AAS Annual Meeting

Korea Session 650

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Session 650: Risk and Consequences in Japan and Korea

Organizer and Chair: Jeffrey Kingston, Temple University Japan, Japan

This is an interdisciplinary panel encompassing a diverse array of disciplines including psychology, history, political science and international relations. The purpose of this panel is to examine the rise of risk in Japan, how people and policymakers are coping with various aspects of risk and what the consequences have been from micro and macro perspectives. Our historian examines the consequences of risk in Japan associated with labor market deregulation beginning in the Lost Decade is the rise of a precariat, amplifying disparities that challenge the prevailing egalitarian ethos and influence political discourse and elections. The psychologist on our panel offers a view on risk from the perspective of minorities on the margins in Japan. Risk is also evident in Japan’s international relations, generating tensions with neighbors. Responding to such tensions, opinion leaders strongly influence public perceptions of foreign countries, employing risky rhetoric that constrains diplomatic compromises. Our political scientists focus on foreign policy, one looking at domestic debate and how that influences perceptions and diplomacy while the other closely examines developments between Russia and Japan regarding their face-off over the Northern Territories/Kurile Islands.

Social Identities of Minority Others in Japan
Tin Tin Htun, Temple University Japan, Japan

Minorities exist at the margins of Japanese society and have long experienced the risks and disparities that are now becoming more common in Japan. This paper focuses on issues of identity among minorities. I examine the narratives of individual Ainu, Buraku, and Zainichi Koreans in Japan to understand what it means to be a minority in a so-called mono-ethnic society. I explore how individuals from different minority groups position themselves within a particular historical and socio-political context in Japan and how they voice their own minority identity and their capacity to act in their social world. I draw on social identity theory to interpret how socially disadvantaged groups in Japan deal with their minority social identity and lead their lives as minority others. Their voices impart understanding of the risks of assimilation and relative deprivation.

Risk and Consequences in Japan: Unstable Jobs and Families
Jeffrey Kingston, Temple University Japan, Japan

Since the late 1990s there has been a dramatic increase in risk in Japan associated with deregulation of the job market and the emergence of a growing precariat. Japanese society has been ill-prepared to cope with this growing risk as prevailing norms and values in the Japan, Inc. model focused on minimizing and mitigating risk as much as possible. Risk has undermined the stability of jobs and families, two key pillars of the Japan, Inc. system, undermining the government’s legitimacy while amplifying a growing national malaise. This paper examines the rising misery index associated with growing risk in Japan and how this has lead to significant social and political consequences. As Japan enters the third decade of the Lost Decade there is a growing frustration about the failure of leaders to deliver reforms that address effectively the accumulating problems of economic stagnation. The dramatic ouster of the LDP from power in 2009 is traced to the Toshi Koshi Haken Mura (Village of Fired Contract Workers) and the shift of public attention to the kakusa shakai (unequal society).

Constitutional Protections for Economic Security
Lawrence Repeta, Meiji University, Japan

In Article 25 of Japan’s Constitution its authors declared that “All people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living” and “In all spheres of life, the State shall use its endeavors for the promotion and extension of social welfare and security, and of public health.” Anyone who lives in Japan today is aware that for a significant portion of the population, this right is unfulfilled and the State is failing in its responsibilities. In several important cases, litigants seeking to enforce their rights under Article 25 have been turned away by courts that have refused to uphold their claims. As if to upbraid the courts for this penurious attitude, in 1979 Japan ’s national parliament ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which expands upon the economic rights proclaimed in Article 25 of Japan’s Constitution. Following ratification in 1979, litigants brought treaty-based claims before the courts and have taken other action directed at securing economic rights for the needy. We will explore some of this history and discuss potential for future enforcement of economic rights in Japan .

Matthew Linley, Temple University Japan, Japan


No Risk No Gain in Japanese-Russian Relations
Tina Burrett, Sophia University, Japan

No abstract available