National / Crime & Legal

In rare ruling, court fines Japanese man who anonymously posted hateful anti-Korean remarks against teenager

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

A Kawasaki court has ordered a 66-year-old man to pay compensation and remove defamatory remarks from his blog that were targeted at a teenage Korean resident in greater Tokyo, lawyers representing the boy said Wednesday.

At a news conference held in Tokyo, the attorneys involved in the case called for the government to implement stricter regulations to curb online hate speech and protect potential victims.

The teenager became the target of hate speech in January last year after attending a music event in Kawasaki, where he went to junior high school. His name was later published in a newspaper article about the event on Jan. 22. The same day, his name also appeared on an anonymous blog titled “Virulent Alien Parasites Named Zainichi,” in which abusive comments about the boy’s ethnicity were written.

The term zainichi is often used to describe residents of Korean ethnicity living in Japan. Zainichi Koreans are also the frequent target of hate speech in the country.

Since the derogatory remarks were first posted, tens of thousands of hateful slurs, comments and insults targeting the boy have been left on the blog, including “Korean pseudo-human,” “your appearance, your brains and everything about you is just a chon (a derogatory word used to describe Koreans)” and “Zainichi, get out of Japan.”

After consulting with lawyers, he filed a complaint with the local police. The police confirmed the perpetrator’s identity and referred the case to prosecutors in October. The Kawasaki Summary Court concluded on Jan. 5 of this year that Yuji Takeshita, from the city of Oita, was behind the attacks and that he had defamed the teenager. The court ordered the man to pay ¥9,000 in compensation.

“It’s a rare ruling for an anonymous online hate speech case and we believe it will serve as a lesson, not only for the person who attacked (the Korean boy), but for others posting such insults, even anonymously,” Yasuko Morooka, one of the boy’s lawyers, told reporters.

During the news conference Wednesday, the lawyers requested the boy’s name be withheld because he is a minor and because exposing his name once again could cause him emotional distress.

Takeshita claimed he had no intent to insult the boy and treated the blog as a diary, according to Morooka.

Morooka argued, however, that the summary court’s decision is not harsh enough to make up for the harm caused by the perpetrator and may actually discourage victims of online hate speech from seeking justice.

She also suggested that existing laws on hate speech and related procedures should be amended.

“These procedures cause distress to the victims,” Morooka said, adding that the existing laws aren’t enough and such regulations may lead to additional victimization to those who bring cases against online attackers to court as their names will likely be disclosed publicly. The process is also time-consuming.

She said the relatively light punishments that are handed out by the courts — a fine of up to ¥10,000 or up to 30 days in jail — do little to prevent hate speech.

To address the problem, the lawyers suggested the implementation of regulations prohibiting such crimes. They also suggested online hate speech cases be reviewed by a third-party panel.

Regulations and hate speech-related laws should be amended to better protect the personal information of victims, the lawyers added.

In a message delivered through the attorneys, the boy said he felt relieved when he learned of the court’s ruling but added that “it won’t help me forget all the insults written on that blog; it didn’t only hurt me, it also harmed my family. We were all victims.”

“Online hate speech still goes unchecked. I just want Japan to implement rules so everyone can surf the internet without having to go through what I have,” he added.