YOKOHAMA – The Kawasaki Summary Court on Friday ordered a man to pay a fine of ¥300,000 for making derogatory and racist remarks against a Korean resident of Japan on Twitter.
The court imposed the fine after Shigeyuki Ikeda, 51, of Fujisawa was found by prosecutors to have violated a Kanagawa Prefecture ordinance that bans troublesome behavior. It is the first time criminal punishment has been imposed for hate speech under such an ordinance, the plaintiff’s lawyer said.
“While a criminal penalty serves as a deterrent to an extent, only a small fraction of the damage has been addressed. There need to be laws to punish discrimination itself,” the lawyer, Yasuko Morooka, said during a news conference in Tokyo.
According to the indictment, Ikeda posted hateful remarks directed at Choi Kang I Ja, a 46-year-old resident of Kawasaki, on Twitter four times between June 2016 and September 2017. Choi’s lawyer said the two had never met.
The posts consisted of remarks such as “the craftiness of showing off their ethnicity pisses me off,” and “I won’t tolerate Koreans living carefree in Japan behind the shield of discrimination. I don’t recognize any of their rights.”
Police had referred Ikeda to prosecutors for alleged intimidation, but in February they decided not to indict him.
Choi then filed a criminal complaint with prosecutors alleging suspected breach of the ordinance.
Choi started being harassed online after she advocated against hate speech using her real name in March 2016. The harassment continued until police searched Ikeda’s house in December 2017, according to Morooka.
“It has been a long 3½ years. Even though the posts were written anonymously, (the offender) was identified and he has finally been held criminally responsible,” Choi told the news conference with tears in her eyes.
Earlier this month, Kawasaki became the first municipality in Japan to enact an ordinance imposing criminal penalties for hate speech. The new ordinance, which enters into force on July 1, 2020, bans discriminatory language and actions against people from countries or regions other than Japan in public spaces. It makes repeat violations punishable by a fine of up to ¥500,000.