NK News quotes my interview with Fujimoto


What's going on inside North Korea? South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper said Kim Kyong-hui, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's aunt and widow of executed eminence grise Jang Song-taek, is believed to have committed suicide or died from a heart attack, citing South Korean government officials it didn't identify.

I just talked to Kenji Fujimoto, Kim Jong-il's former sushi chef, who knows the Kim family very well. I asked him about possible death of Kim Kyong-hui. He said the possibility of her committing suicide is very high after her husband's execution. NKNews quoted this brief interview of mine with Fujimoto in its story.


Kim Jong Un’s aunt likely committed suicide – former sushi chef

Suspicion of suicide comes amid media reports on death of Kim Kyong Hui

by Leo Byrne , January 6, 2014

Kim Kyong Hui, the blood aunt of Kim Jong Un and widow of Jang Song Thaek, has likely committed suicide, Kim Jong Il’s former sushi chef has said.

Kenji Fujimoto told NK News on Monday that the “possibility of [Kim Kyong Hui] committing suicide is very high after her husband, Jang Song Thaek’s execution”.

While Fujimoto did not expand on why he thought she had committed suicide, his remarks come amid growing speculation about the fate of Kim, who has not been seen in public since the 65th anniversary of the founding of North Korea on September 10.

On Monday, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo also reported that an unnamed South Korean government source said that it was believed that Kim was already dead – from either a heart attack or suicide.

The paper, which has a patchy record concerning accuracy in North Korea stories, however cautioned that she may instead be overseas, undergoing medical treatment.

Kim was neither present at the second anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s death nor at the funeral of high-ranking workers party member Kim Kuk Thae, despite being named on his funeral committee by state media in December.

Kenji Fujimito left North Korea in 2001 after claiming to be Kim Jong Il’s sushi chef since 1988.

Though it has been impossible to independently verify many of the claims Fujimoto has made about the inner workings of the Kim family, he maintains close ties with the Pyongyang government and in 2012 paid a courtesy call on Kim Jong Un.

Fujimoto told NK News that during his 2012 encounter with Kim Jong Un he rushed into the leaders’ arms and said: “A traitor as I am, I came back. I am very sorry”.

Fujimoto made the confession to Kim Jong Un for escaping North Korea in 2001 and leaving his family behind in Pyongyang for several years.

Additional reporting: Kosuke Takhashi, Tokyo
タグ:North Korea
posted by Kosuke at 23:46| Comment(0) | NK News

A must-read article on Yasukuni Shrine

Many writers, especially foreign journalists, have written about Yasukuni Shrine without knowing much about the shrine itself, since Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited there on December 26. But I found some of them were half-baked stories due to a lack of knowledge.

I recommend you to read the following Nikkei article thoroughly. It’s really a good piece to understand Yasukuni Shrine. I seldom see such a good article like this written in English.

Explainer: The Yasukuni issue


January 6, 2014 4:45 pm JST
Explainer: The Yasukuni issue

TOKYO -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Yasukuni Shrine last month provoked widespread repercussions in Japan and abroad. His visit to the shrine, where so-called class-A war criminals are enshrined along with the war dead, infuriated China and South Korea and displeased the U.S. In Japan, the move has rekindled arguments over whether it contravenes the Japanese constitution, which stipulates the separation of state and religion.

Looking into Yasukuni's history and past arguments over Japanese prime ministers' visits to the shrine should help readers understand why the prime minister's visit has been called into question.

Honoring spirits of war dead

Yasukuni Shrine was built as Tokyo Shokonsha at Kudankita, Tokyo, in 1869, the year after the Meiji Restoration, which brought to an end the Tokugawa shogunate and returned ruling authority to the emperor. It was meant to honor the souls of individuals who died fighting for the Imperial side in the Boshin War (1868-69). The shrine was renamed Yasukuni Shrine by Emperor Meiji in 1879. Its name means "making the nation peaceful."

The deities enshrined at Yasukuni are the souls of soldiers and other individuals who died in wars, including the Meiji Restoration, the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) and World War II. They include high-minded reformists in the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate, including Sakamoto Ryoma and Yoshida Shoin, and women students mobilized in the Himeyuri nurse corps in Okinawa in the final stages of World War II. Takamori Saigo, who played a major role in the restoration, is not included because he led the rebel army in the Seinan War (1877), and neither is Heihachiro Togo, a leading figure in the Russo-Japanese War, because he was not killed, wounded or taken ill in battle. At present, about 2,466,000 souls are enshrined.

Yasukuni Shrine was administered jointly by the now defunct army and navy ministries until the end of World War II as a spiritual pillar of State Shinto. It took hold among the people as a place to honor the spirits of those who sacrificed their lives for the country. Many soldiers went to the front, promising each other they would meet at Yasukuni if they died and believing that they would become gods of Yasukuni.

After the war, the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers issued the Shinto Directive in 1945 to abolish State Shinto, and Yasukuni became an ordinary religious corporation in 1946. As a result, it became a question about Yasukuni whether the prime minister's visiting the religious corporation falls afoul of the new Japanese constitution's principle of separation of state and religion.

