TT-518 -- Child Abductions, but not by North Koreans. Ebiz news from Japan

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.
(http://www.terrie.com)

General Edition Sunday, May 24, 2009 Issue No. 518

+++ INDEX

- What's new
- News
- Candidate roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming events
- Corrections/Feedback
- News credits

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+++ WHAT'S NEW

After the U.S. presidential election, the first foreign
trip by his new Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was
to Japan. This was presumably to send a symbol to the
Japanese that the U.S. values their relationship and not
to cash in all those U.S. Treasuries that they are
holding! Then in a symbolic action within a symbolic trip,
Clinton visited with the Japanese families whose children
and relatives were abducted by the North Koreans over a
30-year period since the 1970's.

Clinton told reporters, "On a very personal and, you know,
human basis, I don't know that I'll be meeting as a
secretary of state any more than I will be meeting with
them as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister." This was
the right thing to say in response to a situation that has
the Japanese public outraged.

But there was one segment of the population in Japan that
felt Clinton's words were more like daggers than bandages.
That segment is the foreign parents of children from
international marriages, who have had their children
kidnapped by the Japanese parent back to Japan, never to
see them again. For these people the North Korean
abductions of possibly 70 or 80 people pales into
insignificance when compared to the hundreds (yes, that's
the number the CRC-Japan people are stating) of kids
abducted to Japan.

And while there have been a handful of those North Korean
abductees returned to Japan, there has NEVER been a
successful return of a mixed nationality child to the
foreign parent through diplomacy or court action. Further,
U.S. officials say they only know of 3 cases where mutually
agreed returns have occurred. And yet many court actions
have been brought against Japanese abductors over the
years.

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

This unbelievable state of affairs has started to cause
major headaches for both legal and diplomatic agencies of
Japan's allies, and the U.S. in particular appears to be
looking for ways to pressure Japan to mend its ways and to
institute the necessary legal changes needed so as to
support and enforce an eventual signing of the 1980 Hague
Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child
Abduction. Japan is the only member of the Group of Seven
not to have signed this important treaty.

The pressure ratcheted up several weeks ago when the
embassies of the U.S., Canada, Britain, and France, along
with various representatives from other nations and foreign
parents trying to get their kids back, participated in a
joint conference to discuss the issue and taking action
that will precipitate change. While similar conferences
have happened in previous years without much more than a
bout of hand-wringing, this time, the U.S. and the other
Japanese allies held a rare press conference to urge Japan
to sign the treaty. Furthermore, they provided information
on cases where foreign parents have been cut off from
their kids.

The U.S. said it has been informed of 73 abduction cases
of 104 kids with a U.S. parent but where that parent is not
resident in Japan, and another 29 cases where the U.S.
parent is here. The other allied nations reported an
additional 95 cases. As this writer can testify, these
cases are just the tip of the iceberg. Most foreign parents
give up after going through the farcical proceedings of the
Japanese Family Courts -- realizing that there is no
justice when there is no law to even enact justice in
the first place.

For, above all, we need to remember that Japan has no
concept of joint child custody and that abduction by one
parent is not a crime. The judiciary in its wisdom still
follows the feudal "Iie system" (House system) whereby it
believes that the child should belong to one house only.

Certainly, having a child undergo emotional surgery by
cutting off one of the parents is a lot cleaner than the
bickering and fighting that many western parents go through
in their shared custody divorces. But for those parents
adult enough to share their kids civilly, the law offers
only heartbreak and no compromise. Officially, of the
166,000 children involved in divorces in Japan every year,
less than 20% of them wind up with the father, and of
course in the case of foreign fathers, the number is zero.

One particularly poignant case of child abduction does not
even include the Japanese parent absconding with the
child, but rather her parents -- who were able to convince
a Japanese judge to give the child to them based on
trumped up charges, rather than return her to her foreign
father.

The story of Paul Wong is a story that epitomizes the
problem -- that of the judiciary and their slanted views
on untrustworthy foreigners versus nice decent Japanese.
Wong was happily married in the U.S. to a Japanese women,
Akemi, and after many years of partnership, they finally
had a daughter, Kaya. Unfortunately, his wife was
diagnosed with a brain tumor before the birth in 2004 and
this got much worse following the birth. Akemi and daughter
Kaya went to stay with the grandparents in Japan one last time
before she died in 2005. Akemi on her death bed asked Wong
to leave Kaya in Japan with her parents for a while, so
that Kaya could learn something about her heritage.

Wong kept his promise, and after his wife died he made the
decision to settle down in Japan so that Kaya could
continue seeing her grandparents. He left Kaya with the
grandparents while working his lawyer job in Hong Kong and
looking for a transfer to Japan. He commuted back and forth
for a year and eventually found a position in Japan.

After returning to Japan, he found that the grandparents
wouldn't let Kaya return to him, and they eventually
claimed to the police that Wong had sexually molested Kaya
during a visit -- something which has since been disproven
after a medical exam. Wong took the case to court, and
despite evidence that contradicted the grandparents claims,
the Judge decided that "The grandparents would have no
reason to not make such claims," so he sided with them and
awarded custody to them, despite them being in their 70's.
After they die, Kaya will become a ward of the state.

