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Fukushima nuclear disaster

Rumours after 2011 Japan earthquake pinned blame on Chinese, Koreans for crimes that didn’t happen

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2017, 6:47pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 March, 2017, 11:33am

More than 44 per cent of Japanese people taking part in a study after the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami said they believed rumours that foreigners committed crimes in the aftermath of the disaster.

Residents of three wards of Sendai city hardest hit by the disaster, which claimed more than 18,000 lives, were interviewed by a professor at Tohoko Gakuin University, the Mainichi newspaper reported.

Of the 770 people interviewed, 51.6 per cent said they had heard rumours of crimes being committed by foreigners in areas affected by the disaster. Of that total, 86.2 per cent said they believed the rumours, representing 44.5 per cent of all participants in the study.

Some 97 per cent of those who had heard the rumours said they had heard of foreigners looting, more than 24 per cent claimed to have been told that foreigners had caused “damage to corpses,” while more than 19 per cent said they believed allegations that foreigners had carried out rapes and assaults.

Chinese nationals bore the brunt of the blame, accounting for 63 per cent of the rumoured crimes, followed by Koreans, with 24.9 per cent.

“It was probably convenient to have rumour that it was foreigners who were committing crimes so as not to conflict with the image that Japanese people act in an orderly way,” Kwak Kihwan, the professor who conducted the study, told the newspaper.

According to statistics provided by Miyagi police, 57 foreigners were arrested in the prefecture in the whole of 2011, 1.5 per cent of the total. That figure fell to 53 arrests the following year, 1.3 per cent of the total.

In the aftermath of the 1923 earthquake which devastated Tokyo and areas surrounding the city, rumours spread that Korean residents were poisoning wells. Vigilantes and police murdered an estimated 6,000 Koreans as a consequence of the reports.