National / Crime & Legal

Former Zaitokukai member pressed with libel charges for hate speech against Korean school in Kyoto

Kyodo

Prosecutors have indicted without arrest a former senior member of a civic group that campaigns against ethnic Korean residents in Japan on libel charges over his alleged hate speech last year, lawyers for a Korean school said Monday.

The prosecutors charged Hitoshi Nishimura, a former senior member of Zaitokukai, with defaming a pro-Pyongyang Korean school in Kyoto by saying via a loudspeaker in a park in April last year, “We must kick out (from Japan) a school that has kidnapped Japanese,” while streaming his speech live on the internet.

The group’s name, Zaitokukai, is short for Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai, which loosely translates as a society of citizens against granting privileges to Koreans in Japan. Its members were previously pressed with charges in connection with repeated hate speeches in 2009 against the Kyoto school.

At the time the prosecutors applied the charge of forcible business obstruction, on the grounds that group members had disrupted school lessons.

In commenting on the indictment, which was dated Friday, Nishimura told reporters Monday that the prosecutors’ decision was wrong because he only “spoke based on facts.”

Japan introduced the law against hate speech in June 2016 after some citizens demonstrated in areas of Tokyo and Osaka where many Korean residents live, shouting hateful phrases such as “kill the Koreans.”

However, the law only asks the state and local governments to educate residents against hate speech and offer consultations to those who have been victimized. It does not have any penalties or ban any actions for fear that doing so might infringe on the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution.

Established in 2006, Zaitokukai opposes the granting of permanent residency status to Korean residents in Japan. It says its members total more than 16,000.

About 500,000 ethnic Koreans live in Japan. Most of them are descendants of Koreans who arrived during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. They are given permanent residency status.

Repeated bullying and harassment cases against children — especially those of pro-Pyongyang Korean residents — has been reported particularly after North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals came to light in the early 2000s.