Two Tokyo lawyers said Thursday they plan to sue hundreds of internet rightists, who the lawyers say campaigned to have them reprimanded over their apparent support for free education at ethnic Korean schools in Japan.
Ryo Sasaki and Kanehito Kita said they will file a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court in late June demanding some 960 of the 3,000 activists pay ¥300,000 ($2,700) each in damages.
The internet rightists, known as nettouyoku, are said to have bombarded the Tokyo Bar Association with vitriol about the lawyers, who were seen to have supported the association’s public statement in support of Korean schools.
The group’s actions were incited by a blog post from an unknown author, and they focused their attention on bar associations in Tokyo and elsewhere, apparently in the belief that they could do so anonymously, Sasaki and Kita told a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.
In 2010, the government launched a policy that made high school tuition basically free, including at schools for ethnic minorities.
But in designing the policy, the government purposely excluded a dozen Korean schools due to their alleged links to the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, also known as Chongryon.
A number of local governments have also canceled or reduced subsidies to Korean schools, citing North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese nationals and the country’s pursuit of missile and nuclear programs.
Many bar associations in Japan, including in Tokyo, have issued statements calling for tuition to be free at the Korean schools in Japan and for them to be subsidized in the same way as other schools.
In a blog post titled “Yomei Sannen” (“Three Years Remain to Live”), an anonymous writer told readers to target a large number of lawyers for expressing a pro-Korea stance. The blog published a long list of lawyers by name, which led to many being targeted.
As a result, many letters arrived at the Tokyo Bar Association from around June last year demanding Sasaki be punished. After Kita tweeted support for Sasaki, he was also targeted, they said.
The bar association outright rejected the activists’ demand that both men be reprimanded.
Sasaki and Kita offered an out-of-court settlement option for the activists, and some have already agreed to a deal.
The lawyers also plan to file a criminal complaint against the blogger, although the person’s identity remains unknown.
“The requests (for us to be punished) were baseless and we have not participated in lawsuits related to Korean schools. The episode has put a strain on our business and has caused us mental anguish,” Sasaki said.
Ethnic Koreans have long been a target of harassment by rightists in Japan, whose actions eventually led to the creation of an anti-hate speech law in 2016.
More than 480,000 Korean residents lived in Japan as of the end of June 2017, according to the Justice Ministry. Most of them are descendants of Koreans who arrived, some forcibly, during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.