TT-469 -- Japan to sign Hague Treaty on Kids, 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 18, 2008 Issue No. 469

+++ INDEX

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

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+++ WHAT'S NEW

Two weeks ago, the Japanese government made a notable
announcement that may make Japan more compatible with the
legal conventions used internationally, and will be of
particular benefit to non-Japanese spouses of Japanese. The
announcement was that by 2010, Japan would sign the the
1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International
Child Abduction, an international legal construct that
attempts to deal with the thorny issue of court
jurisdiction when children of international marriages are
moved cross-border, often by a parent trying to thwart a
court ruling in the previous jurisdiction.

Currently, Japan is known as a haven for disaffected
Japanese spouses who, in getting divorced, abscond with
their kids back to Japan. Once in Japan they can dare their
foreign spouses to try getting the kids back -- something
that despite around 13,000 international divorces a year
in Japan and more overseas, has NEVER happened.

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

The reason for this astounding statistic, that of zero
repatriations of abducted children from international
marriages after the kids have been abducted to Japan, is
entirely to do with the attitudes of the Japanese judiciary
and their wish to maintain 19th Century customs in the face
of international pressure. Japan has ratified many parts of
the Hague Convention treaties over the years, but in terms
of repatriation of kids, they have been claiming for 20
years now to be "studying" the issue. That's Japan-speak
for "we're not interested in making any changes".

Our guess is that the recent announcement occurred after
pressure from the USA and Canada, in particular. Things
started to come to a head about 5 years ago, when fed up by
repeating occurences of child abductions from both of those
countries, and despite court decisions there for custody to
go to the local parent, the consular staff of a number of these
foreign embassies started holding annual summits to discuss
the problem. These discussions escalated to pressure on
foreign governmental agencies and politicians in some of
Japan's biggest trading partners -- and finally someone
spoke to the Japanese government at a sufficiently high
enough level to get their attention.

The subject became especially sensitive when the Japanese
were at the peak of their indignation over the North Korean
abductions of Japanese citizens several years ago, and were
seeking international support. All the while, Japanese law
allowed similar types of abductions here.

In case you're not up on the state of play, there were
44,000 international marriages registered in Japan in 2006,
and probably a good percentage of that number again of
Japanese marrying overseas but not bothering to register
back in Japan. The divorce rate within Japan is about 30%,
and for Japanese living overseas (take the US as an
example), it is typical of the local population, so more
like 50%-60%. Thus there are a lot of international
separations -- many of which are not amicable.

But it's when the kids are involved that things start
getting really nasty. Usually in the case of a divorced
international couple going to court overseas and after
custody is awarded, if one of the parents fears a possible
adbuction situation, the couple can be placed under a
restraining order not to travel without the other spouse's
consent. The USA, Canada, Australia, and UK all do this.
The kids' passports will often be withheld as well.
Unfortunately, there have been a number of cases where the
Japanese spouse then "loses" the kids Japanese passports
and applies to the local consulate for replacements -- only
to hop a flight back to Tokyo a few hours later, with the
kids in tow.

Once in Japan, the jurisdiction suddenly falls to the
Japanese courts, even if there is a foreign arrest warrant
out for the absconding partner, and in several cases, even
if there is an Interpol arrest warrant out. In Japan,
there is no concept of joint custody, and the partner
allowed to keep the kids is the one that has held them for
the previous few months.

The courts' opinion here is that kids need a stable
environment, and the act of being the only guardian for a
period of time, even if that guardian was in hiding,
qualifies for this -- unless the kids are under 5 years
old, in which case they will typically be returned to the
mother (if the father is the abscondee), or to the father
if the mother has deceased. But not always. There are
cases where the Japanese mother has died and the
Japanese grandparents have kept the kids, instead of
returning them to the foreign father. You can read more
about this sad state of affairs at
http://www.crnjapan.com/en/.

You won't believe that this kind of thing is still going on
in a first-world country like Japan in the 21st century.

The Japanese court attitude thereby encourages Japanese
spouses wanting to hang on to their kids to hightail it
back to Japan and lie low for 6 months. Currently there has
been no case, even after the Japanese Supreme Court has
awarded rightful custody to the foreign parent, where
that aggrieved foreign parent has been able to go get their
kids back. The reason is quite simply that Japan doesn't
have a mechanism for properly enforcing civil suit
judgments, and typically a breach of an order in a civil
suit does not result in the offender being subject to a
subsequent criminal suit.

Thus, the Hague Convention on child abduction provides a
mechanism whereby if children are illegally removed from
their country of habitual residence, they must be
returned, and the jurisdiction for subsequent court
decisions is taken out of the hands of the Japanese courts.
This is the first step in making international court
rulings involving kids, stick.

