KYOTO - The Kyoto District Court ordered anti-Korean activists Monday to pay damages for disrupting classes at a Korean school by staging demonstrations during which they used hate speech, and banned them from staging further rallies.
The landmark ruling acknowledged for the first time the explicit insults used in the rallies constituted racial discrimination, human rights experts said, and it could prompt a move to exempt hate speech from free-speech rights under the Constitution.
Presiding Judge Hitoshi Hashizume said the actions of Zaitokukai members and other activists who shouted hate-speech slogans near the school and posted video footage of the demonstrations online were “illegal.”
The actions “constitute racial discrimination as defined by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,” which Japan has ratified, Hashizume said.
Zaitokukai and the activists were ordered to pay about ¥12 million and banned from street demonstrations within a 200-meter radius of the pro-Pyongyang Korean school in the city of Kyoto. The operator of the school had sought ¥30 million in damages.
The operator filed the lawsuit in June 2010 against the group and eight activists for using hate speech on three occasions from December 2009 to March 2010 near Kyoto Chosen Daiichi Elementary School in Minami Ward.
The activists shouted slogans, such as “throw Korean schools out of Japan” and “children of spies,” through loudspeakers, disrupting classes and causing some students to complain of stomach pains, according to the suit.
The plaintiff argued that its right to receive “minority education” had been violated in seeking a ban on such demonstrations around the school, which has been consolidated with Kyoto Chosen Elementary School in Fushimi Ward since the incidents.
Several hundred thousand Koreans comprise Japan’s largest ethnic minority group, many of them descendants of forced laborers shipped to Japan during its brutal 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. Many still face discrimination.
Such rallies have escalated this year and spread to Tokyo and other cities with Korean communities amid growing anti-Korean sentiment. In street rallies held in major Korean communities in the Tokyo area, hundreds of group members and supporters called Koreans “cockroaches,” shouted “Kill Koreans” and threatened to “throw them into the sea.”
Zaitokukai defended its actions as “freedom of expression” and said they were intended to oppose the school’s installing of a platform for morning assembly without permission at a park that is managed by the city.
Four of the eight defendants have been convicted of forcible obstruction of business and property destruction in connection with the demonstrations, while the school’s former principal has been fined ¥100,000 for unauthorized occupancy of the park.