And thus Wong was arbitrarily banned from access to his own
daughter. He knows where she lives and where she goes to
school, but thanks to trespass laws, he is unable to visit
her. Wong reckons one of the grandparents' motives for
taking Kaya is the monthly government stipend they get for
her, given that they are desperately poor themselves --
and of course now they have a small piece of their dead
daughter, so the emotional ties must be strong as well.

So what to do? Wong has since spent millions of yen trying
to work with the Japanese legal system, but has been
stymied at every step. As other foreign parents quickly
find out, there is no pre-trial disclosure of evidence and
no cross-examination rights. Further, there is no ability
to bring in outside counselors and child psychology
experts to testify for either side. In the end, the judge
makes their own decision, based on serial presentations,
with little apparent interest in whether each side is
telling the truth. Indeed, several years ago, this writer
interviewed a retired Family Court judge who intimated
that he expected both sides in a child custody dispute
to be lying, so "evidence" didn't really mean much.

So there really isn't much that Wong can do, except hope
that the recent pressure for Japan to sign the Hague
convention will start a legal review of the current
family law system. There are over 15 domestic NPO groups
who are hoping for the same changes -- since these
outmoded laws also affect Japanese parents as much as
foreign ones. But we think change will be unlikely.

So perhaps Wong should take the advice of an old friend of
this writer, who had a single piece of advice to counter
the Japanese condition...

"...Get yourself another family, and next time don't get
divorced in Japan!"

For more on this subject, go to www.crcjapan.com.

********************

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+++ NEWS

- John Roos next U.S. ambassador?
- Makeup booths debut in stations
- U.S./China outsourcing firm to start BPO
- Mosquitoes irritate teens enough for them to leave
- Watch copper output

-> John Roos next U.S. ambassador?

Rumors abound that the next Ambassador to Japan, as yet
unnamed, will be John Roos, the CEO of Wilson, Sonsini,
Goodrich & Rosati, a major law firm in the silicon valley
area. The White House has not commented on the reports
yet. Roos was a fundraiser for the Obama campaign and
otherwise helped in the election. (Source: TT commentary
from mercurynews.com, May 21, 2009)

http://www.mercurynews.com/nationworld/ci_12422929

-> Makeup booths debut in stations

When a girl's gotta go, she's gotta go -- to do her makeup,
that is. Tokyo Metro has just installed a makeup booth
facility at Ikebukuro and JR is going to put one in at
Yokohama in June. The stations will be charging just
JPY300/hour for women to touch up their faces in private,
as well as try out samples that are provided by sponsors
to the stations. The booths come in a cluster, and include
a mirror, vanity cabinet, hair dryer, and of course the
cosmetic samples. (Source: TT commentary from nikkei.co.jp,
May 22, 2009)

http://www.nni.nikkei.co.jp/e/ac/tnks/Nni20090522D21HH390.htm

-> U.S./China outsourcing firm to start BPO

In a sign of the times, U.S. outsourcing company Achievo
(WHO came up with THAT name?), has announced that in
addition to software and IT outsourcing, it will expand
into Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). The company will
use its back office operations in China to help Japanese
companies handle customer information input, payroll
accounting, and other repetitive administrative tasks. The
company reckons it can save Japanese corporate customers
about 2/3 of their current costs. (Source: TT commentary
from nikkei, May 22, 2009)

http://www.nni.nikkei.co.jp/e/ac/tnks/Nni20090521D21JSN01.htm

-> Mosquitoes irritate teens enough for them to leave

The Kitashikahama Park authority in Adachi-ku, Tokyo has
installed The Mosquito high-pitch speaker devices in the
park, to drive delinquent teenagers away. According to park
officials, the device puts out a sound frequency of 17kHz,
which teens can hear but which older people who slowly lose
their hearing in the high frequency ranges, cannot. The
devices are on from 23:00 in the evening through to 04:00am
the next morning. ***Ed: Pretty cool stuff. No doubt there
will be some parents tempted to put one of these things
outside their teenage daughter's bedroom!** (Source: TT
commentary from reuters.com, May 22, 2009)

http://www.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUSTRE54L1DX20090522

-> Watch copper output

If you want to know what the smart money thinks about the
direction of the economy, watch raw materials output. For
the auto and electronics industries, people watch copper in
particular, and the good news is that according to the
Japan Copper and Brass Association, the nation's output of
rolled copper jumped 28.7% in April from the month before.
The bad news is that the 41,709-tonne output was still
48.6% down from the output for April 2008. ***Ed: Just wait
until all-electric cars are available, and shipments of
this raw material will soar.** (Source: TT commentary from
reuters.com, May 23, 2009)

http://tinyurl.com/qw3vrd

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.

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+++ CORRECTIONS/FEEDBACK

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by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and
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=> No corrections or feedback this week.

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+++ ABOUT US

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