Chronology of Bullying and Criminalization
(Mikyoung Kim vs. Hiroshima City University, 2005-present)
Late fall, 2004: Applied for a faculty position at Hiroshima City University (HCU)-Hiroshima Peace Institute (HPI) in Japan after finding a job opening advertisement on the International Studies Association (ISA) website. Was teaching at Portland State University (PSU) as Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence in Portland, Oregon, USA.
Early spring, 2005: Was interviewed as a finalist in San Diego, CA., USA, by three-member search committee composed of two American Japanologist and a HCU-HPI faculty member.
Late spring, 2005: Notified of hiring decision as Assistant Professor.
September, 2005: Moved to Hiroshima, Japan from Portland, Oregon, USA.
October 1, 2005: Began at HCU-HPI as international search faculty. Did not speak, read or write a word of Japanese since the Japanese language skills were not required. It was not a part of the contract. Work was conducted only in English with several bilingual office staffs.
October, 2005: The wife of a HCU colleague living in the same faculty housing area walked into my house without my invitation around 7:00 P.M. one day. She did not speak a word during her self-guided tour of my house. And opened every door and every drawer of my furniture. After the abrupt invasion of my privacy, she simply walked out again without saying a word. I was baffled and shocked. A couple of days later, she told me in English “There is a Korean man living in this area. He is in real estate business.” Since then her probing in my personal life continued for years. I tried to remain friendly with the woman because I was the only non-Japanese single female faculty living in that housing compound.
March 24, 2006: Contributed an op-ed piece “Hiroshima’s Peace (히로시마의 평화는 언제쯤?)” to the Busan Ilbo, one of the leading regional papers in Korea. Received threatening emails sent to my HCU email address from Japanese rightwing groups: “go back to Korea,” “an essay like this would make your compatriots dislike Japan,” “worry about your own country’s long list of problems,” etc.
I was called into HPI Director’s office for a meeting where the office manager, Ms. S., also attended. And was informed that the rightwing group based in Sendai City of Miyagi Prefecture translated the op-ed piece into Japanese and circulated it to Hiroshima City Mayor, Chair of Hiroshima City Council and HCU President among others. Was surprised to know that Japanese rightwing monitors Korea’s local papers that closely. It signaled the beginning of my difficult relationship with the rightwing groups.
Early Spring, 2006: Diagnosed with panic disorder at N. Clinic in Hiroshima and placed on medication.
September, 2006: ABE SHINZO’s first term begins.
October 1, 2008: Promoted to tenured Associate Professor. Began to give interviews to international media such as Fox Radio (US), Voice of America (US), TBS Radio (Korea), E-FM Radio (Korea), To Vima (Greece), Channel News Asia (Singapore), etc. Believed that tenure system would protect me from the threats of rightwing groups.
March, 2009: Began contributing to The Chosun Ilbo, one of leading dailies in Korea.
December, 2009: Began contributing to The Korea Times, one of the leading English dailies in Korea.
April 1, 2010: HCU was corporatized. University president became CEO of the educational corporation.
April, 2011: KAZUMI MATSUI of Liberal Democratic Party began his first term as Hiroshima City Mayor. During the campaign, he wanted to brighten up Hiroshima’s image and revitalize its economy.
Fall, 2011: Applied for Northeast Asia History Foundation Grant of Korea on territorial disputes in East Asia. Notified of selection on the research topic of “Japanese Public Opinion on Territorial Disputes.”
Winter, 2011: HCU refused to approve the central management of project’s budget at USD10,000. And ordered me to conduct the research as personal project. HCU wanted nothing to do with my research.
February, 2012: The territory project began. HCU-HPI prohibited my use of the HPI mail box and copy machine for the opinion survey. It was my personal agenda, the office director, Mr. S., made it clear.
May, 2012: Won Distinguished Research Paper Award by the Academy of Korean Studies. It was for the article I wrote, “Gender, Work and Resistance: South Korean Textile Industry in the 1970” for Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 41, No.3: 411-30. HCU ignored and dismissed the award which could advance its international standing. And yet I was not surprised by its refusal to acknowledge my achievement for I was a Korean faculty.
Spring, 2012: Became a member of group project based in UK funded by the Korean Studies Promotion Service at the AKS.
June, 2012: One of the randomly selected survey respondents filed a complaint with HPI that I illegally obtained his residential address, a personal information, to send him the opinion poll questionnaire. The man insisted that he never gave the Japan Telephone and Telegraph Co. (NTT) the consent to list his address in the directory. I used the NTT White Pages to sample the opinion poll participants. Therefore, I stole his personal information using elusive method, he argued. I was appalled by the accusation.
The man was a former City of Hiroshima official and was working for the City-affiliated NPO after retirement. He further demanded to know the background and hypotheses of my research. In addition, the man asked me to demonstrate the step-by-step process of how he was chosen as a survey participant right before his eyes. I was appalled again by his excessive intrusion into my research. I asked myself, ‘what makes him entitled to such intrusion?’
HCU President then, ASADA, ordered me to submit the telephone directory that I used to for the random sampling through HPI office manager, Mr. S. I complied and was later shocked to learn that HCU suspected the authenticity of my phone book and bothered to purchase a separate copy of the same phone book for comparison. It turned out that the man’s address was indeed listed on the phone directory and my copy of the phone book was authentic. I was very surprised by the depth of HCU’s suspicion and the distance they would go to clear up the complaint. In the course of exchange between HCU-HPI and me, Mr. S. volunteered to teach me “the right method to conduct opinion poll survey.” I was appalled again by his unsolicited offer. I asked myself ‘what makes him with a BA degree think that he knows more about opinion poll survey method than me with a PhD degree in Sociology?’ I had been using the method for my research activities and yet the Japanese man was confident that he could “teach” me about the right way. No doubt in my mind, his behavior was a blatant expression of Japanese nationalistic paternalism. I am saving all the email exchanges as the evidence of administrative harassment.
