Friday, November 30, 2007

Silly Job Interview

First PBS station to broadcast Monty Python's Flying Circus

U.S. workers don't know how to go on vacation

U.S. workers don't know how to go on vacation
(The Morning Call) November 17, 2007

American workers are no doubt productive workers, but it appears that many white collar American workers don't take vacations seriously. Many take some of their responsibilities that they have at work along with them during their vacations.
I have been a consultant and have worked for different organizations since 1996. I have encountered managers who gave their pager and cell phone numbers to their team members before leaving for vacation. Hence, they worry about work during their short vacation period.
In Europe, in contrast, people are given longer vacations, which they fully enjoy. For instance, in Germany, many employees get about two months of paid vacations in a year and their employers pay them extra to enjoy their vacation. German workers don't take any stress from work during their vacations and are at least as equally productive as American workers.

American workers should adopt the ''work hard, play hard'' attitude. That will make them more productive and happier at work.
Mayank Shyam
Bethlehem Township

Supply Chain Is Looking for Green Transport and Logistics

Supply Chain Is Looking for Green Transport and Logistics
(Industry Week)

The push towards green is driven by financial ROI , public relations payback and improved supply chain efficiency, says a new survey.
The vast majority of respondents to a survey produced by eyefortransport, 85%, said that over the next three years green issues will become more important to their transport and logistics processes. Thirteen percent identified green issues as their No.1 priority over the next three years.With up to 75% of a company's carbon footprint coming from transportation and logistics, eyefortransport asked respondents to pinpoint what they were doing to green their transportation and logistics, and what effects these initiatives have had.
An average of 25% of respondents reported that they have or plan to partner with a logistics providers to help them green their processes, and an additional 27% are actively exploring the possibility of adding a logistics partner to help move environmental projects forward. This push towards green is reported to be driven by a number of factors, including financial ROI (45%), public relations payback (34%) and improved supply chain efficiency (34%).
When asked what actual green initiatives have been implemented or planned in their companies, the results revealed that 63% are or are planning to improve energy efficiency, 45% are redesigning warehousing and distribution center networks, 42% are re-routing vehicles to reduce miles and 40% are measuring and/or reducing emissions.An additional finding of the survey was that 34% report that green initiatives are actually making their supply chains more efficient.

Korea Trade Deal Not Close (Embassy)

Korea Trade Deal Not Close (Embassy)

A free trade deal between Canada and South Korea is nowhere near closure, Bloomberg News reported Finance Minister Jim Flaherty as saying, as South Korea has not pledged adequate access to its market. Ford Motor Co. has threatened to rethink new investment in Canada if such a bilateral deal does not give the automaker better access to that market.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Alberta Economic Update: Becoming an Energy Superpower

Alberta Economic Update: Becoming an Energy Superpower

Edmonton, Alberta - "1 million people and 174 billion barrels of oil." By 2030, $280+ billion in energy investments and an additional $200 billion in indirect (business, private and social) investments. World Scale Opportunity."
Date: Sunday, December 9, 2007
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Place: Emirates Palace, Meeting Room 1 (near Auditorium)

Guest speaker: Ron Gilbertson, President and CEO of Edmonton Economic Development

Cost: CBC Member - AED 100 Non-member/guests: AED 125

Ron Gilbertson is the newly appointed president and CEO of Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, a not-for-profit company owned by the City of Edmonton that is responsible for regional economic development and tourism marketing, and management of the Shaw Conference Centre and Edmonton Research Park. He was previously with the Alberta Research Council where as vice president he was responsible for restructuring the technology commercialization division and investment fund, and for implementing a growth plan for the Engineered Products and Services division. Prior to joining the ARC, Ron was president of Lacent Technologies where he helped transform the start-up company into a world leader in high speed laser cutting. He has also served as president of the Edmonton Regional Airports Authority, leading the organization through its formative years and establishing Canada's first independent airports authority. Earlier in his career as a senior manager at Stanley Associate Engineering, Ron help build one of Western Canada's largest economics consulting practices and Canada's second largest airports and aviation consulting group.

Reserve online (News)

Payment may be made at the door, but please register by December 6.

