The rallies organized by ultranationalist groups in the Shin-Okubo district in Tokyo has not only affected the peace and order situation in the area, but Korean-run business establishments have also been sorely hurt. The anti-Korean sentiment, sparked by the territorial dispute over the Takeshima/Dokdo islands, has cast a huge problem over the once prosperous Koreatown district.
It was just a decade ago when the airing of a South Korean TV drama in Japan started a national trend for everything Korean. Businesses, like restaurants and souvenir shops, began popping up in the Shin-Okubo area, where many Koreans lived. But when diplomatic relations between the two countries started deteriorating, the anti-Korean rallies started happening, and at a much greater frequency. One right-wing group, who identifies itself as, “citizens who do not condone privileges given to Koreans in Japan,” hold monthly demonstrations, calling for the Koreans to leave Japan and uttering other racial slurs against them. One rally even turned violent, as those who oppose the racist demonstrations put up their own protest movement and went up against the ultranationalists. This resulted in the arrest of eight people, including the leaders of the respective groups.
“As a small-business owner, disturbances are the last thing I want to see because they scare customers away,” Kim, a restaurant owner, said. He said businesses like his have already had their profit cut in half, and he believes it’s really unfortunate if the Japanese stay away from the area and if the Koreans “cower” from all this hatred shown against them. Local Korean shop owners have already reported a drop in sales of around 30%, and some of the blame can be placed on these hate demonstrations. The police have said they cannot turn down applications to demonstrate because it is part of their freedom of expression. But Kin, a patent attorney, says these rallies are already “acts of violence deviating from freedom of expression”. He gathered 13,000 signatures to pressure the authorities to stop the rallies, but all he got was someone posting his number on the Internet and then receiving threatening and harassing phone calls.
Even Japanese lawmakers are not prioritizing legal restrictions on racist and hate speech, so they cannot expect help from them anytime soon, even as civic groups have been campaigning to make hate speech a criminal offense. In the meantime, in a bid to reawaken interest in Koreatown and to revitalize the businesses there, a group of Korean residents plan to conduct a series of events. They said, “We would like to change the atmosphere here” through these events.
[ via Kyodo News ]