Koreans In Japan
Copyright: Center for East Asian Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies, Monterey, California, 2005
KOREANS IN JAPAN
Mika Mervio-- Professor of Political Science, University of Shimane, Hamada, Japan
Good morning, everyone! Thank you for your kind words and comments, Tsuneo.
I have a short and general title here - Koreans in Japan- but I'm primarily going to focus on the permanent residents, on their issues, which would be something like identity, ethnicity, citizenship, education, inter-marriage, and assimilation. However, my studies include other issues such as case study of Koreans in Shimane. Then there is the issue of more recent immigrants from Korea to Japan. If you have questions about any of these issues, I am glad to discuss these issues with you.
The reason why I chose my focus this way is because these are the issues that I think are the most important ones. They will be also more relevant to you and most other scholars when we are thinking about the larger picture of human flows, human rights of minorities and different kinds of ethnic communities, and our future, how to protect the human rights of all people.
To start from numbers: Koreans still form the largest ethnic minority in Japan. However, the size does not tell much about the community itself. The latest figures about Koreans are that they form 32.1% of the total of the foreigners in Japan. The Korean share of the total is much smaller than it was relatively recently. The official statistics tell that in 1993 Koreans represented 51.3% of the total: that was still the absolute majority. And if we go back to the 1950s, a foreign resident in Japan virtually meant a Korean. That is important, because the legislation that was passed in Japan after the war has two purposes: to contain Koreans, to control them for political reasons and, of course, there was an idea of assimilation. These are two different objectives; you cannot really have them both. This already explains to some extent why we continue have so many problems with the legislation in Japan. It's only very recently that the Ministry of Justice in Japan has started to act very rapidly to revise its policies towards foreigners in Japan. Of course, it has very different reasons than the original purposes of legislation concerning foreign residents - now the Japanese government is much more concerned about ageing society, low birth rate and also needs to pay more attention to the changing global standards and expectations of human rights and minority rights. As I said previously, the focus was on controlling people that, for different reasons, were seen as suspicious. But the policies do change and so has the Korean community.
The Korean community in Japan has been there for a relatively long time and it has been constantly changing. The community does change and for me, on the basis of my research, the most important issue would be the language in the sense how rapidly Korean language has been disappearing from Japan. Secondly, inter-marriages with Japanese have contributed to assimilation as well as to new modes of community relations. Already in the 1990s, about 80% of Koreans were married to Japanese. From this figure alone one can understand how rapidly the community is changing. And then,
perhaps the third major issue among the Korean community in Japan would be the growing distance (cultural and emotional) to contemporary Korean societies of South and North when most young Japanese Koreans have little experience of contemporary Korean society. Of course, this is closely related to the language issue and the language issue is then related to the education issue.
Nowadays, the Korean community in Japan is made up of people of various types of Korean identity. However, the Japanese authorities constantly treat as Koreans both people who have South Korean citizenship and so-called "special permanent residents," that is, people who think of themselves as North Koreans. Since Japan does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea, they are not talking about North Koreans (and indirectly recognizing the North Korean citizenship).. However, the consequence of rather inflexible rules and laws regarding foreign residents is that many people in Japan assume that ethnicity can be appropriately described in terms of citizenship. Those Koreans who are allowed to naturalize, are strongly encouraged to assimilate and after naturalization are treated (in statistics as well as in public policies) as Japanese with virtually no one advocating special cultural rights for the "Korean Japanese population" (the term here used in the sense of Japanese citizens with Korean cultural background). Without Japanese citizenship the Koreans are subject to control measures and are more vulnerable to various types of discrimination and if they become naturalized Japanese citizens it is difficult to combine the legal protection given to citizens and "Korean culture". The ideas concerning assimilation are part of the laws related to naturalization process and, more importantly, to the practices related to that process. The inflexible process of naturalization and the absence of dual citizenship largely explains why so many Koreans have not acquired Japanese citizenship..