We will invoice no-shows.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Review of Service Management: Strategy and Leadership

Review of Service Management: Strategy and Leadership in Service Businesses
Richard Normann (Wiley and Sons: 1984)
Part One

The cover of the 1984 edition is slightly less photogenic yet displays a simple dark brown four square intersected flow chart with a central inter-connected point on a plain brown background. That also amply describes the contents of the book, a heavily lined thesis of simplicity itself and a reassuring brown bag background which makes me think this Normann was an incredibly honest and easy to understand leader and educator. I can see him quietly going about his business and venturing around with a brown bag lunch and perhaps quite low-key at the office. We have dug or are digging most of the accessible resources out of the earth's ground. Our factories are chugging along on JIT most of the time. So Normann correctly tagged service industries as the next big growth opportunity of the future and the intangibility in definition of services, be they acts or interactions, all which have simultaneous occurances. He contended that operational service quality is created and contended in series upon series of "moments of truth", his term, he coined it in terms of business service quality, describing the customer as the raging bull and the matador the dashing service provider.

Normann contends this definition of quality is greater than the sum of its definitive parts in description of 'personality intensity' where it is not what a person does in the service of a customer but how one does it, regardless of the capital, equipment, logo, or corporate background attached to that service. Refreshing to note even some painters manage to do great things with a few scraps of paper, crusts of bread and unsteady scratches.

Normann selected a few notable case studies, refreshing in their relative antiquity, none of the companies listed were really known to me, nor have I ever feasted upon escargots in any European climates anyway. One may tire of hearing about the same business success stories over and over again. Perhaps some of these companies are now fossils fertilizing the successes of newer European shoots? He seems to be discussing EF English First which perhaps in 1984 existed as a former organisation known simply as EF Colleges? The one which most clearly demonstrates moments of truth concerns Les Freres Troisgros where instead of bulls and matadors we are presented with an operatic anticipatory equivalent to lolling canine tongues salivating over the latest culinary feasts being lovingly basted and prepared in the gormande kitchens which seem to recall a medieval tendancy to revel in observation of moments of truth be they timeless as in Shakespeare or tiresome as in the 100 years war.

His thesis is encapsulated by diagramatic representation on the original 1984 cover and by the third edition it loses its prominence and emminence (savoury food would be a more dramatic illustration) but is comprised of five facets: service concept, market segment, culture and philosophy, service delivery system, and the image of the company. How well these facets inter-relate through the extension of personality intensity and moments of truth which reverberate and vibrate through internal customer as well as external customer relations determine whether or not a workplace can be as satisfying as witnessing one's portion of spring lamb levered from up out of the stove and thus carved on to the warmed plate of one's own portion or slapped together like a Big Mac.

In the service concept, the entire package is described as tangible, intangible, explicit, implicit, core, and peripherals in a grid block of inter-relatedness. He describes the service elements as one would whisk together a cup of soup. First specialized capacities to deliver services better or more cheaply are considered essential. Linkages and social relationships are then described as required to create connections that would not otherwise exist. This is followed by an ability to transfer knowledge, information and capabilites such as formal courses or training programs for customers even when allowing them access to new services might implicate their desire to continue using old ones. Finally the sale of management systems has become a service within a service determining options to consult or take-over management of key services. In the market segment, the client serves two roles; first as customer and second as participant/observor. He credits Alvin Toffler for detailing the needs and role of the "prosumer" and Zeleny as originating a descriptive 'self-service" customer as determining the improvements possible in industries where many innovations have already been made. Client participation is described on a variety categorical determinations from development of service, marketing, physical, intellectual and emotional participation. He states that finding the right questions often determines the productivity of a client relationship to service improvements. Normann explains the concept of creating customers where there were none through participatory evaluation and whether contact personnel actually embody the image and emotional empathy required of them through the expression and practice commitment, patience and skills to guarantee the satisfaction of customers, minimizing turnover and maximizing profitability.

In the culture and philosophy, Normann illustrates that service concepts themselves require innovation and creativity which transfers knowledge and capabilities from the company to the clients to ensure continued patronage. These vital transfers include variety and consumer freedom, and the growth of what is termed "social innovation." Such innovations include: client participation, the linkages of different contexts, career and job rotations, refocusing human energy, and scale advantages in knowledge. In the service delivery system, Normann describes the physical aids to delivery of services and the requirements of cost rationalisation, quality control, increasing quality, forging closer links to customersand the use and benefits of specific technologies interestingly noting the potential for inappropriate technological use implicating the social processes of effective services or the possibility that such processes may be disturbed rather than enhanced in some cases. In the image of the company, Normann relies on Kenneth Boulding for a definition of image a s merely a model or signifier of beliefs or understandings of phenomena or situations. He describee image as constituting culture, organsiation and people influences, products or service influences, market segmentation influences and other image influencing activities such as thr reshaping of reality by managers to suit a reshaping of image. This aspect of service is described as purposeful in the art of strategic market positioning, making certain resources available, and increasing motivational and productivity factors in the company which leads to internal marketing to "sell" the company essence or mission to internal customers first.

