While the Korean residents living in the Utoro area (Uji City, Kyoto) have been demanded to evacuate the area by the present landowner, the government of the Republic of Korea decided to support them with financial assistance, which amounts to 3,000 million won (360 million yen), for purchasing the land. The proposed budget for the fiscal year 2008, which includes the expenditures for this assistance, was approved by the National Assembly on 28 December 2007.
According to the survey report on the living conditions in the Utoro area, prepared by the Utoro Neighbourhood Association, some 200 residents live in 65 households in the Utoro area as of the year 2005. Approximately one third of them are the first-generation residents, who were involved in the construction of the Kyoto military airport, and their family members; other two thirds are divided, almost equally, by their relatives and those who had moved into the area after the end of the World War II (1945). More than 40% of the households are composed only of the elders who are 65 years of age or older, and the proportion of the households on public assistance is significantly higher than the average in Uji City.
Korean residents had come to reside in the Utoro area during the colonization period. During the World War II, the colonial government of Japan mobilized workers from the Korean Peninsula for the construction of the Kyoto military airport, one of the important national projects, and accommodated them in the sites of the barracks in the Utoro and other areas.
Although the land of the Utoro area came to be owned by a private company after the end of the WWII in 1945, the Koreans have developed their community there, being unable to go anywhere. When the private company agreed with the construction of the waterworks and sewerage in the area, some twenty years ago, the land was resold to another real estate agent, who demanded the residents to evacuate the site through legal action. While the residents argued against the demand, citing the historical context and their long-standing residence in the area, the Supreme Court made a final decision on this issue in 2000 in favor of the landowner.
Meanwhile, the Association to Protect Utoro and other civil society organizations in Japan have supported the action by the Utoro residents in collaboration with their counterparts in South Korea. The issue of "forced eviction" of the Utoro residents has attracted international attention as well. In 2001, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern in the concluding observations on the periodic report submitted by the Japanese government. In 2005, the Special Rapporteur on the contemporary forms of racism, appointed by the then Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations, visited the site.
Thereafter the residents have been involved in the negotiation with the landowner with a view to purchasing the land. While it was agreed that the residents would pay 500 million yen for purchasing the half of the land of 21,000 square meters, the problem has been how to secure the funds. This became a major issue in Korean society, prompting International Solidarity to Protect Utoro and others to seek for support by the Korean government as well as to initiate fund-raising campaigns, which succeeded in raising more than 5,000 million won (some 60 million yen) in South Korea. With these forms of governmental and private financial support from South Korea as well as support funds provided in Japan, including by Korean residents, the issue of forced eviction is likely to be solved, finally, in the near future.
In this context, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan as well as municipal authorities of Kyoto Prefecture and Uji City established the Task Force on the Improvement of the Living Conditions in the Utoro Area on 5 December 2007, with a view to having joint consultations on support measures for Utoro community development, including the improvement of the living environments. Comprehensive community development, which is to be achieved through collaborative efforts between governments and civil society of the two states, is anticipated.
FLAT (Human Rights Information Network), "Six Decades in the Post-War Period and Human Rights - A Japanese town of Korean residents where the past problems have not been solved yet" [Japanese]
"Task Force Established to Support Community Development in Utoro with Collaboration between Ministry of Land, Kyoto Prefecture and Uji City", The Kyoto Shimbun, 5 December 2007 [Japanese]
Concluding Observations on the second periodic report of Japan under Articles 16 and 17 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
* International Solidarity to Protect Utoro