These attitudes mean that the Japanese are all too often unable to think of Korean residents in terms of being Japanese with varying degrees of Korean culture background. If you compare this with Japanese Americans, the picture is very different. What follows is that Koreans in Japan are not seen as being an asset to Japanese society. Certainly Japan, under the present situation of globalization, badly needs people with multi-cultural backgrounds and skills. Also, in South Korea we can say that there are some people that have problems facing the reality of de-facto " Japanization" of Koreans in Japan. The differences between generations also divide the Koreans in Japan and, as expected, the older generations often feel sad watching how rapidly the Korean culture vanishes in Japan among their younger generations. All this means that the Korean community has to tackle conflicting expectations and many individuals have developed skills to adopt and switch roles that allow them to become a part of several communities.
Next I shall talk about the Japanization of Koreans in Japan and I think it is an appropriate term. Of course, even the use of term is rather sensitive and many individuals undoubtedly will find it rather offending when we talk about Japanization and assimilation because that can be interpreted as undermining or criticizing the Koreans individuals in question. In other words, it is virtually impossible for most Koreans in Japan to shelter themselves from Japanese influences and to maintain Korean lifestyles. Yet, some of these individuals are quick to point out that any talk about their superficial Japanization will not change the fact that they feel "Korean".
The issue of mixed marriages is related to cultural Japanization, together with the relatively high levels of naturalization. The number of people with Korean background in
Japan is increasing (while the number of "Korean residents" is decreasing). With mixed marriages there will actually be more children with Korean background than would be the case if both parents were Korean. The number of people with Korean background is already over 2 million. This is the number that you very seldom hear in Japan or elsewhere. However, that said, when people in Japan talk about the Korean community in Japan, they are usually referring to it as "zainichi kankoku-chosen-jin" By doing so they put together two quite different communities - people with South Korean or North Korean citizenship and use the citizenship as the sole criterion. This term does not make a distinction between the recent immigrants and the third generation or second generation of Japanese Koreans with a permanent citizenship. The recent immigrants from South Korea usually have much closer ties with contemporary South Korean society and are in a much better position to promote contacts between Japan and South Korea. However, the focus in Japan is on the legal status rather than on actual identity, culture or skills of people. The actual identity is something that I would be more interested in. These identities keep on changing and if we think about protecting the culture and human rights of people, then specific circumstances of the community and the full diversity among individuals should be taken into account.
The Koreans in Japan are there to stay. This is not necessarily true of all other minority communities in Japan. They are all different. The Chinese have rapidly increased in number during the 1990s and since due to new immigration. We cannot really compare these communities although in terms of colonialism and the so-called history issue there are some similarities. The Koreans are different; the way they came to Japan is different and the way the Koreans were treated in Japan was different. Finally, the whole history of Japanese colonialism in Korea is simply unique. Therefore there is a good basis to treat Koreans in Japan treated differently from other minorities. In fact, this has been one of the main arguments of the South Korean government and they have been able to press the Japanese government to accept this to some extent, although it has not always been that easy. There is not one solution to this kind of problems and there surely is a need for creative solutions.
