02/18/2022, 19.30
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Supreme Court approves Osaka's ordinances in battle against anti-Korean sentiment

by Guido Alberto Casanova

The city, home to a large community of Zainichi - the descendants of immigrants from Korea during the colonial era - had adopted them to repress attacks. In recent months there has been a fresh ncrease in this deeply embedded sentiment in Japan. 

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - On February 15 the Supreme Court of Japan unanimously ruled on the ordinances published by the city of Osaka to combat incitement to hatred. The Court ruled that the city's provisions are in line with constitutional requirements and do not substantially infringe citizens' freedom of expression.

The restrictions are "rational and proportionate to the minimum necessary", the verdict states, as they were written to counter "racist and discriminatory behaviour that is highly violent". The ruling confirms the judgement of two courts in Osaka, after a group of citizens challenged the ordinances because they considered that they infringed the right to expression.

Japan has its own law against hate speech, but it does not provide for sanctions against offenders, merely establishing a framework. The law was passed in 2016 as attacks on the Zainichi minority, the descendants of Korean immigrants from the colonial era who now largely remain without Japanese citizenship, intensified in the country.

Osaka, where there is a large Zainichi community, was the first local government to take note of the new law: in 2016, after a rally in which the far right called for Koreans to be kicked out of Japan or killed, Osaka had introduced new measures to make public the names of those who had incited hatred and to be able to remove their content from the internet.

The ruling is an encouraging sign for Japanese local governments. The Asahi Shimbun, reports that Osaka is not the only city to have taken such measures: Tokyo has imposed restrictions on the use of public land for those found guilty of incitement to hatred, while Kawasaki in 2020 also introduced fines for this crime. Other administrations may soon follow, such as Hiroshima where civil society has already mobilised for this purpose.

In recent months, in fact, there has been a new increase in violence targeting the Zainichi. In the second half of 2021 there have been at least 3 attacks on Korean community structures and buildings in Japan while the extreme right, although reorganised under the guise of the Japan First Party, continues to act in public space.

On the other hand, the problem has deep roots that are difficult to eradicate. Corporate culture also plays a role in the construction of anti-Korean racism, as evidenced by the episode of a construction company in Osaka that distributed to its employees information material strongly inspired by the xenophobic right. But if racism and incitement to hatred are an element in the life of many Japanese cities, the responsibility certainly lies with a section of the ruling class that tolerates the existence of extremist fringes.

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