Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Anti-Korean Voices Grow in Japan

JAPAN, May 15, 2013:--

Demonstrators in Tokyo wave national and Rising Sun flags during an April 21 protest against ethnic Koreans living in Japan. Such protests have increased in size and frequency, alarming some political leaders.

TOKYO—As Japanese nationalism is fueled by friction with neighbors over territories and World War II legacy issues, hostile demonstrations against the country\'s Korean residents are gathering steam, raising concerns among political leaders and setting off soul-searching among Japan\'s largely homogeneous population.

While attendance at the rallies is small and such extreme actions are far from entering the mainstream of Japanese politics, the demonstrations of nationalist activists using hate speech and intimidation have grown in size and frequency in recent months. One target has been the central Tokyo neighborhood of Shin-Okubo, known for Korean restaurants and shops selling South Korean pop-culture goods. Starting in February, groups of 200 or so demonstrators have descended on its busy weekend streets, waving Japanese flags and carrying signs that read \"Roaches\" and \"Go Back to Korea.\" They shouted in unison: \"Let\'s Kill Koreans,\" language that passersby told local television they found shocking.

Similar, though smaller, rallies have been held every weekend across Japan. While the demonstrations have raised tensions, there have been no reports of violence, beyond a handful of minor scuffles.

Alarmed, some lawmakers have started calling for new regulation to ban hate speech, a term unfamiliar to most in Japan where immigration is tightly controlled and racial and ethnic minorities—mostly descendants of Koreans brought to Japan before and during World War II—account for less than 1% of the population.

\"When they started shouting \'Kill Koreans\' on the streets early this year, I knew they had crossed the line,\" said Yoshifu Arita, an opposition lawmaker leading a debate in parliament along with a dozen colleagues. \"This is something we can\'t overlook,\" he added in an interview.

Animosities this week have been further fueled by comments from Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto that sex slaves who served Japanese soldiers before and during World War II were a \"necessary\" part of war. The remarks drew protests from both South Korea and China.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose nationalistic policies are praised by conservative voters while alarming Japan\'s neighbors, described the phenomenon as \"extremely regrettable\" in parliamentary testimony this month. Last week, his own wife, Akie, became a victim of anti-Korea harassment. After Mrs. Abe posted on Facebook FB +0.93% on May 9 that she had enjoyed watching the South Korean musical \"Caffeine,\" her page was inundated with critical comments.

The emergence of openly racist sentiments come as Japan finds itself mired in thorny disagreements with China and South Korea over territories and Japan\'s role in World War II. Combined with the erosion of the nation\'s economic prowess, they have fueled bitterness and insecurity among many of its people. A poll jointly released this month by Japan\'s Genron NPO and South Korea\'s East Asia Institute showed that 40% of Japanese and 47% of South Korean respondents said bilateral ties had deteriorated over the past year. Overall, 37% of respondents in Japan and 77% in South Korea said they had negative images of the other nation.

Last week, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye delivered stinging criticism of Japanese leaders while she was in Washington, saying \"those who are blind to the past cannot see the future.\"

To be sure, rallies in Japan touting extreme racism are small and free of physical violence. By comparison, antinuclear rallies seen in Japan after the 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima drew tens of thousands of protesters. In China, as tensions heightened over disputed islands last year, anti-Japan sentiment led to the burning of Japanese-owned businesses and the harassing of Japanese tourists. In South Korea, anti-Japan protesters recently burned Japanese flags and an effigy of Mr. Abe.

While Japan\'s constitution protects foreigners\' human rights and police can arrest demonstrators using verbal intimidation, Japan has few effective tools and regulations to control hate speech and extreme forms of racial discrimination, experts say. Their small size has left members of the minority population with little political clout and much of the rest of the population seemingly indifferent, analysts say.

\"As a result, human-rights violations against foreigners have been tolerated in some ways,\" said Akira Maeda, a law professor at Tokyo Zokei University specializing in issues around hate speech.

In 2010, the United Nations Committee on the Eliminationof Racial Discrimination urged Japan to adopt a law to ban hate speech, citing \"continued incidence of explicit and crude statements and actions\" against children attending Korean schools and other groups. Tokyo responded by citing a possible conflict with the freedom of expression guaranteed by its constitution. (The U.S. takes a similar position on rallies targeting specific groups.) It added, \"The government of Japan does not believe that in present-day Japan racist thoughts are disseminated, and racial discrimination are fanned to the extent that would warrant\" such a new law.

At a recent parliamentary session, Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said Tokyo would closely monitor whether the rallies were inciting racist actions, but didn\'t pledge new legal protections.

Many of the virulent rallies are organized by a conservative group called Zaitokukai and organizations that are sympathetic to it. The group was formed in 2006 to protest against \"special privileges,\" such as welfare payments, that it says are abused by ethnic Koreans, who make up 99% of foreign permanent residents in Japan. Its membership has grown to 13,000 from 10,000 two years ago, according to its website. Unlike Japan\'s traditional right-wing organizations that have gathered members through grass-root groups, Zaitokukai relies on the Internet to attract members. Videos of its rallies and speeches are made available on YouTube and used as a recruitment tool.

\"They used to contain their toxic language to a corner of cyberspace. But recently, they\'ve brought it out in the open by calling it active conservatism. They are now showering those hurtful words on us,\" Seo Sa-Hwang, president of the Korean Youth Association in Japan, a group representing 2,000 permanent residents of South Korean descent. \"Increasingly, we are worried that our lives may be in danger,\" said the 33-year-old Mr. Seo, who has lived in Japan all his life.

Zaitokukai officials say the group\'s rallies are aimed at \"getting Japan back in the hands of the Japanese\" from foreigners who are harming them. \"Many Japanese are losing their lives because of crimes committed by Korean residents. Murder. Robbery. Arson. Serious crimes as they please,\" SaidMakoto Sakurai, Zaitokukai\'s leader, at a rally held Sunday in Kawasaki, a town near Tokyo known for a large ethnic Korean population: \"We are just saying that people who don\'t like Japan should go back to their own country. What part of that is hate speech?\"

Fearful that they may get snared into violent fight, Korean residents\' groups have so far kept their distance from the rallies. After extensive discussions among members and experts, Mr. Seo\'s group recently put out a statement protesting against what they termed xenophobia and \"words and action that incite racism.\"

Some 50 protesters—largely men who appeared to be in their 30s and 40s—were at the Sunday rally in front of a shopping mall by a busy suburban train station. One young man held a sign warning of a \"murder date\" for ethnic Korean city employees. A middle-aged woman, with a stem of a Mother\'s Day carnation sticking out from her purse, carried a sign: \"Sever diplomatic ties with South Korea.\"

Separated from them by double walls of 100 or so police officers were a group of \"counteraction\" protesters, shouting \"Racists\" and \"Shame on you.\" One man in his 20s, carrying a tote bag with a \"No Nukes\" logo, held high a photo of Prime Minister Abe with a finger pointing toward the anti-Korea group. \"Extremely Regrettable,\" it read.
News From: http://www.7StarNews.com

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