Coming from Finland and having European background, I would first be thinking about the case of the Swedish-speaking people, who make up about five per cent of the population in Finland. First of all, both languages have the same legal status as official languages protected by the constitution. One practical consequence is that everyone in Finland has to learn both national languages, Finnish and Swedish, languages that are linguistically far more different from each other than Korean and Japanese. People have a more or less equal access to all public services in both languages. For instance, university students can themselves decide in which language they answer in exams and the state television/radio provides quality programs in both languages (while private channels broadcast primarily in Finnish). In other words, the Swedish-speaking people are not dependent on Swedish media (which they also follow) but receive locally produced Swedish-language programs, made for a population of about 250 000 (while the Finnish-speakers often form the majority of audience for the Swedish-language programs). The issue of ethnicity defined through ancestry is not relevant because most of the Swedish speakers (people who learn first Swedish) have mixed background--virtually all of them. Similarly, many Finnish speakers can list among their ancestors more Swedish speakers than Finnish speakers. Many Finns simply adopted Swedish language as their first
language during the Swedish rule but throughout centuries many families and individuals used both languages and among the educated classes made an effort to learn also foreign languages, especially German. During the Russian era (1809-1917) the use of Russian language never spread when Finland had a constitutional status as a Grand Duchy with self-government and kept its Swedish-origin laws and social institutions while the administration functioned in Swedish and increasingly in Finnish. The attempts by Alexander III and Nicholas II to start imposing Russian language and political agenda were rejected and the clumsy and unconstitutional Russification campaign instead fueled Finnish nationalism and turned the previously loyal population against the Czar and everything Russian. Language and ethnicity don't necessarily have much to do with each other as the Finnish case demonstrates. As for citizenship and identity--all of the many Swedish-speaking Finns who I know clearly identify themselves as Finns and also the Swedes are usually quick to point out the Finns, regardless of their linguistic background. Fortunately the Finns and Swedes have been able to put behind them the long history of Swedish colonialism (1155-1809) and the political attempts of Sweden to dominate regional politics (the most serious incident for Finland being the Swedish attempt to occupy the Aland Islands immediately after the Finnish independence). Nowadays most people in Finland are quick to admit that multiculturalism and bilingualism enabling close relations to the Scandinavian countries have served the Finnish society and all the people well.
As I said, there is no one solution that would work in all cases and I am not pushing any ideas or models. I am just raising a question about the way the Korean community is thought or "imagined" and encouraging a search for alternatives. If the special status of Koreans in Japan is openly acknowledged the next step then would be to re-think the status and rights of other minorities in Japan, admitting the unique circumstances of each group and trying to find the politically and morally lasting practical solutions. Going back to the Finnish case, we cannot simply force all Japanese to acquire a fluency in Korean, but much more could be done to promote Korean language education in Japan and help the Korean community in Japan to develop their own culture. The recent Korean cultural boom demonstrates that the perceptions among Japanese population can change rapidly but it is up to policy-makers to take the initiative and make lasting and fundamental changes possible. If we are thinking about the future, a free-trade agreement between Korea and Japan provides a good opportunity to applying new creative solutions, which could pave way for much closer co-operation between Koreans and Japanese. The state relations are linked to the issue of the status of Koreans and Korean culture in Japan. In the end politics, foreign policy, economy and human rights are very closely related in the Korea-Japan relations and there is a huge unfulfilled potential in these relations.
Talking about the mixed identities of Koreans, all people have multiple identities - that's a starting point in social sciences. Due to nationalistic ways of thinking about identity, often people confuse the terms. In the case of Korean community in Japan the issue of identity is directly linked to citizenship, inter-marriages with the Japanese citizens and to various ways of keeping Korean culture alive. All these issues are sensitive, because the community has its divisions and there are so many different ways of thinking about these issues. The Koreans in Japan are not free to decide their own
identities and act accordingly since they are born to the community and its network of human relationships.
The naturalization issue is an important one because this is how, first of all, people become Japanese on paper and acquire a whole new status. The Japanese courts have repeatedly interpreted that the constitutional protection provided for the "people" does not include foreigners. The term "people" in the American draft was translated into "kokumin" and the Japanese courts have interpreted it to mean a "citizen". Consequently, Japanese legislation frequently reserves benefits only to citizens, although some of the most unjust provisions have been removed after years of complaints. People also tend to take the issue of citizenship symbolically. In interviews among Koreans in Japan, it is not a surprise that citizenship is not a really easy to talk about with strangers.
Then there is the big issue of discrimination. The discrimination and its forms are also related to the changes in community. It seems like most Korean residents in interviews conducted by Korean organizations - the Soren and Mindan - are reluctant to admit that they have personal experiences of discrimination. Of course, we all know that there is discrimination, and that those people responding to these interviews already know about the situation. Cases of blatant discrimination do take place and this is no news for any person who has observed the Korean community in Japan. However, most Koreans are doing quite well and say so. There are, of course, all kinds of differences among the Korean communities and their individuals in terms of education, income and social status, but when using these simple variables it becomes clear that Koreans in Japan are doing much better than before and are rapidly closing the gap with the rest of Japanese population. Of course, the inter-marriages with Japanese tells something about the same phenomenon and about the changes in attitudes among many Japanese.
