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ASIA / PACIFIC
Page 16 n THE ASIAN REPORTER
March 7, 2016
Panasonic recognition of same-sex
marriage an isolated move
By Yuri Kageyama
and Youkyung Lee
The Associated Press
OKYO — For decades,
Panasonic Corp. has shaped
Japanese corporate tradition
— be it morning exercise routines or
lifetime employment. But don’t hold
your breath waiting for other Asian
businesses to emulate its latest policy
announcement: Recognizing same-
Much of Asia remains far behind
the west in such attitudes. Pana-
sonic’s move is rare, although bold,
and seems unlikely to herald a sea
In China, South Korea, the
Philippines, and much of the rest of
Asia, “coming out of the closet” still
has enormous consequences, not just
for the individual but also for family
members who might become targets
of abuse and ostracism. It’s an act
requiring tremendous courage in
Asian cultures that value conformity,
traditional family structures, and
Even the way Panasonic responded
to media queries about its decision
was telling. It said it had considered
the move for more than a decade, but
offered no details. The maker of the
Viera TV and Lumix camera
appeared overwhelmed by the out-
pouring of interest, mostly from
western media, and said it could not
provide interviews on the issue.
Lenny Sanicola, an employee
benefit expert at WorldatWork, a
Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit,
was surprised by Panasonic’s low-key
stance. A U.S. company pioneering
such a move would be announcing its
decision with fanfare and likely get-
ting showered with praise, he said.
“Panasonic would be a pioneer in
Japan,” he said, noting that sending a
message about valuing diversity
would attract younger talent that is
urgently needed in an aging society
It’s only a matter of time before
APPLE PAY ACCEPTED. An employee works on a laptop com-
puter while talking with a customer near a sheet showing accepted meth-
ods of payment, including Apple Pay, top left, at an Apple Store in Beijing.
Apple Inc. has launched its smartphone-based payment system in China,
where the electronic payments market is already dominated by an arm
of e-commerce giant Alibaba. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
Apple Pay launched in
China where e-payments
are widely used
BEIJING (AP) — Apple Inc. has launched its
smartphone-based payment system in China, where the
electronic payments market is already dominated by an
arm of e-commerce giant Alibaba.
Apple said Apple Pay could be used with cards from 19
banks and “numerous merchants.” The merchants
include supermarket Carrefour, fast-food outlets
McDonald’s and KFC, and convenience store 7-Eleven,
according to a news release from China UnionPay, the
country’s state-owned credit card processor with which
Apple is working.
Apple’s electronic payment system started in the
United States in October 2014 and has since spread to
Britain, Canada, and Australia. Hong Kong, Singapore,
and Spain are coming this year.
Apple Pay is a late arrival in a Chinese electronic
payments market that offers smartphone users not just
online shopping but also the option to order taxis, send
money to friends, pay bills, and invest in wealth manage-
The market is dominated by Alipay, an arm of the
e-commerce giant Alibaba Group. WeChat Payment,
operated by social networking and gaming company
Tencent Holdings Ltd., is also popular.
Apple’s system will allow UnionPay cardholders to
make payments at retail stores via Apple iPhones and
Apple Watches. The service also enables in-app payments
on iPhones and iPads.
Apple has declined to say how the company and
UnionPay would divide the costs and revenues of their
EQUALITY ACCEPTANCE. Koyuki Higashi, right, and her partner, Hiroko Masuhara, left,
hold a banner reading, “Congratulations: The same-sex partnership ordinance,” while speaking to
the media in front of Shibuya ward office in Tokyo, in this March 31, 2015 file photo. Shibuya ward
became the first locale in Japan to recognize same-sex partnerships as the “equivalent of a mar-
riage.” Panasonic Corp. has implemented a new policy: Recognizing same-sex partnerships —
a move it said it has considered for more than a decade. (AP Photo/Yuri Kageyama)
Asian nations adopt what has become
the dominant message in Europe and
North America, Sanicola said.
“It’s business as usual. We treat
everyone the same,” he said in a
recent telephone interview.
Same-sex marriage is legal in the
U.S. The Supreme Court ruled in
2015 that same-sex couples have the
right to marry. In the U.S., employers
are required to abide by federal regu-
lations on retirement plans, health
insurance, and other benefits for
spouses already, and a review of
company policies on the state level
“Recognition of changing social
mores and a desire to enhance diver-
sity appeal to prospective employees,
as well as prospective customers,”
said Karen Cates, a professor at the
Kellogg School of Management. “In
short, it is good business.”
marriages are not legal. A few local
governments in Japan now recognize
such partnerships as the equivalent
of marriage. That includes Tokyo’s
Shibuya ward, a bastion of Japan’s
youth culture and its equivalent of
the Silicon Valley. There are no legal
penalties for violations.
Japanese public sentiment is
generally unsympathetic to LGBT
transgender) issues, and local media
speculated that Panasonic merely
made its same-sex marriage decision
because it was an Olympic sponsor.
The International Olympic Com-
mittee (IOC) opposes discrimination
on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity
or sexual orientation. But Em-
manuelle Moreau, an IOC spokes-
woman, denied it influences company
policies, including Panasonic’s.
Toyota Motor Corp. of Japan and
Samsung Electronics Co. of South
Korea have diversity policies. But
Toyota said that doesn’t extend to
recognizing same-sex marriage, and
it’s not considering any change.
Samsung said its policies are specific
for country depending on local laws,
Tomoshi Sakka, a lawyer who
represents gender-related discrimi-
nation cases, said Panasonic’s deci-
sion could serve as a precedent to-
ward recognizing same-sex marriage
in Japan — a demand he feels is sure
Continued on page 15
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