If any of this appears at all familiar it could be due to its role as a keystone to current day concepts of service. While some might argue it is all common sense, it seems trite to suggest that of course it is, now.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Review of: The Asian Mind Game

Review of, "The Asian Mind Game: Unlocking The Hidden Agenda of The Asian Business Culture - A Westerner's Survival Manual"
Chin-Ning Chu (Scribner: 1991)

First, credit goes to Chin-Ning Chu's Asian mind and her willingness to elucidate the minds of western readers by immersing them in her thoughts upon what westerners might need to know about the Asian Mind. First off, do some comparison shopping my dear westerners. Alibris had a perfectly decent copy of this title for the entire cost of a $1.99, a whole $ 16.99 cheaper than the discounted price of $18.98 on Amazon where Ms. Chu's webpage link for this title quickly led. Black faced indeed!

I grabbed for this title because it has a really couched assumption that westerners really need to be spoon fed on Asian negotiation patterns. For me, communalist megotiation patterns or collective requirements for assent or a majority of "nays" versus "yays" always seems to involve a pattern of shuffling and passing of the buck, usually my buck. In addition, I am often confused to assume I could learn anything about the Asian mind. I continue to insist that Matt Ngui was correct that, "One may never know what an Asian is thinking." I have mulled over this point and come to some sort of peace with it.

According to social attribution theories and psychological principles which comprise human understanding of implicit cognitive knowledge no one of us is ever actually able to know what any other one of us is ever actually thinking. So understanding one's own mind is forever the point of attempting to make some general understanding of what others are thinking regardless of their ethnic or cultural background. So in attempting even to think about one's own mind in terms of similarities or differences to the thoughts of others one is making attributions on a cognitive level which originate, again, within one's own mind. So here are my thoughts on Chu's book.

"We need to get through the ignorance." Kang Jeong Hwan (on stereotypes)

Is it dated? Well, things have changed as some critics contend the Japanese miracle has resulted in a lot of bridges and tunnels to nowhere with the most recent long term leader Koizumi having seemingly ruffled few feathers at the Postal Bank where the vast majority of those seeming-Samurais of the early nineties have been burying their savings out of the glint or glare of the swords of international investment risk. Furthermore, it often appears that Japan's long-term future as a leader of the Asian world economically relies as heavily or more heavily on public debt than American public debt does with a rapidly aging collection of Samurai seemingly guarding their economic borders with similar however more successful zeal.

"We need to get through the ignorance." Kang Jeong Hwan (on stereotypes)

Chu appears to rely heavily upon the precepts of The Art of War in describing what is felt every Asian already knows and every westerner is obviously in need of; more Sun Tsu. Perhaps all of us really only need more Lao Tsu to understand each his own mind better. While I would suggest a re-evaluation of Sun Tsu as a formation of business planning and strategy tools for modern economic warriors, it allseems rather tired at this point. Even a brief comparison of titles on the topic of Sun Tsu seems to suggest that a host and variety of interpretations exist, enough, perhaps, to contend in some ways with the cognitive principles of implicit knowledge earlier mentioned. Perhaps Asians interact with Sun Tsu precepts in the same ways that Muslims contend with God? That is upon individual and at times imdependent levels, therefore, perhaps in highly individualistic ways? When may one expect an interpretation of the ageless art of carpets weavings and its relevance ot business and understanding the Asian mind? I mention this as it is another ageless Asian legacy. For example, I was reminded I live in a city founded in 375 according to latest estimates and proudly emblazoned on the side of a rickety bus.

However tiresome a rehashing of Sun Tsu's precepts might appear in Chu's book, I do actually appreciate his writings among others such as Montaigne. Highly enjoyable is Chu's depiction of the stratified layers of economic man in terms of the Asian business hierarchy. Black-faced indeed are base peddlars, especially those with hi-fi systems and loud-speakers, ringing bells and gongs in the wee hours of the morning in Korean streets and alleyways seeking out the rare customer willing to submit to such horrendous sales tactics. Again, the baubble or bit seller weaving about on the subway platforms, stations and carriages blistering the creaking and rattling of mass transport with some other monotonous tirade of sound to make spare change and perhaps boredom turn into big money.