Next I have to say something about divisions within the Korean community. There are two organizations - Soren and Mindan. The background of Koreans in Japan: Over 95% of people came from what is now South Korea. There are very few people who have much personal contact with prewar family origins in North Korea. Also the background of these people is quite a mix. We are talking about the people who were forced to come to Japan as laborers, who experienced Japanese colonialism in a horrible way. Then there are other Koreans, people of real yangban, for instance, and people who actually did collaborate with the Japanese for different reasons. On the other hand, socialist ideology found a fertile ground among many Korean laborers and workers in Japan after the war and the leftist organizations were the quickest to offer real support to large number of Koreans in Japan. So there was quite an explosive mix after the war and the Korean war made people to choose their side. The issues of class and geographic origins (different Korean provinces) and all kinds of rifts among the community have remained quite important. But, of course, political division on the Korean Peninsula was an integral part in the polarization of Korean communities in Japan. The reason why so many Japanese Koreans didn't want to join Mindan initially had to do with the unpopularity of the South Korean governments and their close relations with the United States. And of course, those, who didn't see fundamental problems with South Korea were among the most eager to go to South Korea when it was possible. And as for North Korea, moving away from Japan was far more difficult and "repatriation" took many years but it did happen. In the 1960s, large numbers of Koreans went back to the country they knew very little about in reality. The single most important reason that has won the
hearts of Koreans in Japan for Soren has been its consistent policy of running Korean schools, now numbering about 150, ranging from the primary level through the university. Korean education is a way to fight against the assimilation policies of Japan.
The Japanese government has been doing very little for minority education in Japan. Some of the local governments have been more supportive and supported both Mindan and Soren and their efforts to run schools. However, about 90% of the children of Koreans in Japan go to regular Japanese schools. There they learn to hide their ethnic background and to cope with Japanese society. Most Koreans in Japan go by aliases; they have Japanese names and they often become very skillful at passing as Japanese. Of course, that is unfortunate because this is the way they assimilate. It takes time, perhaps, but assimilation is the end product. However, passing as Japanese has been a way to escape from discrimination. The methods of passing such as the use of aliases also run in the family.
Being a member of Soren or Mindan goes in families and it no longer has much to do with personal or political opinions. The families have been very important for the community. That is, the very survival of Korean communities in Japan has been linked to the family connections and community connections. The so-called "ethnic businesses" have been provided income and a measure of financial independence to Koreans in Japan. They have been very important, especially in small localities, providing income and means for survival for Korean people if other options have not been available. That has changed for the majority now. With better education the younger generations of Koreans have been in a much better situation to seek employment opportunities from larger cities. The increasing majority is affiliated with Mindan, and due to rapid democratization and development of South Korean society the attitudes to Mindan Koreans have greatly improved among many Japanese people and even the Koreans in Soren camp have in many cases revised their opinions of both Mindan and the South Korea. Actually, in recent years, increasing numbers of people have been switching from Soren to Mindan, which is something that rarely happened before. This is also very much related to political problems between Japan and North Korea. The abduction issue is clearly a very difficult topic for Soren to deal with. Finally, with each passing generation it becomes easier to go against their own family, especially if there is available a more or less silent way to switch affiliation/citizenship.