Fall-Winter, 2012: The fact-finding investigation on my alleged criminal act (i.e., stealing of personal information such as residential address) over the territory research did not save me from further ijime. The HPI office manager, Mr. S, and his deputy, Mr. F, were not shy about showing off their discrimination against me.
Their tactics included many small inconveniences such as repeated demands to correct very simple and minor administrative papers. I was often the only one who was not informed of work-related information that everybody else knew.
Their ijime brought about another criminal allegation. Mr. S sent me an email asserting that I must have stolen the HPI floor key. There was a key to the common space of HPI. Without it, the faculty members and staffs could not access their offices. As a consequence, I fell ill and had to seek medical attention from severe stress. The HPI floor key turned up during my absence from the stress. It proved that I did not steal the key as asserted by Mr. S.
I sought legal consultations with a lawyer and learned that I could win a libel case against HCU. I sent a mail directly to HCU President ASADA, and demanded an apology. I also sent a group mail on the bureaucratic ijime to other faculty members at HPI at the suggestion of Mr. M, a HCU-HPI faculty. ASADA ordered Mr. S to deliver “explanations” to me. I refused to accept “explanations” for explanations and apology are two very separate things with different meanings. Instead I demanded an apology in written form. And waited.
I am still waiting for Mr. S’s apology for five years. There have been absolutely no words and no action from HCU on their fabrication of my criminality until this day.
September, 2012: ABE SHINZO’s second term begins.
November, 2012: HCU refused to pay the principal investigator’s stipend at the amount of USD12,000 specified in the grant contract signed by ASADA with the Korean Studies Promotion Service (a subdivision of Korean Ministry of Education). I had won a project grant on “Korean memories” as a principal investigator in 2011. The reason given by Mr. F, an office staff, was “It is not a Japanese way. You should obey our way of doing things here.” I decided to give in because I was very tired from many small battles and wanted to avoid further conflicts with HCU. I simply did not have energy to pick up another battle with HCU. I decided to let go of USD12,000 for the sake of peace and quiet. I was too tired to fight for the money.
Fall, 2012-Spring, 2013: Talks of my spending one year at a UK university for my sabbatical took place over the phone with a UK-based colleague over multiple occasions. I heard the following: the research environment at the UK university is good; the consumer price in UK is high; I can use the colleague’s office during his absence; he was looking for an economical accommodation near the UK university, etc.
Early 2013: HPI was relocated to an obscure location of the HCU main campus from the prime downtown location. The university management wanted to save rental expense and offered one floor space of the Information Science Division annex. But the rumor was that the City of Hiroshima wanted to punish HPI’s progressive researchers and the former Director, Mr. A who had conflictual relationship with the former Mayor, Mr. AKIBA.
April 1, 2013: KIKKAWA was appointed as new HPI Director. He had retired from a private university in Tokyo at the age of 62. Nobody at HPI knew about his scholarly reputation unlike the previous director with nation-wide recognition and fame.
KIKKAWA was a strange person from the beginning and I could not pin-point his strangeness. It was atmospheric. But his strangeness became obvious and evident as time went by. He never addressed me as a “Kim-sensei” but always as “Kim-san (Ms. Kim).” He had an aberrant habit of abruptly placing phone calls to my office and summoned me to his office. And criticized Korea and Korean people while glorifying Japan’s past with me as his only audience. He said that “Koreans are ungrateful people. Japan helped Korea to modernize during the colonial era, but Koreans remain anti-Japan. How ungrateful! You are also ungrateful.” “Do you know that Korea had very high illiteracy rate when colonized. Japan taught Koreans how to read and write. Koreans owe it to us the Japanese for its economic growth. Without us, today’s Korea cannot exist,” etc. I thought it was better for him to publish research articles if he had arguments to make. That was a scholarly way. Calling me to his office to attack my homeland was a cowardly act. Which can never be accepted as a legitimate way in making an argument.
June, 2013: Submitted application for HCU’s Long Term Training which was described to me as “sabbatical” (hereafter, SBT) by HPI staff, Mr. Y, and KIKKAWA. Both men asked me whether I was going to apply for “sabbatical.” I wrote down my plan to research a topic related to the UK group project on the Korean War and specified the research venue as the university in UK. I described my publication plan in the application as well. KIKKAWA endorsed it and wrote down in his own hand writing that “I am confident that she can meet the publication goals.”
July, 2013: Submitted application for Korea Foundation Fellowship (hereafter, KFF) with the required recommendation letter hand-signed by KIKKAWA. Wanted to apply for the KFF because I could not expect the result of HCU’s SBT application given the past conflicts. For the KFF application, I wrote down my research topic as “Korean memories” and listed the Academy of Korean Studies as the research venue. The research period was supposed to be during April 1 and August 31, 2014.
After I explained about the KFF application to KIKKAWA, I asked him for a recommendation letter. That was required by the KF. He responded that “You are neither my student nor my acquaintance. I do not know you, and I cannot write such letter for you….Why don’t you draft the letter yourself and show it to me? I will go over it and sign if I like it.”
I was disappointed by his reaction because I was his subordinate. If a boss claims that he does not know the person he supervises, where can a person in the lower position turn to for a recommendation letter? I felt stuck by his lack of support. I knew that he did not like me for nonprofessional reasons, but he was overlapping the personal with the professional. He was a disappointing supervisor. After reading my facial expression, he continued, “Those Americans do that all the time, right?”
I went speechless. None of the Americans whom I knew were that rude and selfish, and that includes my former advisors at University of Georgia, several colleagues teaching in the US and my former boss, US Ambassador to Korea, Honorable Thomas Hubbard. They wrote and rewrote many, many letters in their own hands to support my various efforts. I decided not to argue with KIKKAWA because I thought he was not going to change. There was no point in wasting my time and energy on the racist, sexist and chauvinist rightwing Japanese academic.
