9 May 2014

Incentives for quitting

    4-Day MoMA special edition t-shirt sale at Uniqlo:    
  •   Lawrence Weiner t-shirts in clay, grape or charcoal 
  •   Ryan McGinness in Lilac 
  •   A variety of Andy Warhol favourites 
   and others, offer expires May 12th, 2014   

"Gambling has also had an unexpected impact on Japanese ethnic politics and foreign policy. Pachinko has become a backbone for Japan’s Korean community. Estimates are sketchy, but Prof. Toshio Miyatsuka, the leading authority on Korean-Japanese, believes that three-quarters of the 17,000 pachinko parlors are run by ethnic Koreans. Koreans also control many of the pachinko manufacturing companies. Koreans entered the pachinko business soon after World War II because it was one of the few industries where they could compete fairly with Japanese. Japanese shunned the business—it had such an air of seediness about it. As a result, pachinko and Korean BBQ restaurants built a prosperous entrepreneurial Korean business community. 

 But the Korean pachinko connection fomented a disturbing foreign policy crisis for Japan. Many parlor owners come from North Korea, have families in North Korea, or sympathize with the North Korean regime. In the 1980s, as pachinko grew, parlor owners increasingly funneled pachinko profits to North Korea. No one has any idea of the exact amount—estimates range from tens of millions of dollars per year to more than $1 billion per year. Some of this cash probably went to North Korean relatives, but much of it fed North Korea’s awful communist dictatorship. Pachinko, in fact, became a critical source of hard currency for North Korea, probably subsidizing arms purchases and military research. This was awfully embarrassing for Japan. It got so bad that the CIA, according to the Wall Street Journal, pressured the Japanese government to stop the flow of yen. The Korea-laundering led the National Police Agency to impose “card-readers” on the pachinko industry. The card readers served to measure the amount of money flowing into parlors, which enabled tax authorities to make sure owners weren’t siphoning off cash for illicit transactions. By most accounts, the Korea cash stream has dried up in recent years to a trickle. Card readers cut the flow, as did the pachinko industry’s own quest for respectability (The industry has been trying to polish its image. It wasn’t good PR, to say the least, to be propping up a nuclear weasel like North Korea). Other Korean businesses may have picked up the slack. Some of the Korean credit unions that recently collapsed seem to have sent cash to Pyongyang."

— David Plotz, Pachinko Nation

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