Japanese high court upholds ruling against anti-Korean activists’ hate speech


The Osaka High Court on Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling that branded as “discriminatory” demonstrations staged near a pro-Pyongyang Korean school by anti-Korean activists who used hate-speech slogans.

A three-judge high court panel turned down an appeal by the Zaitokukai group against the Kyoto District Court decision ordering that it pay about ¥12 million in damages to the school operator, Kyoto Chosen Gakuen.

The order also banned the group from staging demonstrations near the school in Minami Ward, Kyoto.

Presiding Judge Hiroshi Mori said in the high court ruling that Zaitokukai members staged the demonstrations near the school with the intention of spreading anti-Korean sentiment among Japanese people.

Mori said Zaitokukai members’ activities were not intended to serve the public interest and that the group’s actions seriously damaged the school’s provision of ethnic education.

The ruling found that eight Zaitokukai activists staged anti-Korean demonstrations near the school three times between 2009 and 2010, using loudspeakers to denounce those inside.

They yelled slogans, accusing the students of being “children of North Korean agents” and demanding that all ethnic Koreans be kicked out of Japan.

The activists posted footage of their activities on the Internet.

In October 2013, the Kyoto District Court accepted a lawsuit by the school operator, ordering the nationalist group to pay damages and noting that Zaitokukai’s activities run counter to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which came into force in 1969. Japan ratified the convention in 1995.

During the high court hearings, Zaitokukai argued that their members exercised their rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, and argued that the damages were excessive.

Zaitokukai, which says on its website it has about 14,500 members, calls for the abolition of the right for ethnic Koreans to live in Japan permanently.

Some Korean residents are allowed to stay in Japan permanently as they or their parents and grandparents were forcibly taken to Japan before and during World War II. The Korean Peninsula was under Japan’s colonial rule between 1910 and 1945.

Four of the eight defendants have been convicted of forcible obstruction of business and destruction of property in connection with the demonstrations.

  • Charlie Sommers

    Xenophobia is ugly and should not be tolerated anywhere. There are xenophobes in the USA also. These people need to come to the realization that people from all countries have much in common and ultimately pursue the same goals, life liberty, and happiness. We should all be happy to be citizens of the world and forget national boundaries.

    • What about the liberty of the demonstrators? Is it not at all alarming to you that their speech is struck down due to not being in the “public interest”? What other things can we forbid with that vague and undefined reasoning?

      While they should be prosecuted for the actual property they damaged and obstructions they caused, there is nothing but censorship and totalitarianism by traveling down the road of “hate speech”; quite the opposite of what you claim to advocate.

      • Yamashita_Kei

        “there is nothing but censorship and totalitarianism by traveling down the road of “hate speech””

        Not at all. What they did is defamation; an attack on a particular individual’s character and good name, which is a crime to be punished by Article 230 of the Penal Code. (As a general rule, nobody must use the right to speech for violating human rights.)

        If you want to attack a private person in the name of the freedom of speech, you need to prove that your argument is based on a fact and the “public interest”. It’s the rule of Article 230.

      • Charlie Sommers

        Thank you for making such good points. Freedom of speech should be a right but the rights of another not to be defamed by that speech is equally important. “Hate speech” should not be condoned in the name of freedom.

      • lasolitaria

        No, it should. The point of freedom of speech is precisely to protect the kind of speech that irks people, not the speech that everybody is comfortable with (that one rarely needs any protection). If you don’t have the freedom to say “X is disgusting”, if you don’t have the freedom to express hate in your speech. then you aren’t really free.

        And defamation is not the same as hate speech so don’t use them interchangeably.

      • James Smith

        Some legal systems treat hate speech as a form of defamation. And ‘hate speech’ is sometimes referred to as ‘group defamation’. So depending what / where you are talking about they can be used interchangeably.
        Some of the comments made at the demonstration are clearly specifically targeting the students and staff of the school (not just Koreans in general). I guess it’s up to the courts how they broadly the define damaging the honour of a person.

      • lasolitaria

        As far as law goes, there’s no discussion here, since Japan has no hate speech laws (or at least nothing close to what the West would deem as such), so I’m obviously talking in a general sense.

