Image provided by: University of Oregon Libraries; Eugene, OR
About The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current | View Entire Issue (Nov. 6, 2017)
November 6, 2017
ASIA / PACIFIC
THE ASIAN REPORTER n Page 3
“Portlandia” star Armisen startled after
discovering he’s a “quarter Korean”
Where collaborative instruction
and personalized learning
Schedule your private tour today!
By Kim Tong-Hyung
The Associated Press
EOUL, South Korea — American actor and
comedian Fred Armisen recently learned his
grandfather was a legendary dancer from Japan
who, while living in Germany in the 1930s and ’40s,
allegedly volunteered in propaganda work for the Third
Reich, and moonlighted as a spy for the emperor in Tokyo.
But among the startling discoveries about his lineage,
the “Portlandia” star seemed most shocked about what
has been general knowledge in the art world — the late
Masami Kuni was actually Korean.
“Well, that changes everything,” a stunned Armisen
said during a recent appearance on the Public
Broadcasting Service (PBS) ancestry series “Finding Your
Roots,” where host Henry Louis Gates Jr. revealed to him
that Kuni was born in Korea in 1908 as Park Yeong-in.
“I’m a quarter Korean?” Armisen continued in disbelief.
“You have to understand that I tell people, that I have
interviews where I say I’m quarter Japanese ... I’m not
Japanese at all.”
Before the end of World War II, Kuni was seen as an
influential dancer, choreographer, and theorist whose
work bridged Asian traditions and European modern
dance. However, he received less recognition after the
1950s, apparently because of his past as a pro-Nazi artist,
according to South Korean dance scholar Oksun Son, who
wrote a study about Kuni in 2014.
While living in Germany from 1937 to 1945, Kuni
staged dozens of performances in Germany and other
European countries such as Italy and Hungary, Son said.
It was also during this time when Kuni had a brief affair
with a young German woman who gave birth to Armisen’s
father in 1941, according to “Finding Your Roots.”
Kuni participated in propaganda activities for the
Nazis, which included performances for frontline German
troops, according to the PBS show, which citied a 1939
Japanese newspaper report. The show also uncovered a
1944 report from the U.S. Office of War Information which
suggested that Kuni worked as a secret agent for Japan
during his time in Germany and gathered information on
southern European and Turkish affairs.
“He is a Japanese dancer and appears from time to time
in the different capitals of Europe, always being charged
with special duties which he covers by his profession. He is
one of the most clever agents they have,’’ said the report
from an American agent based in Istanbul. The show said
it failed to find any other evidence indicating that Kuni
worked as a spy.
“This is so insane,” Armisen said. “If this ended with you
saying that he was a famous Japanese dancer, I am good ...
Open House: Sunday, November 12, 1:00-3:00pm
K-6th w (503) 635-4486
Albina Community Bank
Part of the Beneﬁ cial State family
ARMISEN’S ANCESTRY. Fred Armisen, star of the television show
“Portlandia,” is seen in Los Angeles in this May 31, 2017 file photo. Dur-
ing a recent appearance on the ancestry series “Finding Your Roots” on
the Public Broadcasting Service, Armisen learned his grandfather was a
legendary dancer from Japan who, while living in Germany in the 1930s
and ’40s, allegedly volunteered in propaganda work for the Third Reich
and moonlighted as a spy for the emperor in Tokyo. (Photo by Richard
this clever agent, I can’t believe it ... it’s like a movie.”
Allegations that Kuni engaged in espionage activities
for Imperial Japan have never been raised in South
Korea, where Kuni’s overall body of artistic work is now
largely overlooked or forgotten.
After the end of World War II, Korea was liberated from
35 years of Japanese colonial rule, but was divided into
the Soviet Union-controlled North and the U.S.-controlled
South. Unlike many other famous Korean artists who
returned home after the war, Kuni chose to stay in Japan
and had very little contact with his family in South Korea.
While Kuni choreographed Chunhyang, an opera based
on a 17th-century Korean novel that was staged in Tokyo
in 1948, he later distanced himself from Asia-centered
themes and declared himself a “cosmopolitan,” Son said.
