Prosecutors have indicted without arrest a former senior member of a civic group campaigning against ethnic Korean residents in Japan on libel charges over his hate speech last year, lawyers for a Korean school said Monday.
The prosecutors charged that Hitoshi Nishimura, a former senior member of Zaitokukai, defamed a pro-Pyongyang Korean school in Kyoto by saying via a loudspeaker in a park in April last year, “We must kick out (from Japan) a school that has kidnapped Japanese,” while streaming his speech live on the internet.
Members of Zaitokukai, short for Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai and which loosely translates as a society of citizens against granting privileges to Koreans in Japan, have previously been pressed with charges in connection with their repeated hate speeches in 2009 against the school in the western Japanese city.
At that time, the prosecutors applied the charge of forcible business obstruction on the grounds they disrupted school lessons.
In commenting on the indictment dated Friday, Nishimura told reporters on Monday the prosecutors’ action is wrong because he only “spoke based on facts.”
Japan introduced the law against hate speech in June 2016 after some citizens demonstrated in areas where many Korean residents live in Tokyo and Osaka shouting hateful phrases such as “kill the Koreans.”
However, the law only asks the state and local governments to educate residents against hate speech and offer consultations to those who have been victimized. It does not have any penalties or bans any actions for fear that doing so might infringe on the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution.
Established in 2006, Zaitokukai opposes providing permanent residency status to Korean residents in Japan. It says its members total more than 16,000.
About 500,000 Korean residents live in Japan. Most of them are descendants of Koreans who came or were forced to come to Japan during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. They are given permanent residency status.
Repeated bullying and harassment cases against children notably of pro-Pyongyang Korean residents have been reported particularly after North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals came to light in the early 2000s.