Soren clearly has big problems. First of all, there are the political problems related to the North Korean state and its policies. Secondly, there is the issue of demography: on the top of a low birth rate there are virtually no new people coming to Japan from North Korea and the existing "North Koreans" often know surprisingly little about the real North Korea. However, there are new people coming from the South and the prospects for Mindan look far better. Then there are serious economic problems with Soren. Its banks collapsed in the 1990s after years of mismanagement and mixing of politics and economy. The schools cannot keep on going if they don't revise their curricula ideological content. They have already moved closer to the content of Japanese schools and the values of Japanese society. It would be unjustified to dismiss (as often is done in Japan) the curricula of Soren schools as pure propaganda since much of the content is similar to Japanese schools. However, the economic problems of Soren schools will remain huge. They don't get any support from the Japanese government and if they raise fees to substitute for the decline in student numbers, the enrollment could drop even
more. When the Soren schools are financially struggling it has an impact on the whole community, because the education system has largely created a common identity among the core of Soren Koreans and defined the whole community. Once the state relations between Japan and North Korea are reaching new lows, the Japanese government and local governments have steadily hardened their attitude toward Soren and, for instance, abolished some of the tax benefits that the organization previously enjoyed.
To conclude, I would say that the picture is rather sad. Japan has already lost much of the opportunity to make the best of the ethnic Korean community in the country as a bridge between the Japanese and Korean societies. The issues that I see here as important are cultural rights; the human rights of people have not been respected and this has led to the loss of knowledge of the Korean language and society. Although there is a reason to point out that the picture is not as gloomy as sometimes one could get from the South Korean media, the picture of Koreans in Japan is not bright.
Thank you, Mika. As you can tell, this is a very complex issue--the changing diversity not only among the Korean community inside Japan; how the Japanese themselves are seeing the Korean communities is also changing. I think Mika did an excellent job giving us the sense of changes. But there are also some continuities. Some of the continuities become very much focused on when the media tends towards issues that divide, generally speaking, rather than unite Koreans and Japanese. The most recent issue is the issue of Tokto--the Japanese call the island Takeshima. The North Korean abduction issue also has impacted the lives and the rights of many Koreans living in Japan. So, whenever there is an issue that tends to be politicized, I suspect it will have some impact on the human rights of Koreans living in Japan. Now we have between 15 and 20 minutes for discussion. I would like to entertain any questions or issues you might like to raise.
I would like to express my admiration about the presentation, which is very balanced, of the different aspects of the situation in Japan. I have three brief questions.
Number one is about the problem of the Koreans and of the Japanese in Japan. If Japan is going to remain as it is now, which is an idea that the Japanese people should be homogeneous and in the future Koreans who are naturalized into Japanese should become good Japanese, assimilation is the target. In the United States it was so up to the 1960s when the United States was feeling that it was a "melting pot" - everything should be melted together. But then came the time of "salad bowl" - recognizing the plurality of different identities. Now the problem of Japan is whether we still want to be a melting pot and for the Koreans to become Japanese. It is true that the Ministry of Justice now accepts naturalization keeping your Korean name. But this does not mean to say that the Ministry of Justice and the Japanese civil society really welcome Koreans to keep their Korean identity. I am a Japanese member of the board of the Korean Scholarship Foundation, Chosen Shogakukai. There are three Japanese members out of 12; the others are from South and North Korea. A Japanese colleague on the board, who was a very liberal official at the Ministry of Education, objected to a project to develop a festival on
Korean arts in order to strengthen Korean cultural identity which is, as you mentioned, now disappearing. My Japanese colleague said, "You should not have this kind of Korean festivals because the Koreans will still remain Koreans. We want them to become good Japanese." It is a terrible statement. This is a problem I would like to hear your comment on.
