TOKYO, Oct 7 – A vocal anti-Korean group was ordered Monday to stop a “hate speech” campaign against a Pyongyang-linked school, in a rare court ruling against racial discrimination in Japan.
A civil court in Kyoto also ordered the group and its activists to pay some 12 million yen ($120,000) in damages to the elementary school run by affiliates of the pro-North Korean General Association of Korean Residents in Japan.
Members of the group, formed in 2006 to eliminate what they called “privileges” given to Korean residents in Japan, staged loudspeaker demonstrations outside the school three times in 2009 and 2010, the district court ruling said.
They shouted such slogans as “Throw Korean schools out of Japan” and “This is a front for training North Korean spies”. They also posted video clips of the demonstrations on the Internet.
In handing down the ruling, presiding judge Hitoshi Hashizume said the group’s actions “constituted racial discrimination as defined by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination”.
“The actions are deemed intended to arouse a sense of discrimination among the public toward Korean residents in Japan,” he said.
Hate speech, per se, is not illegal in Japan. The civil court’s ruling turns on the racial element of the outbursts.
Four members of the group have previously been successfully prosecuted under criminal law for “forcible obstruction of business” by interrupting with classes.
The anti-Korean group is named Zaitoku-kai, an abbreviation of a name that literally translates as “an association of citizens who do not tolerate privileges for Korean residents in Japan”. It is reportedly associated with right-wing organisations.
Among the alleged privileges, it has cited permanent residency granted to Koreans who came to Japan when the Korean peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule between 1910 and 1945, and to their offspring, as well as some welfare benefits and tax breaks meant for them.
The group claims a membership of some 13,800 people and its presence online is growing, while it has staged noisy demonstrations in Korea-towns in Tokyo and Osaka in recent years.
It has mobilised hundreds of people for each such demonstration, at which chants of “Kill the Koreans” are not uncommon.
But some more liberal Japanese, infuriated by the group’s extreme actions, have begun holding rival marches whenever the Zaitoku-kai demonstrate.
Zaitoku-kai lawyers said the group had staged the Kyoto protests after the school set up a platform for speakers in assemblies held in an adjacent public park without permission.
They also argued their demonstrations were legal and protected by rules on freedom of speech and assembly.
As well as the damages, the court barred the group from staging demonstrations within 200 metres of the school.
The school has previously been fined for the illegal use of the park.