I drafted the letter and handed it over to him in his research office, not HPI Director’s office. I called him by phone first to make sure that he was there. His office was dirty, disorganized and stuffy. He even had a dark blue travel bag in the office. That was weird, I thought. ‘Why would somebody bring a travel bag while having a house nearby?’ He returned the letter with his own hand signature later.
Late summer, 2013: KIKKAWA phoned and called me to his office. And began telling me about a German full professor at Information Studies Division who had to leave HCU after 20 years of employment. He could not speak perfect Japanese and was given 1 year to master it. He could not do that, and HCU asked him to leave. And he did.
KIKKAWA then told me “Your Japanese is not perfect, either.” That was a very strange conversation because I was hired as an English-speaking international faculty. My contract did not entail any clause on my Japanese language ability. Furthermore, I was about the only foreign faculty who tried to learn Japanese language without any incentive from HCU. Other international faculty members at HPI, all men, could not speak and read the Japanese language at all. ‘Why was he picking on me?’ I found KIKKAWA’s words threatening and sinister.
November 11, 2013: Was notified of the selection of HCU’s SBT by KIKKAWA in person in HPI Director’s office. As always he called me on the phone and said “come.” He seemed strangely sullen when handing over the notice from HCU-HQ. I later heard that HCU had selected somebody else for the sabbatical and I was not their first pick. For some unknown reason, they changed their mind and chose my application. I do not know what was going on in the black box.
My Japanese was never good enough to decipher the fine prints of HCU rules and regulations on the sabbatical. I had many questions on the program. I was particularly concerned about medical insurance. The staff in charge of the program, Ms. Y, was out of the office on sick leave. There was no one who could answer my questions. The HPI office staff, Mr. Y, kept on telling me that he knew nothing about it because the program was new to HPI. Plus, that was not his job. Since I was the first person who was selected for the program at HPI, I had no one to ask at HPI, either. I felt lost, but had no choice but to rely on my common sense about faculty sabbatical system.
Late November, 2013: Submitted first promotion packet for full professorship. Received no acknowledgement of its arrival, process or result. It was dismissed and ignored without any explanation.
Last week of November, 2013: KIKKAWA calls me to his office (HPI Director’s office) and handed me a brand new copy of Shukan Shincho (Weekly Shincho) with an article on comfort women. He said “what is wrong for man for wanting to hold woman before going to the battlefield? We, the Japanese, pity those young men who die without sexual experience. Those ignorant Koreans keep on demonstrating against Japan without knowing such custom…Look at this article. The Korean government has been doing many bad things against its own people. Make a copy of this article and study it carefully.” I began to think something was very seriously wrong with KIKKAWA. No academic would ask a colleague to use the scandalous weekly magazine as for legitimate research material. ‘Why and who hired him as HPI Director?,’ the question began to bother me.
December, 2013 (1): Was notified of KFF selection and reported it to KIKKAWA. I ran into him in the HPI corridor and told him that “I received the positive selection result from the Korea Foundation application. I am going to Korea to research in the Seoul area before going to UK.” Then his response was very short “Good job.”
December, 2013 (2): KIKKAWA told the HPI faculty members of his “sabbatical” experiences at London College at the year-end-party in downtown Hiroshima. I was sitting diagonally across him. KIKKAWA said he had chosen London as his venue because of Vivian Leigh who starred in Waterloo Bridge, a 1940 film.
December, 2013-March, 2014: KIKKAWA and HPI’s administrative staff, Mr. Y, continued to call HCU’s Long Term Training program “sabbatical.” The staff in charge of the HCU’s program, Ms. Y, was still on sick leave. My understanding of the HCU program as usual sabbatical leave remained unchanged.
April, 2014: Began my KFF at the AKS.
Spring, 2014: Remained in contact with the UK-based colleague. He told me that he was going to Southeast Asia for research trip.
Early Summer, 2014: The UK colleague advised me to continue my research activities at Asia Center of Seoul National University (SNU). He delivered his words of recommendation to the Center’s director in person and sent me an update. Upon his advice, I had a meeting with the director in person as well. I did not give my thought to this idea because I thought I was on sabbatical.
July, 2014: Elected as incoming chair of International Political Science Association Human Rights Research Committee in Toronto, Canada.
September 1, 2014: Began my affiliation at the Asia Center of SNU as Visiting Fellow.
April-December, 2014: Attended and participated in several workshops and academic meetings in Japan, Netherlands and Korea. Thought of those academic activities absolutely non-problematic because a faculty member has the freedom to engage in research activities during sabbatical.
November, 2014: Submitted second promotion packet to full professorship. Received email acknowledgement from HPI’s Mr. Y this time. He replied “I firmly confirm….”
December 11, 2014: Ran into KIKKAWA and two other HPI faculty members at the Hiroshima Airport. Was on my way to Seoul after participating in a study group meeting in Matsue City of Shimane Prefecture organized by the ROK Embassy in Japan.
When I spotted two HPI colleagues in the international departure lobby at Hiroshima Airport, I called out their names and greeted them first. KIKKAWA was the last to arrive. When he saw me, the first thing he said was “Why did you come back to Japan without prior permission?” I had no idea what he was talking about. As always, he skipped the customary greetings. I thus asked him, “What is prior permission?” He did not say anything to my question. He looked strange (or stranger than usual), but did not give much thought to that. He was never glad to see me anyway.
One of them suggested us to have coffee together and I agreed. At that point, KIKKAWA abruptly said that he was going to a souvenir shop and excused himself. His former student from Kobe University, now a new hire at HPI, went with him. When they came back, I told KIKKAWA about the scenery that I enjoyed from the train ride from Niigata Prefecture to Hiroshima after attending a conference on Korea-Japan relations in the City of Niigata. I told him the scenery along the East Sea/Sea of Japan from Niigata to Kanazawa was particularly beautiful. Then he bluntly retorted, “that’s what only those people with money and time can do.”
