The recent cases of anti-Korean demonstrations and hate speech marches including the speech by a Japanese girl calling for the “massacre” of the resident Koreans have drawn attention and raised concerns within and outside Japan.1 While the causes of these incidents are attributed to various factors, some of the crucial backgrounds are the complete lack of Anti-Discrimination Law, poor understanding of the general public about the history and culture of minority communities and their human rights issues, the lack of appropriate understanding by the Japanese government of the international human rights standards, and the lack of willingness of the State to actively implement them. Although the Prime Minister as well as the Justice Minister of Japan expressed concern, the government has so far taken no concrete action.
The Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai (Group of citizens who do not tolerate privileges for ethnic Korean residents in Japan) popularly known as Zaitokukai, a group of far- or ultra-right activists that oppose granting any rights, even limited ones such as welfare entitlements, to long-term Korean and Chinese residents of Japan, has been organizing demonstrations, attacks and other activities involving hate speech. Zaitokukai also uses the internet as another medium for hate speech and to spread racist ideas and biased information meant to incite hatred and racial discrimination. Zaitokukai has uploaded onto several websites videos of many of its hate speech activities.
In Tokyo, Zaitokukai has been holding its anti-Korean marches in "Shin-Okubo Koreatown" since 2012. It was reported that the protest started in 25 August 2012 with about five hundred members marching through the streets of the neighborhood, displaying the "militaristic "kyokujitsuki" (rising-sun flag), and chant[ing] such slogans as "Kankokujin wa kaere" (South Koreans go home) and "Chosenjin wa dete yuke!" (Koreans get out)."2 The protests continued in 2013.3
Zaitokukai held its first major anti-Korean activity in Kyoto prefecture on 4 December 2009 when its members attacked the Kyoto Chosen Dai-ichi Primary School. In front of the school play-ground, the Zaitokukai members hurled abusive, discriminatory and intimidating words to the school and people inside as well as Korean residents in general. They also damaged school facilities.
Zaitokukai filmed the whole attack and uploaded the video onto the internet. The school also documented the incident. Members of the police, who were present at that time, simply observed the incident and did not do anything. The school filed a criminal complaint against Zaitokukai on 21 December 2009. On 14 January 2010, Zaitokukai organized another hate speech demonstration against the school and the resident Koreans using loudspeakers on the street in front of the school. It also ignored a court order to stop the acts of assault and defamation. Four members of Zaitokukai who played the main role in organizing these actions were arrested and prosecuted in August 2010. The court convicted the four members on 21 April 2011 for forcible obstruction of business, destruction of property and defamation of the school. The court decision, however, did not consider the racist ideas and motivations or hate speech against a specific group of people. It thus failed to address the root causes of the suffering of the targeted victims of hate speech, racism and discrimination. The accused even made discriminatory remarks in the court throughout the judicial process.
The attack caused enormous adverse psychological impact on and damage to the victims, especially the traumatic experience suffered by the primary school children. The school filed a damage suit against Zaitokukai on 28 June 2010 demanding compensation for the damage suffered and still being suffered. On 7 October 2013, the Kyoto District Court banned the Zaitokukai from “demonstrating near a pro- Pyongyang elementary school, ruling that the group’s words blared through sound trucks were “extremely insulting and discriminatory.” The court also ordered Zaitokukai to pay about “12.26 million yen ($126,400)” in damages.5 The court clearly stated in its judgment that Zaitokukai’s activities constituted a violation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination that Japan has ratified.
On 24 February 2013, Zaitokukai organized an anti-Korean demonstration in a Korean neighborhood in Tsuruhashi district in Osaka City featuring a fourteen-year-old girl. Using a loudspeaker, the girl referred to the Korean residents as “piece of crap” and expressed her strong hatred towards them as well as her willingness to kill them all. Referring to the Nanking massacre, with the Japanese army killing an estimated 250,000 Chinese civilians in 1937, she said that her group would massacre the Koreans in the district if they did not leave Japan. The other participants of the demonstration cheered her up during and after her speech. Members of the police were present during the demonstration but were only observing the situation. The scene was filmed and even uploaded onto YouTube.6 The YouTube video shows her giving the following statements:
Hello, all shit-Koreans living in Tsuruhashi. And hello to all the fellow Japanese present here. I hate the Koreans so much that I can’t stand it and I just want to kill them all now. If Koreans behave with this arrogance further, we will carry out Tsuruhashi massacre like Nanking massacre! (other participants shouted “yeah that’s right!”) If Japanese get angry, it will happen! We will start a massacre! Go back to your country before the massacre gets started! This is Japan, but not Korean peninsula! Go back! (other participants shouted “go back!”)
On 5 January 2011, the Vice-chairperson of Zaitokukai visited the human rights museum of Suisheisha in Nara Prefecture. The museum has a permanent exhibition on the history of Suisheisha (Levellers Association of Buraku People). It had a temporary exhibition on the history of occupation of Korea by Japan. The Vice-chairperson of Zaitokukai complained about that part of the exhibition. On 22 January in the same year, he returned to the museum and gave an hour- long hate speech against Japanese people of Buraku origin and resident Koreans in Japan using a loudspeaker in front of the museum. The speech contained numerous discriminatory and intimidating words towards the two groups. A video of his speech was uploaded on the internet, and caused agony and anxiety among the affected people.
