Japan opposes any proposals with “UNICODE is the only way”.

From: Gunther Schadow (gunther@aurora.rg.iupui.edu)
Date: Wed Apr 26 2000 - 13:12:29 EDT


I need some people to help me out with an issue that Japanese people
took with Unicode. I need to learn more about the use of Unicode in
Japan. To give you some background:

- I'm working with an international health care information and
communication standard (Health Level Seven). We are an ANSI accredited
SDO and an international organization with affiliates on all continents,
including Japan.

- I'm also watching activities of the recently formed ISO TC215 on
healthcare standards.

- The representative from Japan, leader of both HL7 Japan and the
ISO TC215 delegation made a presentation that included the following
statement at the end:

    Japan opposes any proposals with “UNICODE is the only way”.

and I may add to this:

    But if Unicode can not be the only way, the whole purpose of
    the Unicode is defeated.

I'm using this harsh statement to catch the attention of some
knowledgeable Unicode people to help me understand and hopefully
resolve this issue.

The presentation I have seen puts quite some effort into the argument
why the CJK unified character set is not sufficient. As it stands I trust
the argumentation. I know from experience that computer standards
developed for the general market tend to ignore really tricky real world
issues that exist. These issues become obvious in healthcare, because
healthcare deals with people first and computers later.

To give you at least some substance: the argument was made that the
Unicode CJK characters are insufficient to faithfully write people's
names, since the various traditions and character reforms in China,
Korea, and Japan have produced differences that, while they may be
unimportant in usual writing, are important in name writing. Example
is Korean nationals living in Japan.

This has alerted me very much. Here are some more quotations that I
throw in to tease you that this is an important matter requiring
Unicode's attention.

   "Original UNICODE dream is gone."

   "ASCII characters are compatible ASCII, ASCII users can say
    “we are universal, because we use UNICODE,” in the demerit of
    ideographic users."

As I am a believer in the Unicode "dream" I want this to be resolved.
If there are any problems they must not be ignored. Much effort has
gone into Unicode and it would be a waste if we can not use it!
I could imagine the humanities in Japan having trouble with Unicode
as well, since the difference in writing may be meaningful to them

Please do not use these catch statements as an oportunity to flame
or start a big discussion here. What I need is some people, preferrably
Unicode "insiders", and preferrably Japanese, or with good contact to
Japan, to give me some background and the Unicode point of view and
deployment of Unicode in Japan in non-healthcare areas, and who are
willing to help resolve this issue. The people who brought this up have
my utmost respect (and so has the people who made the Unicode.) I need
really good answers.

I want international health care standards to go with Unicode, please


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