Wash Post: “NBC apologizes to Koreans for Olympics coverage praising Japan’s brutal occupation”, rightly so

mytest

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Hi Blog. PyeongChang.  It’s Olympics time again, and, as long-time readers know, I’m a fan of the athleticism but not the nationalism (and inevitable comparisons of strengths and weaknesses along national lines) that is endemic to bordered sports. Too many people compete for glory as representatives of whole societies, not for individual bests, and that particularly takes a toll on Japan’s athletes.

I’ve been a relentless critic of Japan’s sports commentary, but now that I’m watching it in the US, fair game. I was quite incandescent with rage at times listening to NBC’s stupid, overgeneralizing, and often borderline racist commentary of the Opening Ceremonies. (One of the most annoying was when Katie Couric noted how internet addiction is allegedly a problem in South Korea, and used it as a segue into a shameless plug of her upcoming show on internet addiction in America; and this relates to the Olympics how!?)

Fortunately, I was not alone, and Korea protested not only the overgeneralizations, but also the ahistorical comments that were ill-considered. Fortunately, NBC apologized (and told the press that the offending commentator’s “assignment is over”), which is better than I’ve ever seen NHK do for its nasty coverage. Here’s the Washington Post on the issue. Dr. Debito Arudou

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NBC apologizes to Koreans for Olympics coverage that praised Japan’s brutal occupation
By Avi Selk February 11, 2017
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2018/02/11/nbc-apologizes-to-koreans-for-olympics-coverage-that-praised-japans-brutal-occupation/

Friday’s Opening Ceremonies for the Winter Olympics in South Korea were, by most accounts, spectacular. NBC’s coverage of the spectacle, on the other hand, was considered hit and miss. Occasionally disastrous.

It wasn’t so much the hosts, Katie Couric and Mike Tirico, who annoyed critics, but rather the network’s analyst, Joshua Cooper Ramo.

Slate wrote that Ramo’s commentary amounted to bland trivia about Asia “seemingly plucked from hastily written social studies reports” — such as his observation that white and blue flags stood for North and South Korean unity. Variety compared his commentary to a Wikipedia article.

But Ramo’s big misstep came when he noticed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan in the crowd and offered what he knew about the country’s history with Korea.

Japan was “a country which occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945,” Ramo said, correctly (though he did not mention that historians say the Japanese army forced tens of thousands of Koreans into sex slavery.)

“But,” Ramo continued, “every Korean will tell you that Japan as a cultural and technological and economic example has been so important to their own transformation.”

This was definitely not correct. Every Korean did not agree that Japanese colonialism had its upside. In fact, thousands signed a petition demanding that NBC apologize for Ramo’s statement.

“His incorrect and insensitive comment about Korea’s history has enraged many of its people,” the Korea Times observed.

“Some say it’s questionable whether Ramo has been even following the news leading up to the current Olympics, as some of the disputes between South Korea and Japan erupted even during the preparation phase of the games,” the Korea Herald added, mentioning as an example the unified Korean flag that Ramo liked so much.

In fact, the Herald reported, an earlier flag design had outraged Japan because it included a group of islets still claimed by both countries.

Japan and South Korea have not even fully reconciled over atrocities committed during the occupation. While the Japanese government has expressed remorse and set up a fund in the 1990s to help victims it once referred to as “comfort women,” some politicians and academics claim estimates of 200,000 sex slaves are exaggerated. Many South Koreans, in turns, compare those skeptics to Holocaust deniers.

The morning after the Opening Ceremonies, NBC apologized for Ramo’s remarks. “We understand the Korean people were insulted by these comments,” an anchor said during a Saturday broadcast, according to MSN.

In a statement to The Washington Post, NBC Sports said that the network also apologized in writing and that “we’re very gratified that [the PyeongChang Olympics] has accepted that apology.”

Yahoo Sports reported this was the second time that Ramo, who co-directs a think tank founded by former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, has appeared as an Olympics analyst for NBC. He shared an Emmy Award for his commentary during Beijing’s Summer Games in 2008.

Ramo could not be immediately reached for comment. An NBC official told The Post that his assignment is over.
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Kyodo: Official stats on NJ “Trainee” work deaths & accidents; 2x higher than J worker deaths, and likely understated

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. Debito Arudou (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  Finally, a quarter-century into the horrible government-sponsored NJ “Trainee” program, the GOJ is now releasing actual hard statistics about the people it is killing.  And you can see why it took so long — the numbers are shameful enough to warrant a cover-up:  Between 2014 and 2017, 22 NJ died (almost all due to workplace accidents, but at least one was probably being worked to death).  This is more than twice the on-job fatality rate for J workers.  There were also 475 cases of serious accidents to NJ “Trainees”, and, as activists point out below, this figure is probably understated.