Chu's haunting descriptions of even greater barbarities, notably the blood-marked paths to Japanese Police Stations in colonial Korea only remind one that the disparities of thought whatever thought reigns supreme in the oriental sphere merely appears to have as many diversities as it does similarities and the fact that the continent of Asia in its vastness tends to remain quite unique in its myriad of corners and reaches contends towards a local rather than global mindset at times perceived to be more global than it might actually be. Chu provides a text of conjecture and anecdotal evidence of a mainstream Asia with several Asian tributaries and an implicitness of knowledge with wholely local influences. Did this book convince me how to survive Asia? Absolutely not. I am consistently and constantly lost here. Was I overly offended by Chu or her depicitions of Asian cultural mindsets which remind me of curmudegeonly smug fairly loquacious grandmothers of western extraction?

No, no more than I am by anyone who might think they could know what I am thinking. Address the individual in all cases perhaps the connections and relationships between cultures does not grow or develop out of generalisations. In negotiation, if it is not the strong who win as John Wayne might contend, but the fair, or those who share winnings and losses, then a business grows between two negotiators and is likely to be renewed. I am still waiting to see when the largest of Asia's great economic miracles becomes a free market-based consumer driven economy. How many more companies are there willing to plunge in to stake a position with seemingly indeterminant future promised profits? It would appear there are westerners who really need to read Chu's book sinking shareholders interests into China and a few other Asian neighbourhoods. The streets of Asia are paved with something other than gold. Is some part of that paving a collective hubris? How many of today's generation of westerners really embodies the John Wayne depiction of them? I would say that part of Chu's book is dated. The rest is a bargain really worth reading especially at a $1.99.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Yusuf Islam - Maybe There's a World

I have dreamt of a place and time,where nobody gets annoyed,
But I must admit I’m not there yet but Something’s keeping me going
Maybe there’s a world that I’m still to find
Maybe there’s a world that I’m still to find
Open up o world and let me in, then there’ll be a new life to begin

I have dreamt of an open world,Borderless and wide
Where the people move from place to place And nobody’s taking sides

Maybe there’s a world that I’m still to find
Maybe there’s a world that I’m still to find
Open up a world and let me in, then there’ll be A new life to begin

I’ve been waiting for that moment to arrive
All at once the palace of peace will fill My eyes – how nice!

Maybe there’s a world that I’m still to find
Maybe there’s a world that I’m still to find
Open up o world and let me in,then there’ll be A new life to begin

I’ve been waiting for that moment to arrive
All at once the wrongs of the world, will be put right – how nice!

Midnight Oil - One Country

Midnight Oil - One Country

Whod like to change the world, who wants to shoot the curl
Who gets to work for bread, who wants to get ahead
Who hands out equal rights, who starts and ends that fight
And not not rant and rave, or end up a slave

Who can make hard won gains, fall like the summer rain
Now every man must be, what his life can be

So dont call, me, the tune, I will walk away

Who wants to please everyone, who says it all can be done
Still sit up on that fence, no-one Ive heard of yet
Dont call me baby, dont talk in maybes
Dont talk like has-beens, sing it like it should be
Who laughs at the nagging doubt, lying on a neon shroud
Just gotta touch someone, I want to be

So dont...(one country one, country one country)

Who wants to sit around, turn it up turn it down
Only a man can be, what his life can be

One vision, one people, one landmass, we are defenceless, we have a lifeline
One ocean, one policy, seabed lies, one passion, one movement, one instant
One difference, one lifetime, one understanding
Transgression, redemption, one island, our placemat, one firmament
One element, one moment, one fusion, yes and one time

Peak Oil: Gas Prices, Supply Depletion & Energy Crisis SHORT

Teacher Aaron Wissner, in a compact 10 minutes video summary, details Peak Oil, the evidence, the impacts, and the solutions. See the full one-hour video at Also, at YouTube, see the conclusion, of that presentation, part 5 of 5, which highlights the impacts, underlying problem, and solutions to Peak Oil.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre: A brief description

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre: A brief description

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has become the world’s leading independent resource on the subject. Our website is updated hourly with news and reports about companies’ human rights impacts worldwide – positive and negative.

The site covers over 3600 companies, over 180 countries. It receives over 1.5 million hits per month. Topics include discrimination, environment, poverty & development, labour, access to medicines, health & safety, security, trade.

