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An ethnic Korean resident in Tokyo lost a damages suit Thursday seeking compensation from a Chiba golf club operator for denying him membership because of his nationality.

The ruling by the Tokyo District Court contradicts a decision given by the same court on a similar case in 1995.

Hyon Yong Ok, 37, a company owner from Tokyo’s Nakano Ward, purchased a membership certificate for the Chiba Country Club in Noda, Chiba Prefecture, from a friend in 1995.

But the golf club refused to change the name on the certificate, citing a decision by the club’s executive council to restrict admittance of foreigners to the club.

In the day’s ruling at the district court, Presiding Judge Yoshio Otani said, “No matter what the reason for restricting membership may have been, (the case in question) does not warrant an exceptional measure to ensure egalitarianism by restricting the freedom of choice of a club, which is merely a private organization.

“Even if one is not admitted, it does not cause any inconvenience to one’s life.”

Hyon had demanded the membership transfer be approved and the club operator pay 5 million yen in compensation. Hyon claimed that the golf club’s refusal to grant him membership because he is a foreigner is a form of discrimination and goes against the Constitution.

The Constitution says all people are “equal” and there shall be no discrimination based on race.

In March 23, 1995, the same district court gave an opposite decision on a similar case, ordering a different golf club operator to pay compensation to another ethnic Korean resident of Japan, who was also refused membership on the grounds that he was a foreigner.

The court said in the 1995 ruling that it is hard to find rational grounds for requiring someone to have Japanese nationality as a condition for membership. This ruling was final as no appeal was filed by the operator.

Hyon filed suit Oct. 3 the same year.

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