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[Herald Interview] Japan civil group vows to defend pacifist constitution

Mom-turned-activist says efforts to award Nobel Peace Prize to Japanese protecting peace will never falter

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Published : 2015-10-06 19:00
Updated : 2015-10-06 19:00

Public outcry persists in Japan against Tokyo’s recent legislation that expands the role of its military, and among them is a civic group led by a mom-turned-activist pushing to get a Nobel Peace Prize for those attempting to uphold the Japanese pacifist Constitution.

Despite the latest setback, the campaign will remain undeterred in their promotion of peace as the single most important value of human kind, the 37-year-old activist said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

Naomi Dakasu speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

“Despite the decision to pass the laws that are against public opinion and democratic procedure, the (pacifist) Constitution remains unchanged,” Naomi Dakasu said, lamenting that the recent legislation is a flagrant violation of the Japanese Constitution’s Article 9 that outlaws war as a means to settle international disputes.

From being an ordinary citizen to leading one of the most ambitious campaigns for peace in Japan, the mother of two said she grew up hearing about the brutality of World War II from her grandmother. When she studied overseas in her 20s, she realized she should do something to join the antiwar movement after meeting with classmates coming from war-torn countries.

What prompted her to take action was Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s return to power in 2012 and his renewed efforts to change the article that bars use of military force for Japan except for self-defense.

Having seen her close friends‘ aloofness towards Abe’s push to amend the pacifist constitution, she decided to form a campaign that would relay to the public how valuable Article 9 is and remind them of the tragic nature of war.

“As a mother, I don’t want to make my kids live in a country where war can happen. Whenever I think about the agony that my kids would suffer if a war breaks out, I cannot help but shed tears. Waging war is the last thing that human beings should ever do,” she said.

“Telling each and every one of the Japanese citizens that they are nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize will make them feel more responsible about their role in protecting Article 9. This awakening will lead to a change in the nation and ultimately its leader,” she said of the campaign. 

She initially pushed to get Article 9 itself nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. But the Nobel Prize Committee said that the prize could only be awarded to the people and organizations. She and her colleagues changed the nomination to be about the Japanese people who want to protect the Article 9.

There have always been concerns about the efficacy of the movement, given the fact that Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its ally Komeito controls Japan’s parliament, with skeptics questioning whether the campaign could drum up enough public support.

But she remained confident, highlighting that public opinion has shifted in favor of protecting Article 9 over the decades against Abe’s accelerated push to amend the constitution.

“According to a poll by Kyodo News Agency in July, only 32 percent supported the revision while about 60 percent opposed the move. It demonstrates changes in public opinion because, in 1994 polls, 55 percent supported the move while 34 percent opposed,” she said.

“Securing support is the key to realizing our objective. Thankfully, some lawmakers are starting to endorse the movement and share our cause that Article 9 should be protected. Media outlets are also throwing support to the movement,” she said.

She also dismissed concerns that the decisions to include average Japanese people as a nominee would end up awarding right-wing politicians, such as Abe, who push to change the Article 9. She said launching the campaign in itself is meaningful by being able to educate the public, rather than worrying about the actual win.

“I think the move will give us an opportunity to change the mindset towards peace. I hope people treat peace not as something that could be brought by someone else, but rather a value that we should build by ourselves,” she said.

“What we shouldn’t do is do nothing because we are worried about who would win. If the Nobel Prize Committee deems it inappropriate awarding Japanese as a whole, then we can move to support other types of nominee, such as other advocacy groups for the Article 9,” she said.

In August, tens of thousands of protestors gathered outside Japan’s parliament to call for the lawmakers to scrap the bill that expands the use of military force. Some even demanded Abe resign.

She also joined the movement for incorporating into the U.N. charter the right to peace -- a more proactive form of the right to living in peaceful conditions -- by imposing a ban on the use of military force and ensuring the right of people to deny military service.

Critics said that seeking the right to peace in Northeast Asia could be “premature” as the security landscape in the region is still uncertain: a military rivalry between Japan and China and constant hostility between the two Koreas who are still technically at war. 

Stressing the unique characteristics of the constitution -- she claims Article 9 makes Japan’s the “only” constitution in the world that stipulates the right to peace -- she argued that turning the right to peace into a universal right would lead to peace and security in Northeast Asia and the international community.

“If the U.N. declares the right to peace as a fundamental and universal right, those who do not have their equivalent to Article 9 can use the U.N. declaration as a way to achieve peace both at home and abroad,” she said.

“One thing great about Article 9 is its acknowledgement of not only Japanese but also other peoples’ right to peace. Based upon this, we will lay the groundwork for a peace community where nations solve their problems through dialogue and start to engage in arms-reduction,” she said

Impressed by her efforts to protect the pacifist constitution, a Korean civic group chose Dakasu and the “Article 9 Association,” a group of Japanese advocates for the pacifist constitution, as conominees for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, whose winner is expected to be announced in two months.

In January 2015, 142 Korean lawmakers, including those from both the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance, endorsed the nomination of Dakasu and the “Article 9 Association,” whose members include Kenzaburo Oe, a Nobel laureate in Literature.

“Not only did I realize how many Koreans worry about Japan’s attempt to arm themselves by revising the constitution, I was impressed by Koreans’ support for those who opposed the war and work hard to build a peaceful community in the region,” she said.

By Yeo Jun-suk (jasonyeo@heraldcorp.com)

Choi Seong-yeol contributed to this article.-Ed.