ASIJ Campaign Against Cluster Bombs sign now

It has come to our understanding that Jin Roy Ryu '77 has offered the American School $2 million dollars for purchasing lights for the football field. We believe that to accept the money would be a mistake, as it fundamentally contradicts the mission of our school: 'developing compassionate, inquisitive learners prepared for global responsibility.' [1]

Mr Ryu is the CEO of Poongsan Corporation, a company which produces cluster bombs. [2] Cluster bombs are large packages full of up to two-thousand shells, which disperse mid-air and randomly detonate over an area the size of two or three football fields. They do not destroy specific targets: they are specifically designed to devastate through broad, random dispersal; consequently, most victims of cluster bombs are civilian non-combatants. Cluster bombs also leave on the ground a substantial amount of unexploded ordnance, which is particularly harmful to children. [3] Due to the large number of civilian deaths from cluster bombs, they have been condemned as cruel and inhumane by the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, the Vatican, the Federation of American Scientists, and other high-profile groups. [4] Poongsan Corporation in particular has been blacklisted by the government of Norway, which has divested its funds from Poongsan, since the cluster bombs it manufactures are geared towards the killing of non-combatants, which is a violation of fundamental humanitarian principles. [5]

Headmaster Tim Carr writes that, "Developing compassionate, inquisitive learners prepared for global responsibility is the ideal that we strive to uphold each day." [6] However, it has not been made clear to us how accepting this donation is actually in accordance with upholding our mission. On the other hand, it is quite clear to us how accepting this donation might harm the school.

1. We are ignoring our mission and fooling ourselves if we believe that accepting $2 million dollars from a munitions manufacturer is helping to develop compassionate, inquisitve learners prepared for global responsibility. Family and faculty at ASIJ try their hardest to instill into kids respect for life, a critical sensibility, and the integrity necessary for dealing with problems of global importance. But to preach the values of international understanding to students, and then turn around and accept money made from a munitions manufacturer, seems a touch hypocritical to us. One might say that Mr Ryu is donating as a private individual: but that would be a cowardly, and a failure, to face up to where this money is actually coming from. It's not a secret. Poongsan Corporation, with Mr Ryu at its helm, made a calculated decision to manufacture and sell weapons known to kill more civilians than combatants.

2. We are taking risks with our reputation if we accept this money. The murky provenance of the donation makes us look downright illegitimate. For alumni who hope to leverage an ASIJ education, our credentials are worth less if our alma mater apparently lacks the integrity to abide by its own mission. Established alums will not donate, if it appears that the school supports war-mongering and the manufacturing of munitions. And as the movement to ban cluster bombs continues to gain speed as a cause celebre, like the landmine movement, our acceptance of this donation will only look worse and worse. 46 out of 49 countries participating in the Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions last February agreed to pursue an international ban on cluster munitions in 2008. [7]

All of us are committed to ASIJ; we are writing this because we care about the school and the community. But we believe that acceptance of Mr Ryu's offer, though generous, compromises both the basic mission of our school, the future of our school, and the future of our world.

We are presenting a clear position and believe we deserve a clear answer. Should the Board move to accept Mr Ryu's donation, we, the undersigned alumni, will regard that move as a statement of indifference to our concerns, and to the integrity and future of the school. Should the school accept Mr Ryu's offer, we refuse to donate ever again.


[i] Tim Carr, "Headmaster's Message," http://community.asij.ac.jp/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?&pid=306&srcid=200

[2] Poongsan Corporation, "CEO's Message,"
http://www.poongsan.co.kr/english/

[3] Federation of American Scientists, "Cluster Bombs,"
http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/dumb/cluster.htm

[4]
United Nations, Geneva, "Third Review Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, 7-17 November 2006"
International Herald Tribune, "Red Cross steps up campaign against cluster bombs, urges ban,"
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/11/06/europe/EU_GEN_Red_Cross_Cluster_Bombs.php
Human Rights Watch, "Cluster Munitions,"
http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/clusters/myths0307/
Ekklesia, "Vatican asks UN for Moratorium on Cluster bombs,"
http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/news_syndication/article_06098clusterbombs.shtml
Federation of American Scientists, "Cluster Bombs," ibid.

[5] Ministry of Finance, Government of Norway, "Recommendation of 6 September 2006,"
http://www.regjeringen.no/en/ministries/fin/Selected-topics/andre/Ethical-Guidelines-for-the-Government-Pension-Fund---Global-/Recommendations-and-Letters-from-the-Advisory-Council-on-Ethics/Recommendation-of-6-September-2006x.html?id=449053

[6] Tim Carr, "Headmaster's Message," ibid.

[7] Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Norway, "Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions," http://www.regjeringen.no/en/ministries/ud/Selected-topics/Humanitarian-efforts/The-Norwegian-Governments-initiative-for/Cluster-Munitions---Norwegian-Initiative.html?id=449312

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Timothy RomanBy:
School and EducationIn:
Petition target:
Board of Directors, American School in Japan

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