We flew in the same flight and arrived at the Incheon Airport. We went through immigration and found each other in the arrival lobby. The lobby is located in the 1st floor of the Incheon Airport. The junior faculty, KIKKAWA’s student, told me to go the Sejong Institute with them. He said that they rented a car and he was going to drive. It can accommodate up to four people. I did not know how to respond. Then out of the blue, KIKKAWA waved his hand in protest. He said “no way” with the hand gesture. Not going with them was just fine with me, and promptly excused myself saying that I had work to do at the Academy of Korean Studies.
After we sent separate ways, I never gave a second though to the whole series of events.
Early-Late December, 2014: I consulted with close colleagues about going to the UK school in January. They included an old Korean colleague teaching at Australian National University. He advised me, “Don’t go because UK winter is simply horrible.” I wanted to go to the UK school sometime in January because I was curious about its environment and atmosphere. I wanted to walk along the path that Issac Newton walked. I also wanted to see the big clock near the campus. I heard from the UK-based colleague that he was leaving Korea for UK via a Western European country.
Around Christmas, 2014: HCU began to send probing emails into my sabbatical activities. Mr. Y’s first email had two sentences: “where are you? You ran into the HPI people at the Hiroshima Airport, didn’t you?” I worked with Mr. Y for many years and he was about the friendliest staff at HCU. His English was close to perfect and he was the type of person who did not care about petty little things unlike the majority of bureaucrats. The mail was so unlike him, and I sensed something out of ordinary. Then I recollected KIKKAWA’s unusually strange demeanor at the Hiroshima Airport.
And then remembered my HCU Long Term Training plan. ‘Ah, I wrote that I was going to UK.’ And yet I was still in Korea even after the expiration of KFF. It should not matter because I was on sabbatical, I thought. Then I replied to Mr. Y that “Hi, I am in UK,” and that innocuous lie was the beginning of a living hell.
They soon ordered me to file daily activities report by filling up the Excel file they had prepared. My idea of going to UK ended with that order. I could not belatedly fill in 12-hour flight time in my daily activities report at that timing.
Their order, in addition, was humiliating because its assumption was that I was playing around during sabbatical. Nobody including my parents and all my teachers asked me to study in my entire life until that ‘HCU moment.’ I always worked hard. I filled up the cells in the Excel file with activities like “woke up, drank coffee, checked emails, read a bit, had lunch, took a walk, wrote a bit, etc.” We keep our daily routine no matter where we are, and we never stop working. Their idea of making a faculty member to submit those reports seemed ridiculously bureaucratic. HCU’s idea of working constituted showing up at work at 8:30 AM and sit at the desk until 17:30 PM. I felt dismayed by their idea of working which seemed so divorced from academic life.
Late January, 2015: AOKI, HCU President, ordered the early termination of my sabbatical. I was asked to report to work by February 15. HCU cut my sabbatical short by 1 and half months than originally planned.
The given reason was that I returned to Japan without obtaining prior permission. Mr. Y also told me later that SHIOTA, the HCU admin section head, thought the contents of my daily activities report was a proof that there was no need for me to be overseas. That kind of work can be easily done in Hiroshima, he argued during a meeting. It again blew me away because the bureaucratic mind does not seem to understand the knowledge and networking we can gain from the locale. It seemed like bureaucrats dispatched from the city of Hiroshima was ruling the university since the corporatization. Furthermore, HCU is receiving USD3 million annual subsidy from the city. The concerns of bureaucrats were overriding those of academics.
I was angered by this order because neither HCU nor KIKKAWA explained the rules to me. It was abrupt, unilateral and incomprehensible. I thought HCU’s decision was a classic example of top-down management practice.
February 16, 2015: Reported to HCU as had been ordered. Was shocked to realize that the university was taking the ‘incident’ very seriously. They acted as if a big crime had been committed. It made me feel like a criminal even though I did not know what kind of crime had been committed. For the first time, I learned that the university’s Long Term Training was a very idiosyncratic version of sabbatical. Its basic concept was more like a long term business travel where a worker reports to work every day at a different locale.
A HCU colleague suggested that I could have ignored HCU’s order, and do not come back by the specified date. I could not do that, and obeyed. I was not aware of the ‘good kid complex’ so deeply ingrained in me until then.
Mid-February, 2015: Called to a meeting with AOKI. Accompanied by KIKKAWA and Mr. Y. SHIOTA was also present at the meeting.
AOKI told me “Because you broke the rules on Long Term Training, I will stop giving the opportunity to other HPI faculty members.” I could not believe what he said. HCU did not explain the rules to me, and that caused me to unintentionally violate the rules. Now they wanted to punish the innocent others for that simple error. I had to do anything and everything to minimize the scope of damage. I felt enormous pressure from AOKI’s threat.
During Mid-February and End of March, 2015: HPI Administrative staff, Mr. Y, and KIKKAWA repeatedly asked me to claim the airfare with various supporting evidence. The evidence they requested included: airfare receipt, boarding pass, UK entry stamp and a letter.
I ran into KIKKAWA one day in the HPI lounge on the 4th floor of Information Studies Annex Building. I opened the refrigerator door to get some food out. It seemed like KIKKAWA was there to get some coffee because he was near the cabinet where clean coffee cups were arranged. He heard him saying, “Ms. Kim, did you request the airfare reimbursement?” As always there was no greeting. Since I was holding the refrigerator door and stood behind it, we were talking to each other with the refrigerator door between us. I answered “Not yet.” The end of conversation.
