Discussing Hate Speech

By YISAC PARK

“Stop! Hate Speech” poster | Image from The Ministry of Justice website

 

“Koreans go home!”

 

A Korean BJ (Internet streamer) called “BJ Minseong” travelling Japan was live-streaming on YouTube while waiting for the train at Osaka on October 2017. Suddenly a man passing by started insulting him. At first, the BJ tried to ignore him, but the Japanese man continued. This was not the only time he experienced unpleasant experiences. When he visited one of the Izakaya (casual Japanese pub), just by entering the store, the owner kicked him out saying “Fxxking Korean go out!” Likewise, in 2016 at Osaka, a Japanese man attacked a Korean family without any reason, hurting a 13-year-old boy. As a Korean myself, sometimes I fear being a Korean in Japan.

 

These are examples of hate speech. Hate speech is public speech that expresses hate or encourages violence towards a person or group based on something such as race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation according to the Cambridge Dictionary. Hate speech is not just the speech itself; nonverbal depictions, photos, video, and symbols are also included. In Japan, one of the target groups is Japan’s Korean minority population (Zainichi Koreans), or Korean residents. Before coming to Japan, I had never heard about hate speech.

 

Many Koreans visit Japan every year. Particularly, Osaka is popular among Koreans. However, when planning to visit Japan, recently lots of people stop and wonder, “Is it safe to visit Japan?”, “What if a hate crime happens to us?” Every day the question arises more and more. How has it come to this?

 

In 2006, Ichiba Zushi, a Japanese sushi chain restaurant in Osaka, served inedible amounts of wasabi in food to foreigners according to The Korea Times. This “Wasabi terrorism” continued for two years. Furthermore, a Japanese ticket vendor wrote “Kim chon” on Korean customer’s bus ticket. “Chon” stands for “chosenjin”, which is a highly offensive way to call Koreans.

 

“The Act on the Promotion of Efforts to Eliminate Unfair Discriminatory Speech and Behavior against Persons Originating from Outside Japan” or Anti-Hate Speech Law was enacted by the National Diet and put into effect on Friday, June 3, 2016 according to The Ministry of Justice. This act states unfair discriminatory speech and behavior should be eliminated. According to this law, the act of hate speech is “to be eliminate” and “will not be tolerated”. Nonetheless, the act has no power to criminally penalize such behavior. This leads us to believe that hate speech is not completely forbidden by law. In addition, the measures to eliminate hate speech are described as “responding adequately” or “giving necessary advice”, rather than “prohibited”. Overall, it concentrates more on prevention such as awareness-raising activities than punishment.

 

A group known as “Association of Citizens against the Special Privileges of the Zainichi” (Zaitoku-kai for short) is responsible for most of the hate crimes of this nature. Zaitoku-kai believe that Koreans have “privileges” or “merits” simply by being part of Japanese society. However, Kenichiro Ito (2014) described that this is not true. As for the economic support by government, it does not exist. Furthermore, he noted that Zaitoku-kai desire disorder and are likely to think themselves as a “chosen minority” who know “the truth”, that is the “Korean privilege”.

 

In a globalized era, any kind of discrimination cannot be tolerated. Ultimately, for a better future, it is important to build peace. Albert Einstein once said, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”