A contrarian might argue that NJ are just accident-prone.  But as the article describes below, working conditions are simply awful, not to mention generally illegal.  And as as Debito.org has pointed out repeatedly over the decades, “the program is rife with abuse: exploitation under sweatshop conditions, restrictions on movement, unsafe workplaces, uncompensated work and work-site injuries, bullying and violence, physical and mental abuse, sexual harassment, death from overwork and suicideeven slavery and murder.

“Things have not improved in recent years. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry announced that about 70 percent of some 5,200 companies that accepted trainees in 2015 violated laws, and in 2016 a record 4,004 employers engaged in illegal activities. The program is so rotten that even the United Nations demanded Japan scrap it.” (From Japan Times, Jan. 3, 2018, Item 4)

Anyway, let’s celebrate that we have some official statistics at last, for without them, it’s easy to see why this program can keep going for a quarter-century with little political traction to improve it.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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Foreign trainee fatality data highlight safety and exploitation issues in Japan
KYODO NEWS/JAPAN TIMES JAN 15, 2018
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/01/14/national/social-issues/foreign-trainee-fatality-data-highlight-safety-exploitation-issues-japan/

Work-related incidents killed 22 foreign trainees over a three-year period from fiscal 2014, according to government data, illustrating the risk that laborers brought to Japan will face dangerous or exploitative conditions.

While most of the 22 deaths are believed to have been caused by accidents, one was the result of karōshi (death by overwork), the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Sunday.

The ministry’s figures are the first government statistics to be released on work-related deaths among foreign trainees in Japan.

During the three-year period, there were on average 475 cases of work-related accidents per year that were subject to compensation via industrial accident insurance and which required four or more days of leave for such workers, the data showed.

The ratio of work-related deaths for foreign trainees was significantly higher than the ratio for all workers.

The government introduced the oft-criticized training program for foreign workers in 1993 with the apparent aim of transferring Japanese know-how to developing countries. But the program, applicable to agriculture and manufacturing among other sectors, has drawn criticism at home and abroad as a cover for importing cheap labor.

Cases of illegally long working hours, unpaid wages, violence and other harsh conditions have also been reported.

According to the Justice Ministry, foreign trainees are on the rise, with 167,641 logged in 2014, 192,655 in 2015 and 228,589 in 2016. Given the 22 deaths over the three-year period, the ratio of work-related deaths works out to roughly 3.7 deaths per 100,000 trainees.

For the nation as a whole, labor ministry data show that the tally for work-related deaths in all industries came to 2,957, or 1.7 deaths per 100,000 workers.

Akira Hatate, director of the Japan Civil Liberties Union and an expert on the trainee system, points out that there could be more cases involving foreign trainees due to the government’s lax reporting standards.

He said work-related accidents are more frequent among non-Japanese because they are “unfamiliar with Japanese workplaces (and) as they are usually working for small and midsize companies that give little consideration to safety and health in the workplace. Trainees (also) cannot communicate fluently in Japanese.”

“There are also cases where trainees, who cannot work due to an injury, are forced to return home. Concealment of work-related accidents is rampant,” Hatate said.

In one case of misconduct, a Vietnamese man who was injured on the job said his employer pocketed his insurance payments. The 23-year-old man came to Japan in July 2015 to work at a construction firm in Tokyo. With no prior experience in carpentry, he worked at residential construction sites and his monthly take-home pay was around ¥120,000.

The trainee said he was injured in May 2016 when his thumb was accidentally nailed by a machine. He was hospitalized for five days and after being discharged rested for only one day. The next day he resumed work with his thumb in a bandage. A year later he injured his palm during unloading work.

Even while he was working, his company filed for workers’ compensation, saying the man took a long-term absence and cited a medical certificate stating he required three months to recover.

Roughly ¥900,000 was transferred to the man’s bank account, but the employer told him the money was not his and demanded that he hand it over. The Vietnamese trainee said he was robbed of ¥220,000 in total.

Due to his lack of experience in the field and poor Japanese skills, the man often made mistakes. The president would yell at him to return to his country, and at one point, forced him to kneel and bow in dogeza fashion, an extreme way of apologizing by bowing deeply until the forehead touches the floor.

The man said he endured the mistreatment because he was about ¥1.4 million in debt to various entities, including the agency in Vietnam that got him into the program. He returned to Vietnam last month.

“I wanted to continue working, but I cannot do that under that president,” the man said. Until the end, the president offered no apology, he said.

Shiro Sasaki, secretary-general of the Zentoitsu Workers Union and well-versed on trainee issues, said, “Foreign nationals do not know about the workers’ compensation system, and there are many firms which think that things could just be settled by having the trainees return to their homeland.”

According to Sasaki, the way these firms treat their foreign trainees would never be acceptable to Japanese workers.

The latest data came to light as the government moves to expand the scope of the system amid a nationwide labor shortage and political resistance to boosting immigration.

Under a new law that took effect in November, nursing care was added to the list of fields in which foreign trainees can work. The change was made as firms struggle to overcome an acute shortage of care workers in an industry that is becoming all the more important amid the rapid graying of the population.
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