The second question is on North-South Korea relations. Now, with the kidnapped victims issues, I recently met with one of the North Korea-related families and I was told that the girl who was 8 years old since last year refused to go to school because she would be bullied. And there are some friends in her school, friends in the neighborhood, who come to invite her to come to school. For the Japanese girl, she does not understand this feeling. She does not understand why the North Korean-origin girl does not want to go to school. And the mother is caught in-between because she does not know how to convince the friends of her daughter. So, the question is that we have this kind of North Korean discrimination. Personally, I believe that there is Japanese anti-Korean xenophobia. But Since 1960, the Japanese government has educated the Japanese people not to manifest its anti-Korean feeling toward South Koreans and so the feeling has been concentrated on the North Koreans. I think that the basic racism is both on the North and South, but it is kind of a psychological escape place where you fee free and nobody objects if you attack North Koreans. If you attack South Koreans, it is a problem. My feeling is that there is probably this kind of a problem - there is s general anti-Korean feeling about the Koreans in Japan, not about Koreans in Korea. And this has been related at least in case--Ishihara (Governor of Tokyo) makes it very clear, that during the occupation the Koreans were considered a third country, not belonging to the Allied Forces and not Japanese, so they were called "sangoku" - the third country people. And they received, this is a Japanese myth, certain privileges and the Japanese are opposed to it as part of the remnant of the occupation. I think there is this kind of very strange myth behind the anti-Korean sentiment in Japan.
Thank you, Professor, it is a very nice presentation and I learned a lot. I am a practitioner working in the Ministry of Justice. You mentioned that for the Korean community in Japan, their status is different from other minorities because of the background, why they came to Japan, and because of some historical background. How about governing foreigners in Japan? Is there any objection or opposition from other minorities when the Korean community is given this kind of special status there? If Japan considers the Korean community as a community of foreigners, how are the Korean minorities properly separated from other foreign and other minorities there? If the Japanese government thinks about the Japanization of Korean minorities, what kind of an action plan is there for dealing with the Korean minorities?
I was just thinking that it seems to be a very mixed picture that you present and I would like to add some more mixed ingredients. The head of the Immigration Bureau in Tokyo until a few days ago--Mr. Sakakibara--wrote an article in Chuoukoron (a major opinion magazine in Japan) a few years ago, in which he welcomed assimilation by Koreans not because they will be assimilated, but because they will remain Korean. And
he thought it was important for the internationalization of the Japanese society in anticipation of acceptance of a greater number of immigrants. And therefore, he welcomed them to maintain their Korean traits since this would be a positive influence on Japan. I thought it was extremely interesting and refreshing to come from a government official writing in this capacity. I am wondering how much this is understood, how much this is discussed among Koreans or people doing Korean Studies in Japan.
Second, the expression zainichi has come to have a special identity in Japan. People use the work zainichi in what now is a much more positive way, to avoid using "chousenjin" or "kankokujin". There is this a distinct zainichi identity to which people can respond. And I was wondering how you would respond to that. And also the existence of this very enigmatic Japanese Korean called Tei Kin-Kyuu, who has written a book called "The End of the Korean Community in Japan," and more recently, he has written a book in which he argues that the bringing into Japan forcefully, for forced labor of Koreans, that this as an origin of Korean community in Japan is a myth, that, in fact, this was a myth taken up by the Korean community to create for itself an identity of grievance after the World War II. And this comes from a Korean. This is an extremely vibrant and interesting element in the discussion and I am wondering to what degree this is discussed by Koreans. Mr. Tei, who appeared in our 50th Anniversary Program, complains that he has not had any responses from any serious discussants in Japan.
I have some partial answer to your question. By 1944, nearly 2 million Koreans lived in Japan mainly transported during the colonial period. Most of them were repatriated after Japan's defeat in 1945 and the number had fallen to fewer than 600,000 by 1947. In 1952, the zainichi-- what the Japanese call zainichi or the term that literally means to "stay in Japan" but it usually means Koreans who came there during Japan's colonial rule and their descendants--were made to choose between the South and North Korean citizenship and were recognized as permanent residents of Japan. But still they were foreigners up to 2003. In 2003, 470,000 were officially recognized as zaininchi. Their number had dropped by about 100,000 since 1993. Since 2003, according to the Japanese law, naturalized Japanese are no longer counted as zainichi. But, the International Herald Tribune of April 2 carries an article titled "Japan-born Koreans live in limbo." Ms. Chon Hyan Kun, now a 55-year old nurse, a daughter of a Japanese woman and a South Korean man, who was born in Japan and has lived all her life there and does not speak Korean, could not take the test to become a supervisor at a public health center because she was considered a foreigner. Five months ago her brother got naturalized as a Japanese citizen and he highly recommended for her to become a naturalized Japanese so that she could take the test. But she has refused because she wants to carry her Korean identity, although she does not speak Korean. But she is now in limbo. That is where zainichi stands as of now.
