Koreans in Japan abused: U.S. report

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Koreans in Japan abused: U.S. report


Japanese right-wing groups stage an anti-Korea rally on Sept. 8, 2013, in Korea Town in Tokyo right after Tokyo was chosen for the 2020 Summer Olympics. By Seo Seung-wook

A U.S. government report released Thursday shed light on social discrimination and harassment against ethnic Koreans in Japan, especially by right-wing civic groups in the midst of the growing anti-Korea sentiment under the nationalist administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The U.S. Department of State on Thursday released its annual report on human rights situations worldwide, titled “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013,” describing human rights violations in each country last year in detail.

In its section on Japan, the report states that entrenched societal discrimination against foreign nationals in the country, particularly against ethnic Koreans, was observed and recorded.

“During the year [2013], ultra right-wing groups held a series of demonstrations in predominantly Korean neighborhoods in Tokyo,” the report said.

“Group members used racially pejorative terms and were accused of hate speech by the press and politicians,” it stated.

The report specifically mentioned the civic group Citizens Against Special Privileges for the Zainichi [ethnic Koreans in Japan], whose members were arrested on June 17, along with three other right-wing activists, when public altercations erupted in Tokyo between that group and those who opposed their views.

In fact, the report said Japan is becoming more accepting of ethnic Koreans in its society, naturalizing a total of 5,581 as Japanese citizens in 2012.

“Senior government officials publicly repudiated the harassment of ethnic groups as inciting discrimination and reaffirmed the protection of individual rights for everyone in the country,” it said.

Still, naturalization is not an easy process for applicants, the report indicated, due to the “excessive bureaucratic loopholes” and “a lack of transparent criteria for approval.”

“Ethnic Koreans who chose not to naturalize faced difficulties in terms of civil and political rights,” the report said, “and regularly encountered discrimination in access to housing, education, government pensions and other benefits.”

For instance, some privately owned facilities, hotels and restaurants prohibit the entry of ethnic foreign residents, posting signs that read “Japanese Only.”

“Noting that the discrimination is usually open and direct, respected NGOs have persisted in complaining of government inaction to prohibit it,” the report said.

Since the nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office last year, diplomatic relations between Korea and Japan have soured, and the two nations continue to bicker over long-standing historical and territorial disputes. The anti-Korean voices grew in Japan, with hostile rallies held by nationalist demonstrators.

Books expressing anti-Korea sentiment have also become popular in Japan, the report said.

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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