New Jersey Japanese School Wins Takeshima Lawsuit

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    In September 2011, an individual named Jay J. Choi (최좌성) sued the New Jersey Japanese School for using a standard Japanese social studies textbook, and the state board of education for allowing the school to operate. Choi, represented by the Korean law firm Kim & Bae, P.C., claimed that teaching children that the island of Takeshima in Shimane Prefecture belongs to Japan is “inappropriate, biased, intellectually dishonest, and a form of propaganda”, and is furthermore “intolerance to cultural diversity”. Choi, who does not know anybody at the school and does not have any children attending school in New Jersey, did not offer any comment on whether a Korean school teaching children about Dokdo would be similarly illegal propaganda. This frivolous legal action taken against by a random angry person against a small elementary school was proudly reported by the Korea Times and the national Chosun Nippo. Finally, justice can be served against the dastardly plans of the Japanese to teach their national government’s official stance on the Takeshima dispute!

    The dismissal of this suit took roughly a week, which I imagine was mostly clerical work. Gail M. Cookson, the judge tasked with examining Choi’s claims, found the following issues:

    1. Choi does not seem to have any relation to the school. He downloaded a picture of a textbook which he thinks they are using from the Internet. He did not claim to know anyone who goes there or even to have talked to anyone who knows anyone there. He claimed to live somewhere near the school but actually lives fourteen miles away. In short, he has no standing.

    2. Even if he had standing, “there would still be no action upon which relief may be granted,” that is, no law is relevant to his complaint.
    3. Even if there was a relevant law, the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that minute details of public school textbooks cannot be revised through lawsuits.
    4. Even if the Supreme Court did not have such a clear stance, there is no standard explaining how territory disputes must show “tolerance to cultural diversity”.
    5. Even if there was such an absurdly specific standard, private schools have no obligation to abide by state standards (e.g. religion classes at Catholic schools).

    In a footnote, Judge Cookson also offered her innovative solution to the Liancourt Rocks dispute, which we would love to hear Choi’s opinion on: “It would certainly be tempting to suggest that this historic Asian-Pacific dispute, which apparently remains the cause of wide-ranging emotions and politics on both sides, be settled through a designation of one islet to each country.”

    Judge Cookson’s dismissal of the lawsuit does not seem to have attracted the notice of the Korea Times or Chosun Nippo. However, Japanese Sankei News did pick up on the story eventually, and quoted Mr. Kim of Kim & Bae, who said that he was unhappy with the judge’s decision, and might be tempted to sue other Japanese schools, apparently in hope that some judge might eventually discover a previously unknown law that could be used to punish anyone who teaches about Takeshima in America.

    Contributor Bio: Avery teaches English somewhere near Takeo. When he is not translating things, he is probably visiting haikyo or researching weird footnotes in Japanese history. He can be reached on Twitter at @ahm.

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