I was washing my coffee mug in the HPI kitchen. And then saw KKW walking by. Our eyes met. He stopped and asked me “Ms. Kim, have you claimed the money for airfare?” I looked at him to my left and answered, “Not yet.” Then he said, “In Japan, our fiscal year ends on the last day of March. Not much time is left.” I felt he was trying to make me receive the money. And began to think it might be a good thing for HPI.
I thought that was very strange because KIKKAWA already knew that I was in Korea on KFF. And yet he checked with me a couple of times whether I requested for the reimbursement. In the context he reminded me of AOKI’s words on the termination of Long Term Program for other HPI faculty members. I sensed that he was also concerned about such possibility as the leader of HPI. I felt moral responsibility not to let that happen. KIKKAWA and I had unspoken consensus regarding that particular issue, I believed.
I chose to obey their order and lie for four reasons. First, my trips to attend various workshops and academic meetings were considered serious enough of rule violations. And they prematurely terminated the sabbatical and threatened to terminate the program for innocent others. This hyper-penalty meant, I thought, that they could go really extreme if I told them that I did not go to UK at all. Second, I believed that KIKKAWA would protect me if something goes wrong. He knew everything and pushed me to claim the airfare. I thought he was going to bear managerial responsibility as the leader of HPI. Third, I did not have much time to think carefully over their order. March 31 was the last day of 2014 fiscal year in Japan, and I was under time pressure to act quickly. If I dragged my feet, their pressure would only get worse. And finally, I wanted the whole hoopla to end. I felt exhausted by the excessive bureaucratic meddling, and simply wanted it to end. I wanted peace and quiet, and wanted to concentrate on my real job.
I asked a friend’s friend to put a UK entry stamp on the print copy of my passport page along with two boarding passes. I copied and pasted the colleague’s signature from his previous letter to the letter that I drafted.
I did not realize how clumsy these documents were until the police showed them to me at the Hiroshima jail two years later. The detective said, “They look so clumsy. Look at the stamp. Are you sure it looks like a real one? Have you ever seen a real UK stamp?” I answered, “No. I do not know what the real UK entry stamp looks like.”
Then the detective continued, “Look at the boarding passes. The prints here are big, but the prints there are small. The spelling on this side says ‘Incheon,’ but the spelling on that side says ‘Seoul.'” Then he asked me, “Do you think you were trapped? No Japanese organization would accept documents like these. Did the university ask you to submit them? Do you know why they processed these clumsy documents to pay you?” I was very surprised because I never thought about the possibility. The whole situation began to appear with incredible consistency. HCU and KIKKAWA knew the whole story and trapped me with their plot to fire me, I became convinced. In hindsight it is utterly regrettable that I was not aware of what they were up to. I should be blamed for naivety and gullibility.
I must apologize to the UK colleague for what I have done. I never expected my invention to calm the university would come this far. Not only the university specifically asked me for the letter, Mr. Y repeatedly mentioned that “you were playing around, didn’t you?” I went speechless with those comments. I was working very hard. I needed somebody who could speak for me. What I did was wrong. And I apologize.
April, 2015: KAZUMI MATSUI of Liberal Democratic Party began his second term as Hiroshima City Mayor.
April 1, 2015: KIKKAWA was reappointed as HPI Director. His second term began. He remarked during a newspaper interview that “HPI’s activities should synchronize with those of Abe Shinzo government.” I was shocked because he was talking about “Hiroshima” Peace Institute. Hiroshima’s tragedy was caused, in part, by the Tokyo government’s gross miscalculation about the war resulting in the sacrifice of 500,000 innocent civilians out of which about 50,000 Koreans died from the bombing as well. And yet KIKKAWA wanted to redirect HPI research activities in support of the rightwing ABE SHINZO government which aims to rearm Japan using North Korean nuclear threat as an excuse. It was alarming.
April 21, 2015: Received a verbal warning from AOKI about my sabbatical activities. Was relieved that it came to an end. Could focus on the real work now.
May-August, 2015: HPI was in turmoil over personnel affairs. As KIKKAWA was trying to fire a non-tenured female faculty member, I kept on hearing about his threats and tactics from other HPI colleagues. It sounded not only strange, but wrong as well. She was accused of self-plagiarism. She repeated the same sentences in multiple publications of her own. It sounded out of ordinary as for the reasons and procedures of dismissal. Unless there is enough background to suspect ethical violations, the promotion review committee rarely gives a piece-by-piece examination of candidate’s achievements. The committee reviews an average of 40 promotion applications a year. They cannot examine everything about every candidate. Most of the times, the committee relies on Dean’s words and recommendations in their decision.
‘Why did they bother to read every single sentence of her publications?,’ I thought to myself. Furthermore, self-plagiarism can happen and it often happens unconsciously. International ethical standard does not regard repetition of one’s own sentences serious enough of a violation as for a ground for dismissal. I knew KIKKAWA and his allies were up to something, something very sinister.
In addition, it was time for her to get promoted to tenured faculty and she had applied so. KIKKAWA promptly discouraged her from the promotion application. Instead he told her to extend her contract as a non-tenured assistant professor. This was out of the norm because non-tenured faculty can extend the employment up to three times for 3-year period each. He was making her to do something against her interest, I thought. His tactics worked and she was fired as of August 31, 2015. The HCU’s notice was read, “The contract is over.” KIKKAWA succeeded in removing somebody he did not like: a pacifist woman researcher. The junior female faculty and I cried together.
June, 2015 (1): Had a clash with KIKKAWA over the junior female faculty member at a drinking party.
June, 2015 (2): Was called into his office the day after the drinking party. And was told that “Ms. Kim, you are ungrateful.” I knew what he meant. It had multilayered meanings. As he was telling me in the past already: Koreans are ungrateful race; you are Korean; Therefore, you are ungrateful. The specific background was the clash the night before. What he tried to say was “I know as you know that you made a false report. I chose to go blind eye to that. How dare you to attack me to protect that woman?”
