KAWASAKI — The Kawasaki Municipal Government said Sept. 4 that three Korean residents have passed examinations to become the city’s first foreign staff members.

The three — a man and woman, both 22, from South Korea, and a 23-year-old North Korean man — will be employed as general clerical staff starting April 1, 1998, city officials said. “I am thrilled,” said Chae Don Ja, the South Korean woman who passed the tests. “I had been preparing for the tests since graduating from school in March.” About 1,600 people, including eight foreigners, sat for municipal employment exams this year. The three Koreans were among 185 applicants who passed the exams.

Kawasaki abolished its Nationality Ordinance, which had prevented foreign nationals from taking most municipal jobs, in July 1996. Kawasaki was the second major Japanese city to employ foreigners as clerical staff. Last month, the city of Kobe announced that it will hire one South Korean and one North Korean next April. In both Kawasaki and Kobe, however, foreign staff are not allowed to take positions that will involve exercising public power or the decision-making process.

Apart from the two cities, the prefectural governments of Kanagawa and Kochi as well as Yokohama and Osaka cities have also conditionally abolished nationality requirements for municipal workers. There is no legal provision that bans the employment of non-Japanese in the public sector. But prefectures and municipalities have long been constrained by a 1953 national government decree that says the posts of public servants with administrative authority or influence over the general public must be filled by Japanese nationals.

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