A government plan to distribute merchandise coupons on a limited basis may discriminate against foreigners living in Japan, a group of Korean activist organizations said Friday.

Under an agreement reached Tuesday between the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, the plan limits coupon recipients to families with children younger than 16, those 65 years or older and exempt from municipal taxes, and others on senior welfare pensions or special allowances for the disabled.

But many elderly Koreans living in Japan have not been included in the nation’s pension scheme, making them ineligible for the coupons, said Kyoung Il Ko of the Human Rights Association for Koreans in Japan. “What we have is a problem with the criteria for deciding who to send the coupons to,” Kyoung said.

His organization, along with two other Korean rights groups, submitted a letter Friday to the LDP and New Komeito asking whether Koreans living in Japan are eligible for the coupons. “Permanent foreign residents in Japan have the same tax burden as Japanese. If they are ineligible for these coupons, this is a serious problem from the viewpoint of protecting human rights,” the letter read.

When asked about the fact that elderly Koreans without pensions are ineligible for the coupons, an LDP official said, “We can’t help it, because the plan is organized in terms of pensions.”

Ultimately, he added, only people with Japanese citizenship will be able to receive the coupons.

The coupon plan originally proposed by New Komeito would have extended eligibility to foreigners, as any taxpayer would have been considered for the benefit, but this was nixed by the LDP, a New Komeito representative said.

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