Born to a wealthy family in the southern port city of
Ulsan, Kuni spent his childhood in Korea before leaving to
study in Japan, which is where he adopted his Japanese
name. While majoring in aesthetics at Tokyo Imperial
University, Kuni pursued his passion in dance by taking
classes from Baku Ishii, widely regarded as the father of
Japanese modern dance who also taught perhaps the most
famous Korean dancer ever, Choi Seunghee, who died in
North Korea in 1969.
After graduating from the university, Kuni moved to
Berlin on a Japanese government scholarship to pursue a
doctorate at a Berlin university and learn from prominent
German dancers such as Rudolf von Laban and Mary
Wigman. After the war, Kuni moved to the United States
in the 1960s and died in 2007.
HK activist Wong says China rise means trade trumps rights
By Kelvin Chan and Yi-Ling Liu
Equal Opportunity Lender
Equal Housing Lender
Age 60+? Need legal help for:
For referral to an attorney,
call toll-free: 1-855-673-2372.
For a free handbook,
“Legal Issues for Older
Adults,” published by
the Oregon State Bar,
(available in English,
Russian, or Chinese).
NMLS # 2289
MLO # 7916
12817 S.E. 93rd Avenue
Clackamas, OR 97015
The Associated Press
ONG KONG — Young Hong Kong democracy
activist Joshua Wong is warning that China’s
rise means human rights are in increasingly
greater danger of being overshadowed globally by
He was responding to questions about his expectations
for the Asian tour by U.S. President Donald Trump, who is
visiting China and four other countries.
The 21-year-old Wong, Hong Kong’s most famous
activist, is out on bail while he appeals a prison sentence
related to his involvement in massive 2014 pro-democracy
“Business interests override human rights,” he said in
an interview with The Associated Press. “It unfortunately
seems to be a common trend in the world” under a rising
During Trump’s Asian trip, he said there’s likely to be “a
lot of uncertainty. No one can expect what will suddenly
be published on his Twitter.” But he urged Trump to not
let human rights lose out to commercial considerations,
hinting that U.S. business interests could also someday be
directly affected by China’s rising clout.
As an example, he referred to the recent case of British
human-rights activist Benedict Rogers, who was barred
from entering Hong Kong on what many suspect to be
Beijing’s request, and said it might happen again.
“The day may come for U.S. politicians to be blocked
from entering Hong Kong and when politicians or
businessmen from the U.S. might not be possible to enter
such an international financial center, how can they keep
silent on the erosion of Hong Kong autonomy?” he said.
Beijing promised to allow Hong Kong to maintain wide
autonomy and civil liberties after its 1997 handover from
Britain under the “one country, two systems” blueprint,
Let our hearts be full of
THANKS for our customers
and community supporters.
BEEF FOR SALE
PRO-DEMOCRACY ACTIVISTS. Pro-democracy activists
Joshua Wong, center, and Nathan Law, right, walk out of the Court of
Final Appeal Hong Kong on October 24, 2017. Hong Kong’s highest
court freed the pro-democracy activists on bail pending an appeal of
their prison sentences after they were convicted of sparking massive
protests in 2014. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
but pro-democracy activists and lawmakers fear China’s
Communist rulers are reneging on their pledge.
Wong urged the U.S. and other western countries to pay
closer attention to “how the China model threatens
The China model is a reference to economic
development without corresponding democratic reforms,
as well as the name of a controversial booklet praising
China’s one-party rule that the Hong Kong government
planned to distribute in 2012 to schools as part of “moral
and national education.” Wong helped lead protests that
forced the government to shelve those plans.
Wong was given bail two months into a six-month
prison sentence. He and a fellow activist, Nathan Law,
were both sent to prison after the justice secretary won a
legal challenge overturning more lenient sentences. The
move sparked fears Hong Kong’s independent judiciary is
Continued on page 8
Call (503) 980-5900 for details
GRASS-FED & GRASS-FINISHED BEEF
Farm-raised in Newberg, Oregon
Beef available as:
q Quarter cow q Half cow q Whole cow
Beef is processed by a Portland butcher.
Pickup available November at N.E. Sandy Blvd. location.
Read The Asian Reporter –
exactly as it’s printed here – online!
Visit <www.asianreporter.com> and click the “Online
Paper (PDF)” link to download our last two issues.