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    Turn on the news

    The negotiations to get Hitomi Soga, one of the now-repatriated Japanese nationals snatched by North Korean agents twenty-five years ago, together with her husband and children, still in Pyongyang, seem to be gelling around setting the meeting in Indonesia. The president (the way it’s phrased, I don’t think it’s Megawati’s personal property) has a country house in a suburb of Jakarta, which is apparently more convenient than another presidential country house she has in Bali.

    There haven’t been many other notable updates on the whole appalling situation. Recurring headlines have tended to be about developments in the Mitsubishi Motors/Mitsubishi Fuso scandal, which that keiretsu has obligingly kept on low-boil since around 1998. If it doesn’t get much play in America, the gist is: Mitsubishi cars and trucks have clutch problems. (I think most of the problems are with the housing, actually, and don’t remember how the defect affects the clutch as it worsens.) I can’t find links to corroborate my memory of the news stories at the time, but basically, a few car owners who were injured when their cars suddenly jumped into reverse sued. They lost (or the suits were dismissed–I don’t remember) based in part on expert testimony from engineers in the employ of…why, yes, Mitsubishi Motors. Evidence since then has piled up, slowly but steadily, that Mitsubishi knew about these defects as early as 1993 and quietly repaired some of the affected vehicles rather than instituting a bad-PR recall. Unfortunately, a trucker was killed a few years ago in Yamaguchi Prefecture when his clutch malfunctioned, and a woman was killed and her children injured in Yokohama. So now we have the usual round of arrests of executives present and erstwhile, release of a decade-long paper trail of coverups and back-door settling, and accountability-dodging. And a recall. Another reason to be glad my man drives a Toyota.

    2 Responses to “Turn on the news”

    1. Toren says:

      I saw something on this last time I was in Japan. The clutch housing fails at the driveshaft, which lets the driveshaft flop around all the way back to the differential. Unfortunately, the hydraulic systems for the brakes are in the area and the flailing driveshaft can (and did in the case of the truck driver) sever the hoses leaving the truck without any brakes.
      The whole thing seems pretty sordid and from what I saw in May the coverup is history, tons of people are talking now.

    2. Sean says:

      Thanks, Toren. That squares with the animated explanation they showed on NHK, I think. I know that one of the other warnings they gave was that if the engine isn’t warmed up, stepping on the brake pedal could make the truck jackrabbit forward. In fact, it may be that the passenger cars jumped forward instead of backward, too, though I’m pretty sure I’m recalling (as it were) correctly.