I will try to be brief. First of all, Mushakoji-sensei, about the myth of homogeneity - "tan 'itsu minzoku kokka no shinwa." It's a myth, first of all. We are talking about the society in Japan where we have already all kinds of diversity--whatever you can think about and the Koreans are not so uniquely different. First of all, there is the
geographic aspect. Shimane is very different from Kanto. People fail to think of this in ethnic terms. Of course, there is Okinawa and the Ainus, both having long cultural traditions not easily fitting to the myth of Japanese homogeneity. The Burakumin are at least predominantly "ordinary" Japanese people. However, on the top of these easily identifiable separate groups, Japan has very different kinds of communities. One of the problems is that academia is co much centered in Tokyo and in Kanto, while mass media as well is so much Kanto-based that they fail to see or admit the full extent diversity in the Japanese society. Maybe in South Korea you have some similar problems. You have a too big city right here in Seoul. In scholarly terms it means that Japan is multicultural and is far more multi-ethnic than people usually think. Social stratification in terms of regional culture, gender, occupation, income, generations and education all add to this diversity. The picture of large monolithic ethnic Japanese (wajin) as the majority and small ethnic groups as minorities has never been accurate. The starting point is that diversity already exists in the society and that "assimilation" is a rather strange goal. Globalization means that the number of people with clearly different ethnic backgrounds will increase in all societies, which received immigrants. Individuals are always different and modern societies need the special skills of all their members and therefore any talk about homogeneity misses the point. Militarism and nation-building may have use for standardized culture and homogeneity, but both Japan and South Korea have left that phase long behind.
Then, this is also related to your second question about bullying and violence. I would first go back to the issue of the rule of law and the role of police in a society. In Japan, it is often said that it is the intersubjective social practices rather than law that matters. Unfortunately, the Japanese police haven't been very effective when it comes to crimes against North Koreans, for instance. Girls in the Soren schools previously wore Korean dresses as their school uniform, but they had to stop doing it because there was so much violence and bullying on the street and that now they have to change into Korean clothes when they get to school. This demonstrates a problem in law enforcement, no one in Japan did much to protect the right of these innocent school girls to wear their school uniform or did anything to stop the harassment. Even in some very serious hate crimes against the Koreans the Japanese police have proved to be inefficient and clearly are mistrusted by many Koreans. The message from many other countries plagued by racist violence is that it would be very important that the police, politicians and the whole public sector clearly renounce racially or ethnically motivated crime and do their best to protect the human rights of all residents. If the public sector casts a blind eye it can easily be interpreted as a tacit approval. Against this background the best way to categorize some of the most colorful of Ishihara's statements is to say that they are irresponsible and the last thing that Japanese society needs.
About other minorities and how they would react to the idea of Koreans having a different status. First of all, legally we have the memorandum of 1991 between the two (Japanese and South Korean) governments and it already established a different status for Koreans. The Koreans have some privileges that other minorities do not have. I guess that most other foreigners in Japan do not envy the position of Koreans and they understand the situation. In fact, Koreans have been most vocal and effective in asking for improvements in the treatment of foreigners in Japan and most other foreigners feel gratitude to them. Looking from the Japanese government's point of view, it's rather
unrealistic to expect other minority communities to ever become assimilated or pass as Japanese. I cannot possibly pass as Japanese in Japan whatever I do. So, let's be realistic. It's remarkable how far the Koreans have come in assimilation in many ways.
Then the issue of assimilation itself. In Japanese the term is "doka"--becoming same, or similar. In any case this is a rather strong term. Whatever you call it, it really means to become like everyone else, to become ordinary, "Jutsu," like the others. This does not leave much room for diversity and multiculturalism, unfortunately.
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