Is the postwar state melting down?: an East Asian perspective on post-Fukushima Japan
NAM Kijeong (translated by LEE Min Jeong, NAM Kijeong, Benjamin A. ENGEL)
ABSTRACT Prime Minister Abe’s return to power in Japan dealt a blow to the anti-nuclear movement and returned the country to broadly pro-nuclear policies. Meanwhile, eight years on, although the effects of the Fukushima disaster are still being felt, Japan’s anti-nuclear movement has struggled to move forward or effect changes in policy. This article argues that prospects for change will not emerge until Japan’s anti-nuclear movement is able to look beyond its national borders and articulate a perspective on nuclear power that takes into account other countries within East Asia. The 3.11 Great East Japan Earthquake revealed heretofore hidden aspects of the Japanese state and society. The truth is that Japan’s postwar state (Sengo-kokka) is actually a nuclear power state (Genpatsu-kokka), a byproduct of the US-Japan alliance under the East Asian Cold War system, which insulated nuclear policy from the standard operation of democratic politics. As a product of the Cold War, the issue of nuclear power and development extends beyond Japan’s national borders and relates to the questions of US superpower sponsorship and the armistice system in East Asia that pertain broadly to the politics of East Asia. It is important to understand that Japan’s nuclear energy is a product of the Cold War in East Asia, and the armistice system that constitutes the international system in East Asia must be discarded if Japan is to become a post-nuclear energy state.
KEYWORDS: Fukushima; Great East Japan Earthquake; Japanese state and society; nuclear power state (Genpatsu-kokka); base state (Kichi-Kokka)
NAM Kijeong, born in 1964 in Seoul, currently serves as Humanities Korea (HK) professor at the Institute for Japanese Studies, Seoul National University (SNU), Korea. He graduated from SNU and received his Ph.D. from the University of Tokyo. The title of his doctoral thesis is The Korean War and Japan: War and Peace in “Base State.” He worked as an assistant professor, associate professor, and tenure professor at Tohoku University from 2001 to 2005, and also at Kookmin Unviersity from 2005 to 2009. His recent works include, The Birth of a Base-State: Japan’s Korean War (Seoul National University Press, 2016), “Similar Conditions, Different Paths?: Japan’s Normalization of Relations with Korea and Vietnam” (Journal of Contemporary Korean Studies, 2015), “The Reality of Military Base State and the Evolution of Pacifism: Japan’s Korean War and Peace” (The Review of Korean Studies, 2014).
LEE Min Jeong was born in 1993 in Seoul, South Korea. After graduating from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. with a B.S. in Regional and Comparatice Studies, she moved to Seoul and received a Master’s degree in International Studies at Seoul National University. She also worked as research assistant at Institute for Japanese Studies, Seoul National University.
Benjamin A. ENGEL is a PhD candidate in Korean Studies at the Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University. He is also a Researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, Seoul National University. His research interests include US-South Korea relations during the Cold War, human rights in US foreign policy, and democratization in East Asia.