Support group for Vietnamese residents in Japan offers help with health and jobs

Nna/kyodo

A support group for Vietnamese residents in Japan has been established in Tokyo, aiming to help them land lawful jobs and ease their difficulties in daily life, amid concerns about some who turn to crime.

The Vietnam Mutual Aid Association in Japan says it will provide language support to help with work, health and visa matters, among other issues.

Some of the problems faced by Vietnamese in Japan could be avoided if accurate information and appropriate advice was available, wrote Mika Yamamoto, the 30-year-old executive director of the group, in a statement.

Yamamoto, whose Vietnamese mother settled in Japan with official refugee status, has lived in Japan since 2005 and has worked as an interpreter — under her Vietnamese name, Nguyen Thi Huong — for immigration authorities, police, lawyers, prosecutors and judges.

The association, registered in May with the support of a dozen Japanese — including a doctor and a film producer — offers various services ranging from call-center operations and job matching to Japanese language courses.

The number of Vietnamese residents in Japan surged to 262,405 in 2017 since visa requirements were relaxed in 2014, becoming the third largest group after Chinese at 730,890 and South Koreans at 450,663.

Chinese in Japan largely consist of permanent dwellers and students, while most South Koreans are permanent residents, including those with special status given during the postwar era.

But nearly half of the Vietnamese in Japan arrived via the government-sponsored technical intern trainee program, helping eliminate labor shortages in sectors like agriculture and fisheries, food, apparel manufacturing and construction, according to the Justice Ministry.

The deregulation of visa requirements, however, has also caused an increase in the number of illegal immigrants from Vietnam, the association said. The number of crimes committed by those from Vietnam accounted for 30 percent, or 5,140 cases, of the total by foreign nationals in 2017, surpassing those from China to top the list for the first time since comparable statistics became available in 1989, according to the National Police Agency.