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  5. Fighting the Insecurity of Foreign Residents ? Possibilities of Cooperation between Japanese and Korean People*

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FOCUS December 2009 Volume 58

Fighting the Insecurity of Foreign Residents ? Possibilities of Cooperation between Japanese and Korean People*

Kinhide Mushakoji

I would like to begin by explaining why I use the word “fighting” in the title of my speech today, “Fighting the insecurity of foreign residents.”

It is important that areas like Osaka and the Chubu region in Japan take on progressive roles toward multicultural co- existence. But these areas are just parts of the state, and therefore, the starting point should be the perspective of the state.

The Constitution of Japan was drafted after the Second World War, reflecting Japan’s history of invasion and colonialism. The preamble of the Constitution states that, “the Japanese people...  have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world” and declares that, “[w]e recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want.”

The concept of “human security,” advocated in the Final Report of the United Nations Commission of Human Security (2003), was developed based on these constitutional ideas. The Japanese government has persistently claimed that “human security” is at the center of its diplomacy or politics. The idea has been emphasized in Japanese diplomacy, but today the right of people in Japan to live in security as human beings, in particular that of foreign residents, is being violated. Efforts to fight this situation, and to eliminate it are seen in many areas. The Chubu region and Osaka, in particular, where many foreign residents reside, are the battlegrounds. Therefore, I would like to examine how the countries of Korea and Japan as well as its people can fight this “insecurity.”

The Reality of Ethnocracy and Overcoming Colonialism

Ethnocracy is democracy that places its own ethnic people at its center. I once gave a speech in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and found that the participants and I could not agree the issue of ethnocentrism because of their Korea-centric ideas. I explained, that although unfortunately the same way of thinking could also be seen sometimes in the Republic of Korea (ROK), that country is moving towards multicultural co-existence. The participants did not really understand my point. This may not be a serious issue in a country with no foreign residents, but that is not the case in reality.

The problem of ethnocracy is serious in Japan. When I was the Vice Rector of the United Nations University during the second half of the 1980s, apartheid was still practiced in South Africa. In a conference at the University, Rodolfo Stavenhagen of Mexico, an expert on the rights of indigenous peoples, stated that “ethnocracy must be eliminated.” I agreed, raising the examples of South Africa and Israel, and said, “we should not think only of our own people.” He laughed and responded that he was amazed at what I said because he believed that Japan was the second country after South Africa that practiced democracy centered on its own people.

Since then, although I recognize that democracy may exist in Japan it is ethnocentric. Elections have been conducted only for the Japanese by the Japanese, with no consideration for foreign residents. I have been working with an NGO named IMADR (International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination), which has been called an anti-Japanese intellectual movement by grassroots conservative NGOs. I half-jokingly and half-seriously tell everybody that there is no one who is more patriotic than me. A patriot must do something to correct his/her country, if it is doing something wrong. Japan is right in placing importance on the right to live in peace, after reflecting on its past invasion and colonization experiences. But it is wrong in protecting the human rights of its own people only.

2010 will be the 100th year since Japan forcefully annexed Korea, and discussions have been ongoing in various organizations on the Japanese-Korean cooperation to protest colonialism. In this context, I believe that fighting the insecurity of foreign residents is fighting a new form of colonialism. In the globalized world today, colonialism takes on new forms, such as intra-state colonization, inter-regional colonization, or discrimination and exploitation of minorities by other residents.

Questioning “Multicultural Co-existence”

A careful examination of migration at the global scale would show that there are families who are unable to live in peace in their own countries unless they migrate. And while voluntary migration that does not fall in this category is probably a good thing, the major motivation for such migration is to decrease the number of mouths to feed, or to improve through foreign remittances the living standards of the families left behind. Creating a world where people do not have to migrate is important in the global fulfillment of the right to live in peace.

There is also the problem of people who were forced to migrate because they could not live in peace and prosperity in their own country and who in some cases ended up as “illegal” migrants in their destination countries. They are sometimes left with their “illegal” status unresolved and the receiving countries not clearly stating why their migration was not recognized. This is a most insecure situation.

Divorce for Japanese husbands and foreign wives can mean deportation from Japan for the latter if they have no children. Thus the Japanese husbands can threaten their foreign wives with divorce if they are not obeyed. The security of foreign wives is not protected because they are immigrants in the country. The same problem probably occurs in ROK as well.

The number of migrants in Japan increased considerably during the ‘bubble’ economy of the 1980s, and people began talking about multicultural co-existence. ROK also saw an increase of migrants in the 1990s, leading to the development of the idea of multiculturalism. Unlike Japan, ROK enacted a number of laws protecting the human rights of migrants. And the efforts of the Korean citizens at the local level formed the basis of this development. Citizens and local governments in Japan are also making efforts to support the rights of the migrants. Teachers in schools try hard to give education to foreign children similar to the one received by Japanese children, though Japanese schools under the current Basic Law on Education are supposed to enable Japanese children to contribute to Japan as Japanese. While the Japanese government desires to give proper education to foreign children for the sake of human security, the Basic Law on Education does not require it. The hard efforts of teachers in educating foreign children despite lack of official requirement for them to do so are a positive aspect of local activities. But this lack of legal support is a negative aspect of the Japanese state.

