Japanese police accused of abetting hate speech against Koreans
Julian Ryall in Tokyo
A leading member of the far-right Issuikai organisation has accused police of helping even more extreme nationalists target the Korean population of Tokyo and Osaka, with protest chants of "kill, kill, kill" that make even the hardliners of Issuikai cringe.
Kunio Suzuki said the recent upsurge in violence and "hate speech" by a group that calls itself Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai went beyond what could be considered acceptable free speech.
The group's name is shortened to Zaitokukai and translates as the "citizens' group that refuses to tolerate special privileges for Korean and Chinese residents of Japan".
"I have been involved in the right-wing political movement here in Japan for 45 years now, ever since I was a student, and I have never before seen this degree of hatred and unpleasantness," Suzuki said yesterday.
"I believe that most fellow right-wingers and conservatives in Japan feel the same as me, that the things that are being said to the Korean community here are despicable."
Even worse, he said, was that YouTube footage of people marching through Korean districts of Japanese cities chanting "Kill, kill, kill Koreans" or waving placards stating "Good Koreans, bad Koreans, still kill them all" was being seen around the world. It reinforced the image that Japan was a nation of extremist and violent racists.
Suzuki said very few ordinary Japanese people were even aware of the protests, which had not been covered by local media.
"These images are being shown in other countries and it fills me with grief that this is seen as the truth of the situation here in Japan now," he said. "These demonstrators are flying the Japanese flag at these marches. I feel that the 'Hinomaru' flag is crying at being used by these people in this way."
Japan is home to about 600,000 Koreans, most descendants of labourers brought to Japan during the years of its colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.
Relations have ranged from strained to outright hostility for generations, but things began to deteriorate once again when then South Korean president Lee Myung-bak last August visited the Dokdo islands. The islands are controlled by Seoul but Japan claims their sovereignty and refers to the two rocky islets as Takeshima.
This row reignited arguments about the history that is taught in Japanese schools and the "comfort women" issue.
That flame was fanned to new heights by Toru Hashimoto, the right-wing mayor of Osaka, who in May claimed that the women who provided sex to Imperial Japan's military during its colonial years were not forced into it.
The Korean community had hoped the demonstrations would fade away over time, but that has not happened and Suzuki said he believed the extremists were being encouraged in their campaign by the police.
"I do not think this sort of situation would be permitted to occur in other countries, but the police are allowing these discriminatory words and posters to be used," he said.
"I believe they are not clamping down because these sorts of events mean the police are more necessary," he said. "I also believe these groups are in close contact with the police so they are able to get permission to have these demonstrations.
"If that had been me protesting like that, as a member of Issuikai, then I am certain that I would have been arrested. I find this very close relationship with the police very disturbing."
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department said it could not comment.