It was baffling because he was the one who knew that I was in Korea and pressured me to make the false report. Now he was shifting the blame to me and tried to pressure me again with the lie. He was the master of the bullying game. His operation changed from the mode of accomplice to the mode of primetime ijime. I could not focus on work as hoped for. KIKKAWA’s Hiroshima Peace Institute was becoming a war zone.
June, 2015 (3): Was the only HPI faculty member who was excluded from the editorial board of the Human Security and Peace Encyclopedia, HPI’s group project. KIKKAWA and his cronies staged it that way. Another sign of collective bullying.
September, 2015-February, 2016: HPI was in another turmoil yet over another personnel issue. KIKKAWA was trying to fire another non-tenured junior faculty member. Her second term was a non-tenured faculty was ending, and she was trying to renew her contract. I tried to help her and collided with him over his attempt to remove yet another peace studies researcher. His justification was that her performance was not satisfactory.
Meanwhile he managed to hire two new tenured faculty members: one without a Ph.D. degree was hired as a full professor. At the time of interview, he had no book publication. He was a researcher at the National Institute for Defense Studies and KKW’s long-time collaborator. Another new hire was KIKKAWA’s student from the Kobe university days. He had fewer publications than the dismissed female faculty members. KIKKAWA and his HCU allies were playing the personnel cards to reengineer HPI per their rightwing views.
October, 2015 (1): KIKKAWA sent me an email notice on promotion application deadline only with one of the two required document attachments. Was angry with his tricks.
October, 2015 (2): My third book, Routledge Handbook of Memory and Reconciliation in East Asia, edited during the sabbatical was published.
Late November, 2015: Submitted a complete promotion packet for the third time.
December 1, 2015: Called into KIKKAWA’s office and was told, “You are neither my student nor my acquaintance. I cannot recommend you for promotion.” His words made me sick again.
Early December, 2015: Was ordered to attend a meeting in HPI Director’s office. KIKKAWA sent me an email. Mr. Y and new HPI office staff, Ms. S, were also there. KIKKAWA told me of HCU’s suspicion that I stayed in Korea during the Long Term Training and re-opening of the Long Term Training program investigation. KIKKAWA also told me that inspection of the materials that I submitted for promotion review contained the narratives on my stay in Korea. In addition, KIKKAWA continued that my promotion review and the re-opening of the investigation were connected.
KIKKAWA’s explanations did not make sense because I never submitted any accompanying materials for my promotion review. There were two required documents prepared by HCU, and they were all I submitted. Since they did not ask for books or newspaper articles, I did not include them. I wondered why they were lying about it. I did not say anything, but knew that they wanted to eliminate me this time.
SHIOTA later told me that their internet search led to the newspaper interview article where I remarked about my KFF and affiliation with the Asia Center of Seoul National University. I never mentioned about the interview to any of them. How did they know? Furthermore, the interview piece was published in Korean. How could they find the interview piece in the Korean language? They were making up many lies to stall my promotion again.
Since I never spoke about the interview and did not list it in my CV, I began to wonder how they knew about them and since when. Their lies did not make a sense. My observations of the previous two dismissal cases led me to believe that they were against me this time. Became nervous.
December 8, 2015: AOKI ordered me to submit my passport through KIKKAWA. Was shocked unlike before. It is illegal for an employer to confiscate a foreign worker’s passport in Japan. It is regarded as an illegal method to control and confine his/her physical movement reminding of modern day slavery system. Never expected Hiroshima City University, Japan’s advanced public educational institution, to cross the legal line. Lost my faith and confidence in HCU in absolute terms and decided to resist their orders from that time point and on.
December 12, 2015: HCU enforced my passport confiscation. The order came from AOKI. Their illegal act did not result in the information they were looking for. Republic of Korea has automatic entry & exit record system which does not leave stamps on the passport.
February 15, 2016: AOKI ordered me to submit the entry & exit records of both Korea and Japan. Was shocked again. They are legally protected personal information. An employer can neither order nor impose a worker to submit such personal information. Began to think of HCU as a criminal organization.
February 26, 2016: The local Chugoku Shimbun carried an article on the personnel management issues at HPI over the dismissals of two peace studies researchers. It argued that the fundamentals of HPI’s raison-de-tar was shaking. Hiroshima Peace Institute was becoming Hiroshima War Institute.
March 31, 2016 (1): Submitted my personal entry & exit records between Korea and Japan with totally nonsensical information. In doing so, I wondered why they only wanted to have the records between Korea and Japan, not Korea/Japan and UK. They should have wanted to know whether I really went to UK or not. But they did not care about the UK part. It is because they already knew that I did not go to UK.
Could have resisted submitting all the legally protected documents all together, but could not do that. Always had been a ‘good kid.’ I imagined the HCU office comparing their own records of my overseas business trips, getting puzzled over the absolutely absurd contents of the records, and working their tail off to realize that the document is not real. Got a kick out of it and probably losing my sense of judgement under prolonged and severe stress.
March 31, 2016 (2): Another junior female colleague was fired and left. The HCU notice stated “The contract is over.” We cried many times together before she was forced to leave.
March 31, 2016 (3): Submitted Harassment Report against KIKKAWA.
April 4, 2016: Reordered by AOKI to resubmit another entry & exit records by April 12. HCU said the bar code of the previous records could not be read. That was another lie. The fallacy of the records did not lie with the bar code, but with its contents. HCU’s entrapment strategy was in full gear.
April 12, 2016: Submitted another entry & exit record with the exactly same absurd information like the previous one. It became a joke.
Spring, 2016: SHIOTA told me that “we knew you were in Korea all the time. You never went to UK. Not even once.” He said that after another investigation meeting with AOKI and his subordinates. He had the usual grin on his reddish face. His sharp upper teeth were showing. It gave me chills. I asked myself, ‘why did they make me keep on doing things while knowing that I was in Korea, not UK?’ In hindsight with the entrapment clue from the police detective, I did not know at that time that it was HCU’s plot to remove me. They needed a criminal case to fire a tenured faculty.
