Japan’s human rights hypocrisy

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Japan’s human rights hypocrisy


On June 23, the Liberal Democratic Party headquarters of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly in Japan announced it would reprimand a lawmaker for heckling a female member who was speaking in support of pregnant women. An LDP lawmaker jeered, “You should get married as soon as possible!”

When the incident made headlines on June 18, the Japanese public was furious at “the extreme insult on rights of the women” and demanded to discover who made such a comment. As the country that will host the 2020 Olympic Games, Japan must handle this human rights issue strictly, the public said.

LDP party leader Shigeru Ishiba said that if the heckler was a member of the party, then the party would apologize. After severe criticism from the media and the public, a Liberal Democratic member of the Metropolitan Assembly admitted his heckling. The party canceled the membership of the lawmaker, citing “violation of dignity and human rights.”

The news infuriated me for two reasons. The LDP member’s sexist remark was offensive, but at the same time, Japan obviously has double standards when it comes to human rights. The report on the verification of the Kono Statement released June 20 is a clear case of a human rights violation against Korea’s comfort women, who were victims of sexual enslavement by Japan in the past. The report claimed that a draft of the statement had already been written based on political agreements between the two governments before the testimonies of 16 victims had been made. It discounted the significance of the testimonies and added that the “forced mobilization” of these women was unconfirmed. Nevertheless, many Japanese media celebrated the report as if they had won a battle of history.

While hate speeches against Korea have prevailed in downtown Tokyo for more than two years, the Japanese government considers them “freedom of speech” and has not intervened. While Japanese people are infuriated over sexist remarks toward a Japanese person, they are very generous about human rights infringement against people of the neighboring country, allowing signs that say “Kill Koreans” or “Drive out Korean prostitutes.” The double standard is a black comedy.

A few years ago, a British minister said that there were “serious rapes” and “other categories of rape,” including date rape. But the British media refuted that all rape is a serious crime. I would like to tell Japanese society that there are no two standards for domestic and foreign human rights. All human rights infringements are equally serious.

* The author is the Tokyo bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.


JoongAng Ilbo, June 24, Page 33

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