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December 2016

Congratulations to Stephen Ke (final-year Sydney Law School student, and former intern at the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law), Kieran Pender, Camilla Pondel and Dan Trevanion (ANU law students), who recently came out ahead of excellent teams from the National University of Singapore, followed by Osaka, Sophia, and Kyoto / Hitotsubashi universities. They had already competed very strongly in the INC moot as part of a larger Team Australia, including students competing also in the parallel Japanese-language division. Practice makes perfect! This year’s students won the Squire Patton Boggs Best English Negotiation Team award. Team Australia also was just short of the highest mark awarded in the English-language division for the Arbitration round, where students apply the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts.

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This extensively researched and succinctly written book effectively compares the processes and outcomes of several major movements for victims’ redress from governments in Japan and Korea. The focus is on campaigns that developed especially from the 1990s, an era of perceived “judicialization of politics, enabled by democratization in Korea in 1987 and more competitive electoral politics in Japan since 1993” (p. 203), when victims sought redress for poor decisions regarding Hansen’s disease (leprosy, as discussed in ch. 3), blood tainted with Hepatitis C (ch. 4) and abductions by North Korean authorities (ch. 5).

Arrington examines not just the respective victims’ contestations with the state, but also the nature and timing of their interactions with key mediating institutions (ch. 2): the legal profession (to pursue litigation), the media (providing publicity for their causes), and activist groups (for lobbying). In particular, she emphases how too much early engagement with politicians – even “elite allies” – aimed at achieving legislative or bureaucratic intervention, as occurs more in Korea’s more open-textured democratic process, may lead perversely to poorer redress outcomes as the issue becomes more polarised politically.

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Japan enacted in 2006 a more expansive version of mandatory accident reporting compared to the Australian Consumer Law regime implemented from 2011, and currently under review. For example, Japan's system extends to certain specified risks of harm (currently: carbon monoxide emissions or fires) and allows the regulators to make publically available the incident reports received from suppliers.

However, neither country presently has a General Safety Provision (GSP) requiring all consumer goods placed on the market to be reasonably safe. Given persistent problems with product safety failures in both countries, especially in Australia in recent years, perhaps the time has come. The possible enactment of a GSP has been on the agenda in the first five-yearly "ACL Review", with last month's Interim Report picking up several arguments related to product safety regulation made in my initial Submission for the Issues Paper earlier this year from Consumer Affairs Australia and New Zealand. Below is an extract from my second Submission (dated 22 November) also available online.

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Japanese Law in Asia-Pacific Socio-Economic Context
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