Every July, the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals (JINF) presents its prestigious Kokkiken Japan Study Award to researchers whose work represents the best in scholarship and understanding of Japan.
Many of the works recognized by the awards over the years also reflect the dangers faced by Japan. This year, the awards highlight with particular clarity the ways in which scholars who study Japan must navigate dangerous territory in order to tell the historical and geopolitical truth.
The awards, announced on July 2, 2021, are to be celebrated this year in an online award ceremony and separate online lecture later in July.
American Analyst Toshi Yoshihara’s Research Highlights Threats to Japan-U.S. Security
Toshi Yoshihara, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, has been awarded the eighth annual Kokkiken Japan Study Award for his 2020 book Dragon against the Sun: Chinese Views of Japanese Seapower. As reported in the July 2, 2021 issue of the Sankei Shimbun, Yoshihara is a widely respected expert on the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), and in 2010 published Red Star Over the Pacific: China’s Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy. “Sounding the alarm to Japan over the gap in battle potential with the Chinese Navy,” the Sankei headline reads.
The publisher’s description of Dragon against the Sun makes the same point with equal urgency:
“Over the past decade, the Chinese navy overtook Japan’s maritime service in critical measures of power, including fleet size, aggregate tonnage, and firepower. China eclipsing Japan in naval power could introduce unwelcome strategic trends. It may well fuel an even more intense competition between Tokyo and Beijing, two seafaring rivals that already regard each other with deep suspicion. Japan’s displacement at sea could increase the probability of deterrence failure in the next crisis. It threatens to undercut U.S. confidence in Japan’s capacity to fulfill its allied responsibilities, sowing acrimony within the security partnership.”
Focus: Toshi Yoshihara
“For over a decade,” Yoshihara says, “I watched with dismay as China’s naval modernization eroded Japan’s security.”
He adds that, “To me, the naval power shift is a symptom of a much more profound challenge to Japan and to its closest ally, the United States. Beijing’s ambitions to achieve primacy in Asia suggest that an even stronger China, if unthwarted, will unravel the long peace that Japan and the United States have presided over Asia.”
The prospects for acquiescing in the People’s Republic of China’s ongoing takeover attempt of the Asia-Pacific are daunting, Yoshihara continues.
“While Tokyo and Washington are fully committed to defending the current regional order against Chinese predations,” he says, “China’s rise will demand ever greater allied resources and cooperation to frustrate Beijing’s plans. If Japan, the most capable and critical frontline state in the Western Pacific, cannot keep up with China, then the prospects for allied success will darken. That is why Japan’s relative decline is so worrisome.”
Lee Woo Young and Hwang Ui Won, Fighting for Historical Truth
China is not the only malign actor in East Asia, unfortunately.
Both Lee, a former Naksungdae Institute of Economic Research committee member, and Hwang, CEO of MediaWatch, were instrumental in publication of the Korean translation of renowned Japanese historical and political researcher Professor Tsutomu Nishioka’s book, A Complete Fabrication: The Issue of Wartime Requisitioned Workers.
Professor Nishioka’s work makes a point which Lee, Hwang, and many other conscientious South Korean scholars have long emphasized: wartime laborers from the Korean peninsula were not dragooned into service by Japan, but rather went freely to work on the Japanese home islands, where they stood to receive better pay and better working conditions.
Professor Lee also contributed to the two-volume landmark series Anti-Japan Tribalism: The Root of the Korea-Japan Crisis, edited by Lee Woo Young’s Naksungdae colleague and former Seoul National University economics professor Lee Young-hoon.
Focus: Lee Woo Young
In his remarks on winning the Kokkiken award, Lee Woo Young (aka Lee Wooyoun) stressed the perilous state of South Korea-Japan relations as one of his main motivators for wanting to see Professor Nishioka’s work published in Korean.
“The Moon Jae In administration has effectively nullified the 2015 agreement between the Republic of Korea and Japan on the issue of comfort women,” Lee said. “In 2018, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Korea, handing down a judgment regarding the issue of wartime laborers (requisitioned workers), dismissed the legal foundation of the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations between the Republic of Korea and Japan, the basis for their bilateral relationship. As a result, relations between the two countries are in an unprecedentedly fragile state.”
- [Bookmark] Harvard Thesis on Comfort Women Foretells the Decline of ‘Anti-Japan Tribalism’
- [Bookmark] Harvard Professor’s Paper on Comfort Women Will Become Academia’s Pandora’s Box
- EDITORIAL | Comfort Women Verdict: Cue for Moon Administration to Cool Down
Focus: Hwang Ui Won
The extent of the threat posed by anti-truth forces in South Korea was revealed in Hwang Ui Won’s remarks on winning the Kokkiken award.
“The Republic of Korea has been plagued by the issue of censorship — censorship primarily by the ‘rightist political force’ until the 1990s and that by the ‘leftist press power’ between the 1990s and now,” Hwang noted. “This new censorship regime has kept manipulating information in our society. With regard to overseas targets, it has been waged most vehemently against liberal conservatives in Japan, especially the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and others that represent the liberal conservative camp in Japan. Its consequences have been so serious that even in 2018—just three years ago—a public opinion poll found that in the Republic of Korea, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was two times more popular than Japan’s Shinzo Abe.”
Japan Institute for National Fundamentals president Yoshiko Sakurai wanted to encourage Lee and Hwang in their quest to tell the historical truth in South Korea, according to a report in The Sankei Shimbun.
Background of the Kokkiken Awards
A committee of scholars and opinion leaders, such as University of Tokyo professors emeriti Sukehiro Hirakawa and Takashi Ito, and JINF president Yoshiko Sakurai, decides on the works which show forth the leading Japan-related research for a given year.
In 2019, for example, Kobe University Professor Tosh Minohara won the Kokkiken Japan Study Encouragement Award for his research on Japanese immigration to the United States, and eminent historian Ikuhiko Hata won the Kokkiken Japan Study Special Award for his masterly study of the comfort women issue.
In 2016, Mongolian-born scholar Yang Haiying (Ohno Akira) won the Kokkiken Japan Study Award for his groundbreaking research on the modern history of the People’s Republic of China, Mongolia, and Tibet, and researcher Robert D. Eldridge, former Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff with the United States Marine Forces in Japan, won the Kokkiken Japan Study Encouragement Award for his political history of Okinawa and the Senkaku Islands .
In 2017, former New York Times Tokyo bureau chief Henry Scott Stokes was recognized for his insights into Allied historical perceptions of Japan, while University of Miami political science professor June Teufel Dreyer won an award for her book Middle Kingdom and Empire of the Rising Sun: Sino-Japanese Relations, Past and Present.
Courage Needed Now More than Ever
The need to encourage those who tell the truth was made even more apparent earlier in 2021, when some South Korean and American academics waged a death threat and smear campaign against Harvard Law Professor J. Mark Ramseyer. Professor Ramseyer had written a paper conveying the historical facts about the comfort women, after which he was subjected to months of ongoing abuse by the academic establishment in the U.S. and South Korea. As Ramseyer, Hwang, and Lee amply demonstrate, courage is essential when speaking the truth.
The format of this year’s Kokkiken awards ceremony — online, due to the ravages of the Wuhan virus — also underscores the need for courage.
Japan is facing multipronged threats, and the Kokkiken awards are a timely reminder that the Land of the Rising Sun is on the front lines of freedom in East Asia, and the world.
Author: Jason Morgan