AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 259

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Session 259: Asian Perceptions of Democracy and Human Rights II

The Politics of Civil Liberties: Freedom of Information, Privacy, and Human Rights in Japan
Eiji Kawabata, Minnesota State University, Mankato, USA

Since the end of World War II, Japan has been an electoral democracy. Although critics point to some deficiencies, Japan’s electoral system is comparable to the U.S. and Western European electoral systems. In contrast, until recently, the Japanese government had lagged behind the U.S. and West European governments in the protection of civil liberties, another important component of democracy, especially in the following three aspects. First, the Japanese government was very reluctant to release information held by the government. Second, government involvement for the protection of privacy was minimal. Third and finally, it did not have formal measures to deal with the violation of human rights. Since the late 1990s, the Japanese government has been trying to address these problems. The government enacted the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 1999 and the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) in 2003. Recently, the government has also been actively pursuing the enactment of the Human Rights Protection Act (HRLA). The FOIA gives citizens broad access to information held by government organizations while the PIPA specifies rules for government and non-government organizations to follow to protect personal privacy. The HRLA is designed to protect citizens from discrimination and other abusive behavior. This change occurred even though no major citizens movement for civil liberties developed. This paper examines the development of policy for civil liberties, particularly citizens’ access to government information, privacy protection, and human rights, from a historical and comparative perspective that includes social, political, and global dimensions.

The social and political consequences of non-regular employment in Japan: Do new employment risks translate into new electoral risks?
Steffen Heinrich, German Institute for Japanese Studies, Germany

Several studies have shown that in continental European democracies differences between so called outsiders (most non-regular employees and some regular employees fall into this group) and insiders (mainly those employed regularly and covered by social insurance) increasingly matter for politics because the existing welfare and economic arrangements lead to conflicting political preferences. While outsiders feel increasingly marginalised as their level of job and social security is comparatively low and thus are likely to welcome labour and welfare reform, insiders are likely to oppose such reforms as they have little to gain and fear to lose security (e.g. after the global financial crisis two thirds of temp agency workers lost their jobs temporarily while regular employees were hardly ever sacked). Japan is a particularly interesting case to look at in regard to the insider-outsider conflict because the line of separation is particularly strong not least due to the firm association of welfare and employment. Furthermore, non-regular workers, the most likely outsider, now make up more than 30 per cent of employment. This paper seeks to examine the political consequences of the Japanese insider-outsider conflict using two related analyses. In the first part it will attempt to outline the significance of this conflict by looking at political preferences of insiders and outsiders in Japan (applying different insider-outsiders definitions to ISSP data) and the severity of their discrimination. In a second part, it will look at how political parties and labour unions have addressed insider-outsider issues since the election campaign to the lower house in 2009. This is of particular interests as Japan differs from European countries in that it has – so far - no significant labour party and its party system consisting of parties that are only partly mirrored by programmatic differences.

Re-assessing consensus- The first three years’ of democracy with Bhutanese characteristics, 2008-2011
Brian Carl J. Shaw, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Bhutan, with population of 600,000-odd at the time of its first formal nation-wide census in May 2005, nevertheless had long experience (especially in the rural areas) with traditional decision-making and interest articulation – and, especially, consensus building - before the kingdom’s fourth king announced a series of decisions from 1978, leading to a nation-wide secret ballot for a two-house parliament. This process culminated in the selection of 47 members of the national assembly (lower house) on 24 March 2008. Since then, much of the parliament’s work has been focused on preparing or refining rules and laws to support a constitution endorsed by it in May 2008. With new elections due in early 2013, the time in office of the first parliament is more than half completed. This paper attempts a preliminary review of achievements since March 2008, and attempts to draw out specific Bhutanese characteristics of the political process that is unfolding. Based in part on annual visits to the kingdom since1980, the study also makes a preliminary assessment of whether the overall results to date suggest an evolution towards a benevolent, ”tameable”, community-oriented “dragon-like” polity, or a more opportunistic and individualistic “fox-like” polity: what the consequences might be, and why: and what realistic options might exist for changes in political style as 2013 approaches.

Founding the Father of Korean Democracy beyond the Ideological Controversy: Tosan’s Political Philosophy of the Humane Democracy and Its Moral Foundation
Ilsup Ahn, North Park University, USA

The purpose of this paper is to (re)construct the concept of the “humane democracy” as a distinctive Korean political philosophy of democracy by critically integrating Tosan’s foundational work in moral thought and his innovative comprehension in political philosophy. The concept of Ahn Chang-Ho’s humane democracy was evolved out of Korea’s one of the most challenging and darkest moments in her history, which was particularly shadowed by Japanese colonialism against the backdrop of the global imperialism. Being deeply aware of the old Korea’s historical-cultural circumstances in which Tosan could not discover either the democratic liberal values of liberal democracy or the democratic civic virtues of republican democracy, Tosan Ahn Chang-Ho began to envision a new political philosophy of the “humane democracy” whose moral foundation was grounded on the universal values and ideals, which he reconstructs by critically appropriating from the vast pool of the humankind’s moral-political knowledge and wisdom encompassing both philosophical and religious teachings of the East as well as the West. Although the word, “humane democracy” is not Tosan’s own nomenclature, I will argue that the concept of the humane democracy best represents Tosan’s innovative political philosophy, according to which the ultimate purpose of the democratic system is not merely to protect the individual rights of citizens, but to serve the enhancement of the “humane society.”