On 22 August 2011, the museum filed a civil suit against the Vice-chairperson of Zaitokukai for defamation of the museum. On 25 June 2012, the court ruled in favor of the museum and ordered him to pay compensation amounting to 1.5 million Japanese Yen. Google deleted the video of his speech in its website upon request of the museum after the court ruling was issued.
Without a clear legal definition of discrimination, or an anti-discrimination law, classifying actions as hate speech poses a difficulty. Japanese public figures have been making comments and remarks that are intended, or have the effect of, to discriminate, defame and incite hatred and violence against certain groups of people.
The former Governor of Tokyo, during his term, had been making derogatory and discriminatory comments about people from China, Korea and Taiwan, elderly women as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender. He often referred to them as “Sangokujin,” a word with highly discriminatory implications and used to refer to criminals or thieves. The comment on the “necessity” of having comfort women during the war by the current mayor of Osaka city raised so much concern within and outside Japan including the United Nations Secretary General as well as the Committee Against Torture (CAT).7
Japan does not yet have a law prohibiting any form of discrimination or incitement to such discrimination or hatred. Victims of hate speech, such as the resident Koreans, have the option of using existing legal measures to protect their rights. However, the crimes that can be linked to hate speech are mainly defamation, damage to property, or illegal entry of private property. In almost all cases, human rights violations or discrimination identified and claimed by the victims in accordance with the international human rights standards including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights have not been reflected in the court judgments. Thus, there is no appropriate remedy at all for the victims from a human rights perspective. It is regrettable that these crucial issues are not properly, or not at all, discussed in the reports of Japan to the human rights treaty monitoring bodies.
In addition, the increasing frequency and intensity of hate speech and demonstrations against certain groups such as resident Koreans and Chinese can be regarded as closely connected to the current state of relationship of Japan with certain countries and the relevant territorial, historical and diplomatic issues between them. As can be seen in other cases in the past and at present, the current situation embraces various factors that can escalate and even lead to open conflict or state of war causing numerous and diverse human rights violations.
While discussion is still ongoing on “how” to deal with hate speech, it is certainly necessary to have proper and decisive action to stop and prevent further escalation of hate speeches, demonstrations and other acts of incitement to hatred.
At the same time, discriminatory remarks and statements that incite discrimination and hatred towards certain groups of people have been repeatedly made by public figures including high-level government officials and governors of municipalities. These remarks and statements by influential persons can have negative impact on the general public and can even be seen as accepting or even facilitating the act of discrimination, hate speech and demonstrations against certain groups of people. So far measures to address this issue or much less challenge these persons have not been taken.
Considering the current situation, the government should answer to a set of questions: What measures have been taken or are being planned by the government of Japan to
For further information, please contact IMADR-JC Secretariat, 6 Floor, 1-7-1, Irifune, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0042, Japan; ph (813)6280-3100; fax (813) 6280-3102; e-mail: imadr[at]imadr.org; http://imadr.org.
* This is an edited and updated version of the Report to the Human Rights Committee on the issue of hate speech against minorities in Japan - For its consideration and adoption of the List of Issues to Japan, jointly submitted for the 109th Session of the Human Rights Committee (14 October - 1 November 2013) by the authors.
1. For media reports in English, refer to www.japantimes.co.jp/tag/hate-speech/; http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20130710p2a00m0na009000c.html; www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2013/0712/Rising-hate-speech-in-Japan-has-even-some-on-far-right-saying-enough; www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-snow/japans-hate-speech_b_3572707.html; http://japandailypress.com/8-arrested-as-groups-clash-over-anti-korean-demonstrations-in-tokyo-1730707/; http://japandailypress.com/youtube-video-of-japanese-girl-on-an-anti-korean-rant-goes-viral-0326306/.
2. Kuchikomi, Nationalists converge on Shin-Okubo's Koreatown, 18 September 2012, www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/nasty-nationalists-converge-on-shin-okubos-koreatown.
3. J.T. Quigley, “Japanese Court Rules Against Anti-Korean Hate Group,” The Diplomat, 8 October 2013, http://thediplomat.com/2013/10/japanese-court-rules-against-anti-korean-hate-group/.
4. See www.youtube.com/watch?v=8C1NbntRWDI
5. Gakushi Fujiwara, Kyoto court bans 'hate speech' around school for ethnic Koreans, The Asahi Shimbun, 7 October 2013, https://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201310070090.
6. See www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oOW6QJfeoo.
7. See Yoshiaki Kasuga, U.N. secretary-general criticizes Hashimoto's 'comfort women' remark, The Asahi Shimbun, 3 June 2013, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201306030070 and the Concluding observations on the second periodic report of Japan, adopted by the Committee at its fiftieth session (6-31 May 2013), CAT/C/JPN/ CO/2, 28 June 2013, para 19.