Koreans protest Osaka mayor’s support of Ishihara

OSAKA — A group protecting the human rights of Koreans living in Japan filed a protest Wednesday against Osaka Mayor Takafumi Isomura after he said the term “sangokujin,” used in recent remarks by Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, is not derogatory.

Isomura told reporters Tuesday the word is not derogatory, but had hidden meaning for Japanese people who used it immediately after World War II.

Suh Jung Woo, head of the Osaka-based Human Rights Association for Koreans in Japan, said he wants to meet Isomura to find out what the mayor really meant by his comment.

“Sangokujin” literally means “people from third countries” and was used as a derogatory term after World War II for people from Japan’s former colonies in Korea and Taiwan.

“If we say the term is not derogatory, it means we allow oppression (of Korean residents in Japan) with this word. Such an attitude will only condone Ishihara’s remark,” Suh said.

Ishihara has been under fire both at home and abroad for his comments suggesting foreigners who have entered Japan illegally will riot if a major disaster hits Tokyo and calling on the Self-Defense Forces to crack down on them in the event of an emergency.

Ishihara has drawn fire from many foreigners for using the term “sangokujin” and for remarks against foreigners in general, but has also received a high level of support from ordinary Japanese citizens.

The government has tried not to be drawn into the issue, with Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori saying Ishihara’s remarks “may have been inappropriate” and that he is “not in a position” to comment on them.