Anti-Korean activists must pay for hate rallies outside school in Japan
In a landmark court ruling, Korean school in Kyoto wins compensation after group's racist speeches scared children and disturbed classes
A Japanese court has ordered a group of anti-Korean activists to pay a Korean school in Kyoto 12 million yen (HK$954,500) in compensation for disturbing classes and scaring children by holding "hate speech" rallies outside the school.
The landmark ruling acknowledged for the first time the explicit insults constituted racial discrimination, and it could prompt a move to exempt hate speech from Japan's constitutional right to free speech.
Handing down the ruling at Kyoto District Court, judge Hitoshi Hashizume said: "The actions are deemed intended to arouse a sense of discrimination among the public toward Korean residents in Japan."
He said the hateful language the members of the anti-Korea group Zaitokukai and their supporters shouted and printed on banners disturbed classes and scared children. The judge said the video footage of the racist rallies posted by the group on the web was illegal.
The court said the rallies "constitute racial discrimination" defined under the UN's convention on the elimination of racial discrimination, which Japan has ratified.
Monday's ruling also banned the group from staging further demonstrations in the neighbourhood of the pro-Pyongyang Korean elementary school in southern Kyoto, according to a court spokesman Naoki Yokota.
Several hundred thousand Koreans comprise Japan's largest ethnic minority group, many of them descendants of forced labourers shipped to Japan during its 1910-1945 colonial rule of Korea, and still face discrimination.
Such rallies have escalated this year and spread to Tokyo and other cities with Korean communities amid growing anti-Korean sentiment. In street rallies held in major Korean communities in the Tokyo area, hundreds of group members and supporters called Koreans "cockroaches," shouted "Kill Koreans" and threatened to "throw them into the sea".
Zaitokukai, which boasts more than 10,000 members, can be translated as the "citizens' group that refuses to tolerate special privileges for Korean and Chinese residents of Japan".
Relations have ranged from strained to outright hostility for generations, but things began to deteriorate 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.
The group says they were only protesting over the school's use of a nearby city-run park without permission. They also say that they protest against the "privileges" given to ethnic Koreans.
The school filed the lawsuit in June 2010 against the group and eight activists over rallies held on three occasions between December 2009 and March 2010 near the ethnic Korean elementary school. It said the activists threatened Koreans, causing some children to develop stomach pains.
An earlier ruling had found four of the eight activists guilty of obstruction of business and vandalism, but did not discuss the racist content.