Nationalists converge on Shin-Okubo's Koreatown
Sandwiched between two major streets running parallel, the “Shin-Okubo Koreatown” in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district is home to dozens of Korean-style restaurants and retail shops proffering goods that range from Korean cosmetics to items appealing to fans of “Hanryu” dramas.
Shukan Kinyobi (Sept 14) reports that on Aug 25, a large demonstration of rightists—who are upset over South Korea’s territorial claims to Takeshima island (referred to as Dokdo in Korean)—marched through the neighborhood. The demonstration, whose organizers had tabbed “The Citizens’ Great March to Subjugate South Korea,” consisted of an estimated 500 demonstrators, many of who waved the militaristic “kyokujitsuki” (rising-sun flag), and who chanted such slogans as “Kankokujin wa kaere” (South Koreans go home) and “Chosenjin wa dete yuke!” (Koreans get out).
Things got even nastier after the march ended, when the marchers broke off into smaller groups of around 10 and moved from the main drag to the neighborhood’s many small lanes, where they confronted shopkeepers with even more hostile remarks, such as “Chon-ko wa karere” (Go home, you Korean bastard”) or “We’ll kill you.” They also intimidated compatriots they encountered with veiled warnings like “If you’re a Japanese, then don’t come to this area.”
“It’s very aggravating,” a worker of a street stall selling confections is quoted as saying. “Some young visitors from South Korea got harangued by the protesters. Since that day, the number our customers has tapered off.”
“It appears that the Zaitokukai (short for Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai or group opposed to special rights for Koreans in Japan) thinks it can build momentum for its movement by harping on the Takeshima and Senkaku issues,” says journalist Koichi Yasuda, who authored a book titled “Pursuing the ‘darkness’ of Internet patriots, the Zaitokukai” (Kodansha), about the noisy group that has been boosting its membership through skillful use of the Internet.
“While I don’t see any signs yet that they are increasing their influence, they still bear watching,” Yasuda adds. “As far as they are concerned, discriminating against the ‘zainichi’ (Koreans in Japan) is everything, and they aren’t terribly concerned about what will become of the disputed territories in the future. But they can use the timing of the dispute as a pretext for pushing their own agenda.”
Some rightists also provoked clashes in the Chinese enclave adjacent to the north exit of JR Ikebukuro station, resulting in police being summoned.
When such run-ins occur, however, Shukan Kinyobi notes that it has been rare for Japan’s mainstream media to devote much coverage. And even those who are confronted by the rightists tend to refrain from seeking sympathy from society, perhaps out of fears that any negative publicity will drive away their customers.
When the Shin-Okubo Merchants’ Association was approached by Shukan Kinyobi for a comment, it declined on the grounds that “We haven’t grasped the details.” The Shinjuku branch of the Zainichi Korean Association replied, “There’s nothing to discuss.” The Chinese in Ikebukuro were also reluctant to speak to reporters.
A staff member at one Korean firm in Shin-Okubo confided to the magazine, “The South Korean embassy here sent out a warning advisory to Korean businesses and groups to the effect that from Aug 25, we should not approach demonstrators or make inflammatory remarks. ‘Refrain from any activities that would put your safety at risk,’ it advised.
“If trouble were to break out, nothing good would come from it, as far as we’re concerned,” he added.
As long as this country has no statute against hate crimes, Shukan Kinyobi opines, this kind of ethnic and racial discrimination will remain out of control. Sixty-seven years since the end of the Pacific War, the issue of “territorial disputes” is being used as a new pretext to abet what are long-term trends.