue.”

Condemnation of Uemura increased last August, following the Asahi Shimbun’s retraction of a series of articles on comfort women published in the 1980s and 1990s that referenced the accounts of Seiji Yoshida, a former soldier who claimed he had rounded up women during World War II in Korea. Historians had dismissed Yoshida’s story by the early 1990s, while emphasizing the clear evidence of the military’s role in establishing comfort stations.

Neither of Uemura’s articles relied on Yoshida’s story, but the retractions further opened the door for attacks on journalists and academics by right-wing nationalists like Nishioka. Not only was Uemura’s life threatened, but Hokusei University, where he is now employed, received bomb threats. Photos of Uemura’s teenage daughter also appeared online with calls to force the girl to commit suicide.

The Abe government strengthened the nationalists’ claims by calling into doubt the 1993 Kono Statement, a formal yet limited apology for the abuse of comfort women during the war in the Pacific, released by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. In June 2014, Abe’s government released a report by five “experts” questioning whether women and young girls were coerced or forced into the military brothels.

Tuesday’s letter goes on to say, “[…] historians have unearthed numerous documents demonstrating the military’s involvement in the transfer of women and oversight of brothels. Important evidence also comes from the testimony of victims. Although their stories are diverse and affected by the inconsistencies of memory, the aggregate record they offer is compelling and supported by the official documents as well as by the accounts of soldiers and others.”

The letter also makes clear the fundamental difference between the comfort women system and justifications by Japanese nationalists that prostitution was common in other theaters of war: “Among the many instances of wartime sexual violence and military prostitution in the twentieth century, the ‘comfort women’ system was distinguished by its large scale and systematic management under the military, and by its exploitation of young, poor, and vulnerable women in areas colonized or occupied by Japan.” [emphasis added]

The open letter comes less than a week after Abe, the most right-wing Japanese prime minister in the postwar period, was warmly welcomed by Obama on a trip to the United States where the prime minister also made a speech to a joint session of Congress, the first Japanese premier to do so. The two sides agreed to new security guidelines to allow Japan to take part in the United States’ imperialist wars.

All of this is bound up with the United States’ “pivot to Asia,” designed to economically subordinate and militarily surround China. Japan has been encouraged by Washington to remilitarize and discard its postwar pacifist constitution, as well as to enflame territorial conflicts in the region. During Abe’s recent trip to the US, Obama once again promised to back Japan in a war with China over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

While the historians’ letter fails to directly tie historical revisionism to preparations for war, that is the purpose of Abe’s campaign: to whip up Japanese nationalism to condition public opinion, particularly young people, for future conflicts.