There is a considerable difference between multicultural co-existence being discussed at the state level and the various multicultural activities going on at the local level. But the practice of multicultural co-existence based on laws such as the Basic Law on Education would mean a worse form of ethnocentric democracy in the guise of “multicultural co-existence.” Having organized in Japan many study meetings on the importance of multicultural co-existence, I ended up presiding in Seoul in a conference on the citizenship of foreign residents (married migrants in particular) a discussion on “tearing off the mask of multiculturalism.”

Multicultural Co-existence and the Migrants’ Identity

When we speak of multicultural co-existence, we should respect as the starting point how the migrants (in some cases, the women who married their Japanese or Korean husbands) want to live in Japan or Korea, and not emphasize our own ideas on how they should live. The subject of multicultural co-existence is the migrant or foreign resident, and we need to examine better co-existence on their terms.

The issue of identity is important in this context. Co- existence can presume that everyone speaks Japanese, understands Japanese culture and adapts to Japan, in short, partly adopt a Japanese identity. This idea is meant to promote multicultural co-existence as a softer version of blatant assimilation, and it seems to be prevalent.

I was in the Philippines recently,[1] with the mothers of international couples and their supporting organizations, to discuss with the experts the issue of migrants. These mothers wanted to teach Japanese to their children, but also Tagalog. They did not want to lose their original identity, but would also want to become Japanese. They say, however, that in reality, it is difficult to teach Tagalog. Some are caught between desiring to forget about the Philippines and finding themselves unable to blend into the Japanese society. Such situation is similar to that of a stateless person, and it can be painful. In some cases, it may lead to mental instability.

There are also people who do not study Japanese at all, and their husbands and children would only speak in Tagalog or English. They refuse to become Japanese. Their relationship with their husbands and children may suffer because of it. They would have to have some understanding of Japan.

On the other hand, there are people who study Japanese very hard, blend in with the Japanese, do not allow their children to speak Tagalog, and do not speak Tagalog themselves. Two groups of Filipinos in Kasugai City in Aichi Prefecture illustrate this situation. The members in one group talk in Tagalog among themselves, but the members of the other group interact only with Japanese people and not with fellow Filipinos. They may attend the same Catholic church, but they act differently. Japan actually promotes these two forms of practice.

Some migrants stick to their own language and plan to return to their own countries after working for a couple of years in Japan, and so they do not have to blend into the Japanese society. In fact, they should not. There was a move within the then ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), to prepare a law for short-term migration. Another group within the LDP, led by Mr. Hidenori Sakanaka, who used to work at the Immigration Bureau, advocates a proposal to have migrants learn the Japanese culture perfectly, and increase their number up to ten percent of the total population in the next fifty years. Since the ruling party changed to the

Democratic Party due to the recent 2009 elections, I do not know what will happen next.

Ultimately, sustainable multicultural co-existence from the point of view of the migrants means respecting the identity of their country of origin, as well as trying to adopt that of the receiving country, a move that can be seen recently among foreign residents.

Networking for the Protection of Human Rights of Resident Koreans and “Newcomers”

The same problem can be seen among resident Koreans. Those affiliated with Soren, an organization related to the DPRK, emphasize their North Korean identity. Those who originally come from ROK try to adapt to the Japanese culture while maintaining their Korean culture and languages, in the form of sustainable multicultural co-existence. I find sustainable multicultural co-existence as most important. In the end, when we engage in activities at the local level we need to cooperate with the foreign residents, particularly women who migrated because of their marriage to local men.

The discussions on the issue of migration, including state policy for migrants, focused on how to get along with the resident Koreans, the so-called “old-comers.” If we manage to overcome the negative aspect of the Japanese history, the colonialism in the Korean peninsula, we may become a country with sustainable multicultural co-existence. We must also physically experience multicultural co-existence, and maintain our respective identities, because mere theoretical discussion of “multiculturalism” will not be of much use. Although not an issue of race, the anti-discrimination efforts of the discriminated buraku people are linked to the migrants’ fight against discrimination while maintaining their identity. Some people in Okinawa argue that they belong to an indigenous people. The people of Ainu are of course indigenous. It is necessary to try and achieve sustainable multicultural co-existence in the real sense involving all minority groups. Sustainable multicultural co- existence can be achieved when recent migrants, the so-called “new comers,” as well as “old comers” create their own communities around themselves, create networks and live side by side. It would not create stateless cosmopolitanism, but a global democracy, in which the identities of each person are valued. I hope that the realization of such a world would be one of the issues in the Japan-Korean cooperation.

Kinhide Mushakoji is the Director of the Centre for Asia Pacific Partnership, and Chairperson of HURIGHTS OSAKA.

For further information, please contact HURIGHTS OSAKA.

 * This is the keynote speech delivered by Kinhide Mushakoji during the Korea-Japan Exchange Symposium: "Considering a Region with Foreign Residents" that was held on 24 October 2009 at the International House, Osaka in Osaka City and jointly organized by HURIGHTS OSAKA and the Kansai NPO Alliance. See page 15 for more information on this event.


1. The meeting on the migrants issue was held on the occasion of the Asia Pacific NGO Forum on Beijing + 15 “Weaving Wisdom, Confronting Crises, Forging the Future” (21 - 24 October 2009, Miriam College, Quezon City, Philippines).