May 27, 2016: The progressive Japanese weekly, Weekly Friday (Shukan Kinyoubi), carries a lengthy investigative article titled “What is happening at Hiroshima Peace Institute?”
June 1, 2016: Called to a meeting with AOKI, SHIOTA and his subordinates. As always it was me alone versus a multitude of Japanese men. The arrangement reminded me of “comfort station.” AOKI ordered the submission of the authentic records, but I refused to do so. Told him that “I have been telling you repeatedly that KIKKAWA, my supervisor, knew everything, but you never listened to me. I cannot trust HCU for a fair investigation. You should call the police. I would rather work with the Japanese police than this university.” AOKI seemed baffled.
I also told AOKI that “As I have been telling you from the very beginning that I did not know the Long Term rules. Nobody explained them to me. It was a simple mistake. And yet this university kept on punishing me for such innocent misunderstanding.” AOKI can pretend as if he listens, but he never does. I learned it from several encounters. He has an avuncular face, but actually is a cold and calculating man with distorted views on Korea and its people.
Continued to resisting to cooperate with AOKI’s another illegal order for about half an hour. When AOKI promised “a fair and neutral investigation which will punish KIKKAWA when deemed necessary,” I decided to trust HCU for the last time.
June 3, 2016: Met up with Mr. Y and another HCU staff, Mr. F, SHIOTA’s subordinate, at the ROK Consulate in Hiroshima. They asked me to request the entry & exit records because I alone could do so. It was legally protected personal information. Obtained the records and handed it over to Mr. F on the spot.
Along with it, I also submitted two documents: KFF application form with KIKKAWA’s hand signature and a letter which explained again that I really did not know about the Long Term training rules. In the letter addressed to AOKI, I also wrote that “I wanted to kill myself out of shame and a strong sense of responsibility when I realized that I unintentionally broke the rules, and my actions could mean the stop of Long Term Training for other HPI colleagues of mine.” I indeed thought about falling from the top of HCU-HQ’s building many times in protest. So glad that I did not do it. I have a war to fight against those anti-peace, anti-Hiroshima sprit nationalists now.
July, 2016: Submitted much more detailed version of the previous Harassment Report against KIKKAWA.
August, 2016: Interviewed about the Harassment Report by a member of Harassment Committee for the first and last time. After the interview, she told me that the Harassment Committee Chair informed SHIOTA, the head of Harassment Investigation Committee, about the contents. But both she and the committee chair were skeptical about SHIOTA’s sincerity. She said “They are alike. Since they share common interests, it is likely that they will find a way to exonerate KIKKAWA and dismiss your report.” Became depressed after the session.
Early Summer, 2016: Was called to a meeting with HCU colleagues in secrecy. He took me to a storage space with two computers with internet connection. He told me that his office probably was bugged by the HCU-HQ, and it was not safe for us to talk about important issues there. His caution did not surprise me because I also suspected that my office and emails were screened by SHIOTA, KIKKAWA and their cronies.
Then he showed me a photo of Hiroshima Mayor, KAZUMI MATSUI, giving a speech at the Nihon Kaigi, an ultra-rightwing political organization, as a special guest speaker. Japanese Foreign Minister, KISHIDA of Hiroshima, and PM, ABE SHINZO, are members of the Nazi-like organization. The photo of MATSUI was listed on the Nihon Kaigi website. MATSUI was wearing a red ribbon on his left chest.
The colleague told me that he suspected SHIOTA and KIKKAWA were connected to Nihon Kaigi. A right wing professor at Hiroshima Shudo University recommended KIKKAWA to MATSUI, and MATSUI in return recommended KIKKAWA for the HPI Director’s position. HCU receiving USD 3 million a year as for the City’s subsidy needed to keep KIKKAWA on their pay roll. KIKKAWA’s hiring involved no open competition. The whole process was informal, personal and secretive.
What they have been doing at HCU are consistent with the ideology of Nihon Kaigi, the colleague said. Furthermore, he showed me two websites, one of Hiroshima City, and another of HCU, which carried identical maps and narratives on COC+ project. He said SHIOTA and his allies are turning the university into the City’s puppet. SHIOTA was doing everything to please MATSUI. HCU has lost its academic independence from politics because of people like SHIOTA whose nickname among the faculty members was “psychopath.” I also thought something was wrong with SHIOTA mentally after observing him many times at those investigative meetings.
Then he showed me a copy of Weekly Friday which carried the article on HPI and a special investigation report on the Nihon Kaigi. He looked at me and said “isn’t this interesting? HPI and Nigon Kaigi are featured together.” It was very sinister, and yet the circumstances made a sense. The whole picture and its dynamic became clear.
Early September, 2016: Was elected as President of Association of Korean Political Studies for two-year term.
September 12, 2016: Was called to another Investigation Meeting which started at 1:00 PM and did not end until 18:00. The format was again me alone versus seven Japanese men. Reminded of “comfort station” in the arrangement and the contents of unilateral imposition. Except one person, a faculty at Information Science Division, the rest was SHIOTA and his subordinates. I thought he wanted to show off his skill in taming a Korean woman faculty member to his bureaucrat subordinates. Even though the Chair of Investigation Committee was WAKABAYASHI, Vice President of HCU, it was in SHIOTA’s charge and he proudly ran the show.
The meeting lasted for six hours. During the meeting, SHIOTA repeatedly demanded me to falsely admit that I fabricated KKW’s hand written signature. Since it was not true, I refused to succumb to his threats. During the meeting, SHIOTA also ordered me not to talk about my Harassment Report to anyone outside of the university. He also wanted have the names who knew about the report. Then he ordered, “You should not talk about the report to anyone except your family in Korea. It is an internal matter.” The gag order probably was another illegal act on the part of HCU.
