Shin-Okubo shop owners report sales drop of around 30 percent from right-wing rants

Rallies dent business in Koreatown



Ultranationalist rallies targeted at residents and businesses in the capital’s Koreatown district have cast a dark shadow over the once-thriving area.

Sales at a Korean restaurant in the area, just east of Shin-Okubo Station on the JR Yamanote Line, have already been halved, said owner Kim Doc Ho.

Kim, who came to Japan 29 years ago, saw sales surge at the restaurant after the airing of a popular South Korean TV drama sparked a national craze for all things Korean a decade ago.

But business began to decline after relations between the two countries soured following the August 2012 visit of then-South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to the rocky South Korean-controlled islets known as Dokdo, which Japan claims and refers to as Takeshima.

The tense bilateral standoff has led to a series of anti-Korean demonstrations in the Shin-Okubo district by right-wing groups, including one identifying itself as “citizens who do not condone privileges given to Koreans in Japan.”

On June 16, some 200 such demonstrators clashed with about 350 people opposed to the racist demonstrations, resulting in the arrest of eight people.

“As a small-business owner, disturbances are the last thing I want to see because they scare customers away,” Kim said.

Although angry at the rallies, Kim refrains from openly criticizing them for fear of becoming a target.

“It will be really sad if the Japanese stay away from Shin-Okubo because of demonstrations, while Koreans cower,” he said.

Other business owners voiced concern about Shin-Okubo’s status as “a town of exchanges between Japan and South Korea.”

According to Nobukatsu Kin, a third-generation Korean resident of Japan, local Korean shop owners have reported an average year-on-year drop in sales of around 30 percent.

The adverse impact the demonstrations have had on business in Koreatown is “beyond doubt,” although exactly how much can be attributed to them is uncertain, Kim said.

Some shop owners shocked by the hate speech have closed, he added.

Kin, a patent attorney, collected some 13,000 signatures between March and early July to pressure police to end the demonstrations.

He then received harassing telephone calls after demonstrators posted his number on the Internet.

The demonstrations in Koreatown are “acts of violence deviating from freedom of expression,” he said.

Although the police maintain they are not in a position to turn down applications for demonstrations for that same reason, they are asking the organizers to avoid the main streets of Koreatown.

“Organizers have no intention of forcing their way through the central part of the town,” a police officer in charge said. “They are likely to shun it” for rallies.

But a 45-year-old Korean man, who runs a Korean goods shop there said that keeping demonstrations outside the central part is “no solution because they (demonstrators) yell, ‘Kill Koreans!’ or ‘Koreans, get out!’ in places that aren’t far enough away.”

The question of legal restrictions on hate speech has drawn little attention from lawmakers, with only 6 percent of all Diet members responding to a questionnaire on the issue conducted in June by Jinshu Sabetsu Teppai NGO Network, an association of civic groups campaigning against racial discrimination.

Japanese lawmakers should recognize that legal restrictions on hate speech, which is treated as a criminal offense in Europe, are starting to be taken for granted by the international community, said Yasuko Morooka, a leader of the association and visiting researcher at the Center for Asia Pacific Partnership at the Osaka University of Economics and Law.

In the meantime, a group of Korean residents in Shin-Okubo is planning to conduct a variety of events, such as screenings of South Korean movies and dramas, by early next year in a bid to revitalize Koreatown.

“As this town is my second home and the place where our children were born and raised, it’s really painful to hear (demonstrators) say we should get out,” said Lee Sung Min, a 47-year-old leader of the group and operator of a Korean language school.

“We would like to change the atmosphere here” with the events.

  • KenjiAd

    I am a Japanese guy living in China. I know how it feels like being made a target of incendiary speech for absolutely no reasons other than one’s nationality.

    From my perspective, Japan is missing the golden opportunity to show the world, particularly China and possibly Korea, that targeting regular people and businesses solely based on the national origin is completely unacceptable.

    • 思德

      Probably most Japanese people disagree with the behavior of these protestors and don’t endorse this behavior.

      • StrongDerp

        They are the silent majority

    • Jay Wilson

      If South Korea and China can have Anti-Japanese demonstrations, why can’t Japan have Anti-Korean demonstrations? And this is all the fault of South Korea for not agreeing to take this territorial dispute to the International Maritime Tribunal

      • Andrew Livingston

        How is it Koreas fault for Japanese people acting like asses? Personal responsibility, something a lot of foreigners lack a concept of too…

      • StrongDerp

        Because Japan is supposed to be better than those two countries.

      • Jay Wilson

        What about South Korea? They stage anti-Japanese protests concerning Takashima and the alleged comfort women issue, where are the South Koreans condemning THOSE protests? It seems as if there can’t be anti-Korean protests in Japan but South Korea can stage anti-Japanese protests AND get away with it

      • IndicaRed

        So what about South Korea? Well for one, when South Koreans protest, they are mostly politically motivated and promote a clear political message or grievance against the policies or actions of Japan and it’s leaders. They are almost always conducted in front of the Japanese Embassy, as they should be, or in the presence of the group or person they are protesting against. They are NOT promoting or calling for the extermination, rape or expulsion of an ethnicity from their borders for no other reason than being that ethnicity. They are NOT promoting a message of racial superiority over another ethnic group. If you can find me any evidence to the contrary, I will be the first to admit I am mistaken. But there frankly are not demonstrations or protests that take place in Korea that are comparable to these Japanese demonstrations when it comes to the level of violent hate speech and ethnic discrimination being promoted.