“An essential guide to the world's companies and their records on human rights.” Guardian newspaper

“No debate can move forward, no positive change can be made, without facts. The Resource Centre is the only website to provide such a broad range of balanced information on business and human rights – company by company, country by country, issue by issue.” Mary Robinson (Director of the Ethical Globalization Initiative, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and President of Ireland)

NGO Report under ICERD Republic of Korea
NGO Report under ICERD Republic of Korea

71st Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on the 14th Periodic Report submitted by the Republic of Korea under Article 9 of the International Convention
on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination June 2007

Racing to the bottom: international trade without a social clause
Third World Quarterly, Vol 24, No 6, pp 1011–1028, 2003
Racing to the bottom: international trade without a social clause

Piyasiri Wickramasekara
Senior Migration Specialist
International Migration Programme
International Labour Office
Revised: December 2006.

LABOUR: ASEAN Charter Skirts Rights For Migrant Workers

LABOUR: ASEAN Charter Skirts Rights For Migrant Workers
By Kalinga Seneviratne SINGAPORE, Nov 21 (IPS)
- A charter signed by the leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Tuesday reiterates ‘’commitment to community-building," but appears to have ignored some of the most vulnerable people in the region -- migrant workers."We are most disappointed with the ASEAN Charter,’’ Alexander Chandra, research associate of the Jakarta-based Institute for Global Justice told IPS. "Burma (Myanmar) is getting special attention and it is deflecting the broader issue of human rights in the region," added Jenina Joy Chavez, Philippines Programmes Coordinator of the Focus on the Global South. "ASEAN (which groups Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Brunei, the Philppines and Indonesia) needs to be open about the treatment of their own migrant workers across borders," noted William Gois from Migrant Forum Asia. Several ASEAN member countries are among the top exporters of unskilled labour.
The Philippines tops the list with over five million of its people working overseas. Indonesia has over two million, Vietnam about 1.2 million, Thailand about half a million and Vietnam about the same. Thailand, on the other hand, hosts well over 1.6 million unskilled migrant workers who have mainly crossed the border from Myanmar, Laos or Cambodia. Malaysia has about 1.5 million mostly from Indonesia and Thailand, and Singapore hosts over 600,000 unskilled labourers, with a significant number of them coming from the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar.
While millions of fellow ASEAN citizens cross the borders to work as unskilled labour in such areas as construction, street cleaning, domestic work and as farm hands, the local labour laws usually do not cover them. Thus, they become vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers and employment agencies. The ASEAN Charter signed by all the ten leaders of the regional grouping, has 13 chapters, 55 articles and 4 annexes, and it was drafted by a high level task force consisting of one member from each country. Article 14 of the Charter provides for the establishment of an ASEAN human rights body as a new organ of the organisation. The terms of reference of this new body, will be decided by an ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting at a later date.
"ASEAN is moving from being State-centric to be more people-oriented. At least 10 of the 15 stated purposes of ASEAN in Chapter 1 concern the livelihood and well-being of peoples in ASEAN" noted the ASEAN Secretariat in a statement issued here. "One of the biggest disappointments (of the Charter) is there’s nothing at all in recognising the rights of migrant labour," laments Chavez. "Charter talks about freer movement of labour but not their rights". While unskilled migrant labour constitutes the bulk of labour flows in the region, she believes that when ASEAN leaders talk about free movement of labour they are usually referring to professionals not (unskilled) migrant labour. When asked why the Philippines has not pushed for a specific reference to migrant labour rights in the human rights article of the ASEAN Charter, Ignacio Bunye, press secretary to President Gloria Arroyo told IPS that the "Charter is a general document (and) it is not expected to have all details; otherwise you will have a very large document". However he expected that the Charter will provide the framework for discussions of these issues later.
Chandra says that when it comes to tackling the exploitation and vulnerability of migrant labourers in the region, even Indonesia makes similar arguments. "Migrant labour is a major contributor to our economy. We get their money (remittances) but no protection is given to them. When problems come up, it is taken on a bilateral basis and this is no good. We need a strong regional governance mechanism to protect the rights of migrant workers," he argues. Gois says that the recent cases of harassment of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia made a mockery of the ASEAN Charter’s stated commitment to the wellbeing of its people. "Take Malaysia, you have RELA (Malaysia's controversial baton-wielding volunteer reserve force) which is cracking down on migrant workers. They were paid for each migrant worker rounded up, which became an excuse for these peoples’ volunteer corps to go around to areas where migrant workers were and ransack their houses and property, indiscriminately taking away their documents," he noted. Gois also added that his organisation had similar reports from Thailand, where in 13 provinces migrant workers have become a security issue.
"They are not allowed to use mobile phones and have curfew on them at nights as if they are such a threat to the population, which is not true," he told IPS. Charm Tong, a Burmese who works with the Shan Women’s Action Network across the border in Thailand says that there’s about 158,000 Burmese refugees in Thailand and at least 1.5 million -- mostly undocumented -- migrant workers are engaged in all sort of work. "The Charter has nothing in it to protect these people," she notes, adding that the Thai government recently introduced legistration for migrant workers from Myanmar and Cambodia to register and work legally, but it costs about 4,000 Bahts (100 US dollars) to do so. "Most migrants get very little pay for their work,so they can’t pay that". "We have called for some kind of protection for migrant worker rights" said Gois. "Domestic work is not recognised as work, the excuse is that it falls under private domain of household. Therefore it doesn’t fall under common labour laws".
"Withholding of passports and pay (of domestic migrant workers) are what the ILO (International Labour Organisation) calls new forms of slavery and this is practiced within the region" claims Gois. "ASEAN need to be open about this -- especially when it starts calling itself a caring and sharing community". (END/2007)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Japan: Fingerprinting of Foreign Arrivals Starts