In 1975, Prime Minister Takeo Miki, who became the first prime minister to visit the shrine on the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II (Aug. 15), stressed that he visited in a private capacity. Since the constitution guarantees freedom of religion, he thought the visit was not constitutionally questionable if he met conditions for a private visit, including making an offering at his own expense. Prime ministers coming after him, including Takeo Fukuda, also made private visits on the end-of-the-war anniversary, but Nippon Izokukai (Japan War-Bereaved Families Association) and other groups requested the prime minister's official visits.

Later, under the Yasuhiro Nakasone government, an advisory group of Chief Cabinet Secretary Takao Fujinami reported that how official visits could be made without infringing the separation of state and religion should be considered. Nakasone made an official visit on the end-of-the-war anniversary in 1985, saying the visit would not go against the constitution if its religious character was reduced by such means as avoiding the Shinto form of worship.

Class-A controversy

Nakasone's official visit in 1985, however, brought to the fore another important question about Japanese political leaders' visiting the shrine -- its ability to cause diplomatic problems. China showed an angry response, maintaining that visiting Yasukuni Shrine, where class-A war criminals are also enshrined, could affirm Japan's war of aggression. South Korea also later intensified its criticism of Yasukuni visits amid confrontation with Japan over the two nations' perceptions of history. It was inevitable that Abe's shrine visit would offend the two nations.


The so-called class-A war criminals are 28 political and military leaders who were prosecuted for crimes against peace at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (Tokyo Trials), on charges of planning and executing aggressive wars. Apart from three people who died or were acquitted for illness during the trial, 25 of them were found guilty. Former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, Abe's grandfather, was arrested as a suspected class-A war criminal, but was exempted from prosecution.

After Japan regained independence in 1952, a movement seeking pardons for the war criminals spread. The law for supporting war-bereaved families and the pension law were revised, making bereaved families of class-A criminals eligible for survivor's pensions. Since the war dead covered by these laws were to be enshrined at Yasukuni, the issue of enshrining class-A criminals came up. Although there were disagreements, Yasukuni Shrine enshrined 14 leaders, including former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, in 1978.

The enshrinement of the class-A war criminals came to light in the following year. Although prime ministers, including Masayoshi Ohira, later visited the shrine, China did not show notable reactions. China began to voice criticisms against the prime minister's visit to Yasukuni in 1985 because Nakasone's official visit attracted attention and the shrine became a focus of concern.

Why is China so implacable about the enshrinement of class-A war criminals? When Japan and China normalized diplomatic relations in 1972, the Chinese government controlled objections by explaining to the nation that Japan's war of aggression was waged by some militarists and that ordinary Japanese people were victims. Beijing is concerned that this explanation could be shaken if Japanese political leaders visit the shrine that honors class-A war criminals. Faced with China's opposition, Nakasone gave up visiting thereafter.

There are also objections to the enshrinement of class-A war criminals in Japan. Emperor Showa (Hirohito) stopped visiting the shrine after 1975. According to a note left by Tomohiko Tomita, former grand steward of the Imperial Household Agency, Emperor Showa showed a strong sense of discomfort with the enshrinement of class-A war criminals and said, "So I have not visited (the shrine) since then." Emperor Akihito, the current emperor, has never visited the shrine since he ascended the throne in 1989.

Separate enshrinement, new memorial

As Japan's political leaders, successive prime ministers wanted to pay a tribute to the memory of people who died for the country, but they wanted to avoid causing political and diplomatic problems. To resolve this dilemma over the prime minister's visits to the shrine, there have been proposals to enshrine class-A war criminals separately and plans to create a national memorial facility in place of Yasukuni.

One way to avoid opposition by China and South Korea would be to enshrine class-A war criminals separately from Yasukuni. This was rumored under the Nakasone and Keizo Obuchi governments, and there was a move to ask the bereaved families of the enshrined leaders to withdraw enshrinement voluntarily.

However, Yasukuni Shrine opposes the proposal, saying the Shinto doctrine does not allow the spirits that were once enshrined to be removed. The government cannot force the shrine, a religious corporation, to separate the enshrined spirits due to the principle of separation of state and religion. Under the Obuchi government, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka proposed changing Yasukuni's status from a religious corporation to a special public corporation, but the proposal was not adopted.

Proposals for the government to establish a new memorial facility for the war dead in place of Yasukuni have also been put forward from time to time. A typical plan was presented after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's shrine visit incurred angry responses from China and South Korea in 2001. A report prepared by an advisory group of then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said, "We need a national, nonreligious, permanent facility for the whole nation to honor the memory of the war dead and pray for peace."

However, there are strong opinions among bereaved families and conservative politicians of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that Yasukuni Shrine is, after all, the only facility for paying tribute to the people who died in war after promising each other that they would meet at Yasukuni. The plans for a new memorial facility have not been brought into action. On a new memorial facility, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, "We are not thinking of taking steps for it right now."

posted by Kosuke at 01:24| Comment(0) | Japan