We believe that this is going to be a long and slow
process, but once the treaty is signed and the first few
cases start to be heard, either the kids involved will be
returned or the parent trying to hang on to them will
create an international brouhaha that will highlight to the
world the lack of protection of rights for international
parents here in Japan. Who knows, maybe this will start
another process -- that of allowing foreigners actually
residing within Japan to also regain the simple right of
access to their children after a divorce.

But in reality we think this level of change will take
several more generations and a lot more foreigners living
in Japan to achieve...

...The information janitors/

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+++ NEWS

- Coin-sized fuel Cell
- Construction firm bankruptcies on the rise
- Japan surplus stockpile to hit the market
- Hitachi Joho to resell CDC Software enterprise products
- Japan hedge fund shuts down

-> Coin-sized fuel Cell

Sharp has announced that it has developed a fuel cell about
the same size as a coin-sized lithium battery, to power
toys and portable digital electronics. The cell runs on
methanol and has a power density of 0.3W/cc. (Source: TT
commentary from nikkei.co.jp, May 16, 2008)

http://www.nni.nikkei.co.jp/AC/TNKS/Nni20080515D15JFA09.htm

-> Construction firm bankruptcies on the rise

Teikoku Databank has said that there has been a 41% surge
in the number of bankruptcies of construction firms leaving
behind debts of JPY10m or more. In April there were 274
such bankrupties, with total debts of JPY72.2bn. TDB says
that many of the failed firms are small regional
contractors, indicating a serious systemic problem in the
industry. The expectation is that the fall-out will spread
to subcontractors and suppliers. Japan has 520,000
construction firms overall. (Source: TT commentary from
nikkei.co.jp, May 16, 2008)

http://www.nni.nikkei.co.jp/AC/TNKS/Nni20080515D15JFA17.htm

-> Japan surplus stockpile to hit the market

It is a little known fact that trade friction between the
US and Japan some years ago has caused Japan to build up a
massive stockpile of unwanted but WTO mandated purchases of
US-grown rice. Currently Japan is obligated to buy millions
of tons of US rice a year, that is mainly sold as animal
feed, and has 1.5m tonnes in storage that it doesn't want.
Experts say that if this surplus is released on to the
world markets, as it appears the WTO will allow, then the
global rice shortage will disappear overnight and the price
of rice will fall by as much as 50% by June. (Source: TT
commentary from timesonline.co.uk, May 16, 2008)

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/natural_...

-> Hitachi Joho to resell CDC Software enterprise products

Hitachi Joho, a major Japanese SI firm and subsidiary of
the Hitachi company, has announced that it will become a
reseller for CDC Software products, concentrating in
particular on sales of Ross Enterprise ERP and Pivotal CRM
solutions. The announcement comes at a time when CDC
Software has reorganized its distribution channel in Japan
and is taking a more active role in growing and servicing
the Japan market. ***Ed: What is particularly interesting
about this announcement is that while ERP and CRM were
over serviced markets 18 months ago, the various mergers of
US and European players in the two sectors has
significantly thinned the number of competitors active in
Japan.** (Source: TT commentary from cbronline.com,
May 16, 2008)

http://www.cbronline.com/article_news.asp?guid=0C3E27BB-AE4A-4933-AE22-7...

-> Japan hedge fund shuts down

Although it's hard to imagine another year as bad for
Japan-focused hedge funds as 2007, 2008 hasn't
started out too well either, and at least one fund this
month, Swiss-owned Hedge Vision Japan have decided
to call it quits. The long/short fund was a good performer,
in the top 25% of results for 2007, however, the
uncertainty of January caused its assets to drop 14% and
the major investor, a British firm, decided it had had
enough of the Japan markets and pulled out. (Source: TT
commentary from asianinvestor.net, May 16, 2008)

http://www.asianinvestor.net/article.aspx?CIaNID=76109

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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***------------------------****-------------------------***

+++ CANDIDATE ROUND UP/VACANCIES

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+++ UPCOMING EVENTS/ANNOUNCEMENTS

------- Marcus Evans Events - Supported by J@pan Inc ------

Compensation and Benefits Forum, 27th – 28th May, Tokyo
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Events announcements are priced at JPY50,000 per week.
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***------------------------****-------------------------***

+++ CORRECTIONS/FEEDBACK

In this section we run comments and corrections submitted
by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and
amplify our points, by email, to editors@terrie.com.

-> No corrections or feedback this week.

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+++ ABOUT US

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Comments

It is good to see this story getting more exposure. I have blogged about it and will continue to do so here http://becauseimright-nocomme1.blogspot.com/2008/05/kidnapped-by-japan-h... in the hopes that this situation will change.

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