Japan: Fingerprinting of Foreign Arrivals Starts(Asahi Shimbun)
November 20, 2007 –
Fingerprinting and photographing of foreigners started today at 126 ports and 27 airports in Japan amid criticism the anti-terrorism system will be ineffective, violate human rights and be exploited for ulterior purposes. The procedure, which will affect up to 7 million of the 8 million people who enter Japan a year, is part of the government's anti-terrorism measures under the revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law compiled after the 9/11 attacks in the United States in 2001. Although procedures for entering a country have tightened around the world, only Japan and the United States subject almost every foreigner to fingerprinting at the port of entry. The new system requires nearly all foreigners aged 16 or older to be photographed for mug shots and be fingerprinted on both index fingers.
The information will be sent to the Justice Ministry's host computer and checked against a blacklist based on data from the ministry, Interpol and other organizations. If the information matches that of a suspected terrorist or if other irregularities are found, the individual will be taken to a separate room and questioned by special immigration officials. The person can be ordered to leave the country or have his or her information relayed to police if problems are found. Diplomats, permanent residents with special status, such as Koreans born and living in Japan, and a few others are exempted from the system. The ministry says the system is necessary in light of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, in the United States. "This (revised) law would not have passed if it hadn't been for the 9/11 attacks," a senior ministry official said.
The revision was passed in the regular Diet session last year amid concerns that Japan, which has supported the U.S.-led anti-terrorism wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, could come under attack. "We cannot waste time when al-Qaida is targeting Japan," Taro Kono, then a senior vice justice minister, said at the time. National Police Agency officials said the new system could have caught a senior al-Qaida member who repeatedly entered Japan. The man used a passport in another person's name to enter and leave Japan six times over four years until he was caught in Germany in 2003. But some remain skeptical about the effectiveness of the system in preventing terrorists from entering the country. Yoichiro Mizukami, former director of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau, noted that Japan has little fingerprint data of international terrorists, and doubts the information collected at ports of entry can be checked effectively. "The priority should be on (Japan) improving capabilities to collect information on its own," he said.
Some critics say the Justice Ministry is more concerned about using the 3.6-billion-yen special system to reduce the number of foreigners who overstay their visas. "What's the point of spending enormous sums to catch overstaying foreigners?" said Masashi Ichikawa, a lawyer with at the Japan Federation of Bar Associations who handles cases of illegal foreigners. "It is impermissible to implement a system in the name of anti-terror measures without proving its need." Information collected at ports of entry will be entered in a database for later use. Concerns have been raised that authorities could abuse the information under the government's plan to tighten control over foreigners in the country. About 7,000 foreigners who had been deported return to Japan every year using identification papers of others. The so-called repeaters accounted for about 13 percent of foreigners deported in 2006, according to the ministry.
In Japan, people are not fingerprinted against their will unless they are processed as part of a criminal case. Groups have said the new fingerprinting system portrays all foreigners as potential terrorists, which could result in discrimination against innocent people. The exemption of Korean and other special permanent residents in Japan from the system is based on their long fight against an old fingerprinting system. All foreign residents were fingerprinted for alien registration until 2000, when the system was abolished in the face of strong protests, especially from Koreans who were born and raised in Japan and whose forefathers were brought to Japan from the Korean Peninsula for wartime forced labor. "I'm disappointed that fingerprinting is to resume after only seven years," said Choi Song Sik, son of the late pastor Choi Chang Hwa, who started a movement protesting the fingerprinting system.