        In fact, the headline is a little misleading because it’s using an expression such as “hate speech”, which is so loaded for a Western reader, in a context where it doesn’t have that much load.

      • lasolitaria

        The demonstration was not addressed at any particular person but against a collective, namely the Koreans, so your appeal to an attack on a “particular individual”/”private person” evidently falls flat.

      • Yamashita_Kei

        “The demonstration was not addressed at any particular person but against a collective, namely the Koreans,”

        That’s wrong. The demonstration was against a PARTICULAR collective; namely the Pyongyang Korean school, which is a JURIDICAL PERSON to be protected by Article 230.

      • lasolitaria

        So it was a particular individual and now it is a particular collective. You contradict yourself. Anyway, I don’t argue the legality of the action, as courts already ruled over it so it’s beyond discussion. What I argue is whether your comment made sense or not. And it didn’t.

      • Yamashita_Kei

        “So it was a particular individual and now it is a particular collective. You contradict yourself.”

        Hey, lasolitaria. Don’t be such spiteful. The identical demonstration can be against BOTH collective and individual, right? Anyway, the fact remains that it was defamation; a crime in Japan’s law.

        I assume that your question is if “hate speech”, distinguished from defamation, should be allowed in the name of the freedom of speech. The answer is No. Attacks on a ethnic group are the causes of prejudice, because ethnic groups are not agents who have their own will. Prejudice against ethnic groups is the cause of human rights violation. (Please check our history.) It is not to be permitted by another right.

      • lasolitaria

        “The answer is no”. Wrong. Both the answer and the question.

        “Attacks on a ethnic group are the causes of prejudice”. No, it’s the other way around: attacks are the result of prejudice.

        Your thinking stems from the flawed notion that words are more important than reality. That if you forbid the Zaitokukai from expressing hate for Koreans in public, prejudice will go away. That’s not how it works. The most you’ll accomplish is to drive if further underground, where no authority can monitor it. In fact, if you are to some degree familiar with the mindset of Left/Right-wing extremists, you’ll see that they are often legitimized when a higher instance such as the government directly addresses their message, as it happened with the Left in Latin America last century and is happening with the Right in Europe now. Then they can go “See? They don’t even want us to talk! They’re afraid because they know we speak the truth!” and recruit even more clueless people, whereas if they’re left alone everybody can see their goofiness.

        However, that’s a whole other discussion I won’t go into because the potential negative consequences of keeping freedom are never my concern. Freedom is its own justification and the supposed benefits of limiting a freedom very rarely, if ever, outweigh keeping that freedom to the full extent. What “the public” considers offensive, outrageous and frowned upon changes all the time but my unlimited freedom to say what I want is always the same.

        When the extremists get to be in power (and history has shown time and time again that they could at any moment) and what is now “hate speech” becomes “standard speech” but what is now acceptable and even encouraged speech becomes the equivalent of “hate speech”, they’ll have a much easier time if there’s already a precedent of limiting freedom of speech.

  • itoshima2012

    Dark day for free speech! Obviously I don’t agree with those idiots but they should be free to express their views like in the US. Bad day for freedom indeed….

    • James Smith

      I agree with you in theory, but in practice I’m confused.
      If these trucks were outside your child’s school, hurling abuse at your children – how long do you think you’d support the freedom to express their views?

      • itoshima2012

        Dear James, freedom of speech is for me a universal right and so yes, even if they would demonstrate in front of my child’s school I would allow it. I would find other ways to make them leave but freedom of speech is not just “theory” it’s the only thing that makes our system different from any other and so it is a sad day for democracy…..

      • lasolitaria

        I definitely would. Forever. They can say what they want as long as my kids aren’t physically threatened. The consequences of a physical attack are few and always negative, and the receptor can’t avoid them because they’re ruled by the laws of physics. The consequences of a “moral” attack are many and only negative if the receptor allows them to be. There are many ways to deal with it, one of them is to simply not care. That’s what I’d teach my kids: to grow a thicker skin, to not let their emotions override their reason and to be aware of the awfulness in the real world. Maybe over-sensitive adults who want to control freedom of speech weren’t taught so and that’s why they behave like children.

    • Zhake

      Itoshima, but the country is not like the USA. That the thing! Greetings from Kazakhstan!