‘Sangokujin’ label was regrettable but Ishihara refuses to apologize

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said Friday it was “regrettable” that his recent use of the term “sangokujin” before the Ground Self-Defense Force on Sunday offended law-abiding foreign residents.

“If this (expression) inadvertently hurt the feelings of minorities of Korean descent and ordinary foreign residents, this was not my intent and is regrettable,” Ishihara said, repeating what he had told metropolitan assembly members who earlier in the day demanded a retraction and apology from Ishihara.

“I did not mean to hurt the feelings of ordinary citizens and will not use the word again,” Ishihara said. “This was very mortifying for me, too. “

He later said: “Let’s not talk about this anymore. Isn’t there anything more upbeat to talk about?” “Sangokujin,” which literally means “people from third countries,” was used after World War II to refer to citizens from the former Japanese colonies of Korea and Taiwan. Although the word is rarely used now, it still carries derogatory connotations.

Ishihara earlier spoke to New Komeito assembly members who had submitted a statement saying the governor’s use of the word was inappropriate and “lacked consideration for foreign residents in Japan.”

“I would like to accept what the governor said as an apology,” the party’s secretary general, Hideo Nakayama, said. Ishihara, however, refused to say his statement was intended that way.

Ishihara used the term during a speech given to GSDF forces on Sunday while speaking of crimes committed by illegal aliens and said, “Given this situation we can imagine the possibility of extensive rioting in the event of a large natural disaster.”

Ishihara on Wednesday said his remarks were partially influenced by images of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which on Friday he admitted he had thought occurred after an earthquake. The riots erupted after Los Angeles police officers were acquitted of beating an unarmed black man. The beating was captured on videotape, which appeared to prove the officers’ guilt. Ishihara still held to his statements that illegals, especially those he says are involved in organized crime, might riot.

“Crimes (by illegal aliens) are on the rise,” said Ishihara. “Try walking in Ikebukuro or Kabukicho.”

He also stood by his conviction that Self-Defense Forces should be mobilized if riots occur.

“I think that by using large equipment, it will act as a deterrent as well as raise the people’s trust in the Self-Defense Forces,” Ishihara said. “Quelling and preventing rioting (when they occur in connection with a natural disaster) is disaster relief.”