      • StrongDerp

        Because their protests aren’t directed a persecuting minorities in their own countries and their protests are clear and politically motivated. It’s very simple

      • wangkon936

        I know of no situation where Koreans go to a place where many Japanese do business and advocate violent protest.

  • Steven R. Simon

    Simon says once again that Japan and South Korea are allies of necessity and these infantile stunts have got to stop.

  • Murasaki

    While in Korea you have the Koreans burning Japanese Flags, photographs of the Japanese PM and people think it is OK for Koreans to do it to Japanese but not OK for Japanese to do it to Koreans.

    • fun_on_tv

      An eye for an eye never works. Look at Northern Ireland. Terrorism only stopped when then government agreed to talk to everyone. Now Northern Ireland is terror free.
      Japan should apply the same thinking. By leading Asia out of conflict.

    • Jameika

      I think you would have trouble finding people who oppose this here in Japan who think it’s okay for people in Korea to do it.

    • thedudeabidez

      I don’t think they’re calling for murder or a “holocaust” of the Japanese living in Korea, which demonstrators at Shin-Okubo have.

      • Andrew Livingston

        Doesn’t matter, they’re both unacceptable.

    • JusenkyoGuide

      How about the notion that neither side is in the right? Instead of showing that Japan is above this, these demonstrations make Japan look xenophobic and as barbaric as it used to be, which is very disappointing.

    • StrongDerp

      Because Japan is supposed to be leading not escalating tensions

  • TAKA

    I am also Japanese guy staying USA. Yes, I believe that most Japanese people hate these protester. They are exceptional group. I couldn’t accept them.

    • jwtn

      I hope u mean extremist. Im American, living in Japan. I found it interesting to see Japanese standing up to the right wing for the Koreans.

  • Rhoid Rager

    Aren’t we revisiting the Taisho period/Great Depression Era here? If history is repeating itself, when should we expect war to break out? All of these fools are being taken by the money masters. He who controls the printing of currency, controls the whims of people who insist upon using that currency. Wake up and give up your fiat. Get off the grid and start bartering to build your own resilience. Drop out of this foundering system.

  • Star Gould

    It just makes it more complicated when so-called those radical groups actually take into action what they THINK seem to be peacful, cause it’s really not… I’m a Korean, and if I were to make a living there somehow, I wouldn’t want any noisy rallies shooing away my customers. lol

  • Whirled Peas

    Okay, I’ll take a stab at this. My limited understanding of what’s really going on here is that some Japanese people feel that Korean residents in Japan are given unfair advantages by the Japanese government. One example is residents of Korean extraction who are born in Japan are not obliged to become a citizen and perform the duties of a Japanese citizen. As a US citizen (where anyone born in America is an America), I find this odd, but maybe there is or was a good reason for this policy. Anyway, rightly or wrongly the anti-Korean demonstrators are objecting to what they perceive as unfair preferential treatment. Unfortunately these demonstrators are using hate speech to get their message across, and that is never a good thing. Plus, shouldn’t the target of their displeasure be the Japanese government who made up the policy, not the Korean residents?

    It seems to me that the national or prefectural government should research this issue and evaluate whether or not Koreans in Japan are truly given preferential treatment and in what ways, and if so why? The anti-Korean demonstrators may have a legitimate gripe, or they might be getting hot and bothered about nothing;. OR there may actually be an historical and legitimate justification for this “preferential” treatment. The other possibility is maybe there once was a legitimate reason for preferential treatment (if it exists) , but that reason no longer applies to current circumstances. Until the government provides some leadership to this issue, what might have started out as a simple “contradiction among the working people” — e.g. “s/he gets more than I get, and I don’t have an easy life either” — can escalate into what it seems to have become — deep resentment couched in nationalist rhetoric. I suggest the gov’t de-escalate by reviewing policy, give the anti-preferential treatment demonstrators an opportunity to express their views (without cursing and hate speech), give the Korean residents a chance to air their views, and either patiently explain why the current policy is a fair one, or be prepared to change it via some kind of compromise. Then maybe things can get back to business as usual.

  • This is not an actual “anti-Korea protest act”, with what Zaitokukai’s doing, of course it’s Korea and Zainichi Korean “most and first” they hate, but they attack other minorities, or welfare receivers, or Hibakusha, or people of Okinawa, sometimes Ainu people as well.
    They’re not simply hating Koreans against their ” delusional aggression of South Korea” , but “Cursing anything anyone whatever seems to be able to bash”, which would be correct.
    Nothing but a second cancer of Japan, next to Aum Shinrikyo.

  • Jay Wilson

    This dispute is all about the Takashima/Dokdo dispute. This could have all been avoided if not for South Korea refusing to take this dispute to the International Maritime Tribunal.