September 13, 2016: Felt totally exhausted physically and emotionally. Received intravenous drops at neighborhood clinic in the Mitaki area.
December, 2016 (1): The book I worked on during the sabbatical received the ROK Ministry of Education’s Award of Excellence. HCU refused to acknowledge the honor and declined to list it on the university website unlike previous examples of Japanese faculty members. Another example of obvious and clear discrimination against ethnic minority woman faculty.
December, 2016 (2): Wrote down abnormal physical symptoms such rashes and extreme fatigue on HCU’s monthly health check list.
January 19, 2017: Consulted with the university doctor on extremely high stress level test result.
Early February, 2017: Two of HCU staffs, Mr. U and Mr. F, came to my house late at night. Did not know who rang the doorbell and did not open the door because it was late. The two men visited me in the office the following day and handed over the notice about Disciplinary Action Committee Meeting. During the meeting, Mr. U told me, “it is absolutely fine if you choose not come to the meeting. It is not a problem if you do not come at all.” When I told him that HCU has done basically nothing about the Harassment Report, he said “Professor KIKKAWA is not your type of hobby.” I thought the meaning of his words was that ‘you are not attracted to KIKKAWA, and that is the reason why you filed the report.’ I was alarmed by the city bureaucrat’s utterly low level of consciousness. And his message was clear and loud: you can protest, but it won’t take you anywhere.
February 15, 2017: Attended Disciplinary Action Committee meeting. SHIOTA for the first time admitted that his subordinate, Ms. Y, in charge of the Long Term Training was out of office on sick leave.
Repeated the same testimony which I had done several times already. When asked to say something for the last time, I said “I thought my life was OK as was. I am a tenured faculty at this university. One big regret is that I so faithfully obeyed your orders even though some of them were illegal. I regret that.” Honesty does not matter with those who conspire against you. The game is played at different levels which has very little to do with honesty. It is more about power and tactics.
March 6, 2017: House raid by the police and arrested on the fraud charge. Detained for 12 days. On the day of my arrest, AOKI held a press conference.
March 12, 2017: Release with Prosecutor’s decision not to press charge. Notified of dismissal after two hours of the release. Was ordered to leave from the HCU office and HCU family housing as soon as possible. Felt excessive.
Mid-March, 2017: Heard from a HCU colleague that AOKI said before a multitude of Japanese HCU faculty members that “Korea is a horrible country.” According to the colleague, AOKI said it around December, 2016. Was appalled to know AOKI’s racism, and yet he is a public university’s president in Japan. Very alarming.
April 1, 2017: AOKI and KIKKWA were reappointed as HCU President and HPI Director. SHIOTA with a BA degree became HCU’s full professor and the Chief of HCU library. Mr. Y was promoted.
April-May, 2017: WAKABAYASHI, vice President of HCU, reportedly was shocked to know that HPI foreign faculty members were hired as English speakers during HCU Executive Meeting. It became clear that HCU filed the criminal charge and made the dismissal decision without checking important facts about my case. Their desire to remove me from Hiroshima and japan was too big to consider other factors.
May 2, 2017: Left Japan.
Mid-May, 2017: Mr. S, SHIOTA’s successor, sent me an email and asked whether I changed my mind about the Harassment Report. It was too insincere for HCU to send me such email at that timing. I replied in negative. HCU should be ashamed for its callousness.
May-June, 2017: Five national daily newspapers and two reginal daily newspapers covered the story on my arrest and dismissal. HCU responded to each one of them by sending them letters of threats and protest.
They made three arguments: 1) It was the Hiroshima Prosecutor Office’s mistake that they treated fraud and document fabrication as one crime. The Prosecution should have investigated the two as separate crimes. HCU was hoping the ROK Embassy in Tokyo would file another criminal complaint against me. Even the Japanese media did not do a thorough reporting of the case;
2) I was never found innocent. The Hiroshima Prosecutor’s office simply decided not to indict. I was guilt in HCU’s mind no matter what Prosecution says. I admitted my own guilt during HCU’s meetings and the university has voice record files as evidence;
and 3) The reason why HCU dismissed me had little to do with airfare fraud. The reason for dismissal was document fabrication which Hiroshima Prosecutor’s Office neglected to investigate. This led them to believe that I was not qualified as a university faculty member.
I was wondering what made HCU think that they were above the Japanese legal authorities. It was HCU that manipulated and used the external legal authority in the first place. They acted as if their subjective knowledge of my guilt was more right than the no indictment decision made by the Hiroshima Prosecutor’s office. I was also surprised to know HCU’s criticism of the Japanese and Korean media. What and who give them such high level of confidence and self-assertion? I became ever more convinced of their connection to the central power agents, the Nihon Kaigi. Without those backings, a regional university cannot act with such confidence and arrogance against foreign country’s media’s editorial authority. HCU with Abe Sinzo’s political backing could act with exaggerated sense of confidence and self-righteousness.
Two out of five Korean national dailies revised their articles on the internet. I believe they were wary of potential defamation litigation given the ROK government’s defamation suits against the Sankei Seoul bureau chief, KATO, over Park Geun-hye’s whereabouts during the sinking of the Sewol in 2014. Five out of the total seven Korean dailies ignored HCU’s protest. Some of the articles were translated in Japanese language. Was saddened by some of the things that the Japanese people wrote over internet. They sounded like HCU for criminalizing me without checking the relevant facts. I later heard that those Japanese bloggers belong to rightwing groups.
The long saga between me and HCU was blood sports. Unless one of the two dies the violent death, the game is not going to end. I will not let the sports end on HCU’s terms. I care about the truths, justice and the life I have been trying to live. No matter what HCU and its allies say, my life is dear to me.