Foreign Minister Yohei Kono lashed out Tuesday against Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s remarks Sunday in which he used what is widely perceived as a derogatory term in warning the military that foreigners may wage “riots” after a serious disaster.
“Some people may have been hurt or felt slighted by the use of the term ‘sangokujin,’ and I don’t think people should carelessly use that sort of word,” Kono told a news conference after the Cabinet meeting.
At a Sunday ceremony at a Ground Self-Defense Force garrison in Tokyo, Ishihara said: “Atrocious crimes have been committed again and again by sangokujin and other foreigners who had illegally entered the country. We can expect them to riot in the event of a disastrous earthquake.”
Sangokujin literally means “people from third countries.” The term was originally used before and during World War II to refer to people from Japanese-controlled Korea and Taiwan. For some time after the war, the term was mainly used to refer to Korean and Taiwanese residents in Japan. It is now regarded as a derogatory term.
The governor later told a group of reporters that he sees no problem in using the term “sangokujin.”
Ishihara reportedly explained that the term was widely used by newspapers right after the war to describe foreigners who engaged in illegal activities, and that he did not mean anything discriminatory by using it.
In the Sunday speech, Ishihara also said he expects the GSDF to step in to maintain public security in the metropolis in the event that foreigners rioted.
But Defense Agency chief Tsutomu Kawara told a Tuesday news conference, “Frankly, I don’t foresee any such situation (as foreigners rioting).”
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said Monday, “The central government is not in a position to comment on each remark by a governor.”
Ishihara’s comment has drawn protest from some historians as well as Korean residents in Japan as fanning prejudice against non-Japanese.
Dozens call in support of racist remark
More than one-third of people who contacted the Tokyo Metropolitan Government over racist remarks made by Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara supported his comments, Tokyo officials said Tuesday.
Of the 229 reactions received by 2 p.m. Tuesday, about 80, or 35 percent, supported the remarks Ishihara made to the Ground Self-Defense Force. Ishihara asked the GSDF to control “sangokujin” and other foreigners from rioting, which he believes is likely in the event of a major earthquake.
Sangokujin literally means “people from third countries.”
There were 139 respondents, or 61 percent, who opposed the governor’s remarks, while 10 neither supported nor opposed it, the officials said.
Reasons given for supporting Ishihara’s remarks included concern that many foreigners frequent the busy districts of Tokyo and that public safety could be jeopardized.