Occidentalism
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Human rights problem?

July 2nd, 2006 . by Matt

arata
Hiroshima Prefectual Assembly Chairman Arata – Called a racist for telling non-citizens to naturalize before they can vote

The Zainichi South Korean group MINDAN has demanded an apology for being told to take up citizenship if they wanted to vote in regional elections.

Here is the relevant part from the original in Japanese –

民団によると、今月2日、朴団長らが新田議長に地方参政権確立のための意見書採択を要望。新田議長は当初、「いけんものはいけん」と取り合わず、「竹島問題」にも言及。さらに「そんなに選挙権がほしいなら、帰化すればいい」と発言したという。民団側は「人権問題だ」とその場で抗議したという。
抗議文では「前回の対応を反省し、発言の撤回と謝罪を求める」としている。朴団長は「われわれの民族性を抹殺する差別的な発言であり、容認できない」と話している。

A rough translation –

According to MINDAN, on 2nd of this month delegation leader Pak demanded that chairman Arata adopt their written plan for foreigners suffrage in regional elections. Right from the beginning, chairman Arata totally rejected the demand saying “no is no”, and he also mentioned ‘the Takeshima problem’. Moreover, he said “if you want suffrage so badly, you should naturalize”. MINDAN objected to this, saying it is a “human rights issue”.

The written protest says “we expect you to reflect on your behavior, then retract your comments and apologise for them”. Delegation leader Pak also said “These discriminatory comments represent the obliteration of our (Korean) racial characteristics, and we cannot accept them”.

I dont think this is a human rights issue. Countries have a right to determine which people are allowed to vote, and I believe most countries reserve this right to people that are actually citizens. It seems to me that Japan only wants people that are willing to commit to Japan by becoming naturalized citizens to vote. I think that stance is shared by the majority of countries in the world. If I were in the same position and a group of non-citizen foreigners were demanding the vote, I think I would throw them out of my office rather than giving them a hearing and then telling them no.

Quite simply, MINDAN is making unreasonable demands and then crying racism when the demands are rightly rejected. An ethnocentric organization worried that taking up Japanese citizenship will cause “obliteration of our (Korean) racial characteristics” does not have any business calling anyone racist. This is something to keep in mind when you hear vague tales of Zainichi Koreans being discriminated against in Japan – that not being allowed to vote because they are non-citizens is also called “discrimination” by them.


26 Responses to “Human rights problem?”

  1. comment number 1 by: だりん

    He’s right. My parents did it before me in America. It’s that simple. If you want to participate actively in the politics of a country, you need to be a member of that country, meaning be a citizen. No matter how many times people say they were forced to come 70 years ago, that was 70 years ago and no one is forcing anyone to stay now. Three choices. Naturalize; ‘return’ to Korea; or Shut up. I asked a friend once why she doesn’t go to Korea if she’s got it so bad in Japan. “That place is f*cked up and I never want to go there” was pretty much her response. (Yes, it was in that kind of tone.) Then why not naturalize? “I’m proud of my heritage.” Well that’s all fine and well, but you don’t speak Korean and know nothing about your Korean heritage because your parents chose not to send you to Korean school so I guess that leaves you with option 3, ‘shut up’.
    I met a guy here at my new school who was born in Korea but has relatives in Japan so he was able to qualify for ‘zainichi’ status. All he had to do was spend 1-month a year in Japan. Then his number came up in the draft and he moved to Japan. Now he’s complaining about how he can’t get government reduced tuition for being an international student. (He’s not an international student, he’s a regular Japan student as he’s on a ‘zainichi’ visa.) Never mind he is qualified for all other scholarships for Japanese people though.
    You’re really damned if you do and damned if you don’t when dealing with someone who is bitching just for the sole sake of bitching instead of looking at reality.

  2. comment number 2 by: だりん

    … Basically if the only connection you have to your ‘roots’ is a piece of paper, you’ve already lost the connection. People naturalize all the time and never forget who they are.

  3. comment number 3 by: wjk

    i agree that if they want to vote in Japanese elections, they should naturalize.

  4. comment number 4 by: Curzon

    Ditto to Darin and WJK. What a joke. If you want to vote, naturalize. Nuff said. And that’s coming from a 20-something non-naturalized Japan-based westerner! Bring it on, Mindan.

  5. comment number 5 by: Richardson

    No doubt that it’s NOT racism to require one to be a citizen to vote. I think most countries require that, although South Korea has toyed with the idea of letting its expats vote.

    Matt – are you familiar with naturalization laws in Japan? How easy is it for Koreans to become citizens?

  6. comment number 6 by: Matt

    Matt – are you familiar with naturalization laws in Japan? How easy is it for Koreans to become citizens?

    Zainichi tell me its a simple process of applying for citizenship. As long as they are genuine Zainichi Koreans, and not Koreans from Korea, obtaining Japanese citizenship is a matter of signing a few papers. I should note that this is in contradiction to what most people outside Japan think they know about the issue. I find most westerners believe that Zainichi Koreans are not allowed to become citizens. In fact, not becoming a citizen is a choice they make. Which is why the assembly chairman told them to naturalize (he wouldnt tell them to naturalize if it were difficult to do so).

  7. comment number 7 by: KimchiPie

    One of the first thing a Korean learns when they move from their ‘beloved’ homeland to ‘foreigher’ land is to cry racism, when they dont get what they want. In the west, and Japan a claim of racism is taken serously. Koreans use this tactic very well.

    Sa-I-Gu is a classic example. Koreans are well known around the world for treating everyone very very poorly. When the rodney king verdict was announced and there were riots in LA. The tension from the years of resent and hatred from neighboring communities that the Koreans created came to a head.

  8. comment number 8 by: wjk

    Kimchipie, Koreans don’t cry racism to get what they want. It just seems that way from your twisted view point. Try to say that about any other minority in America. You can’t. Because you’ll be labeled a “racist”.

    As for the subject of whether or not Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese consider themselves distinctly different enough to be considred a race…yes they do. That may seem silly to you westerners, but they do give each other plenty of shit and segregation, when they can.

  9. comment number 9 by: KimchiPie

    WKJ-Yes Koreans do cry racism whenever they dont get what they want. Only Koreans* such as yourself claim otherwise.

    * http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/nation/200511/kt2005110622341511950.htm

  10. comment number 10 by: だりん

    Yes, naturalization in Japan is ‘easier’ then people think. I put easier in quotes because there is still a lot of paper work and it’s a time consuming process, but at the same time if you actually go through it and fill out the paper work and provide your legal documents to prove who you are, it’s very likely that you will not be approved.

    I haven’t checked the facts for a year or so, but as I recall you need to be over 20, have been in Japan for at least 5 years, speak enough Japanese to survive, and have no or a very limited criminal record. The biggest problem I see facing zainich Koreans is the being over 20 part. Changing your nationality while in College would be a huge mess because Japanese universities insist on having every last detail about you on paper so they can stalk you if they really needed too. Changing all that at once would be a problem. The only other real time you could do it would be right before you graduate college and are about to start working, but then you have to go through the same problem of dealing with paperwork this time with your new employer. I’m not really sure when a good time would be to do it except for when you’re very young… But the only reason you don’t have Japanese citizenship when you’re very young as a zainichi Korean is because you’re parents choose not to change themselves, so it’s really not realistic to expect the parents to change yours.
    Yet there are still plenty of people who change their nationality. I know of people who do, and I know of others who don’t. I guess if you’re going to make the conscious decision to reside as an alien in your own homeland (these people’s home is Japan; most have never even been to Korea, or left Japan for that matter because they have to get a Korean passport, something the Korean government isn’t openly willing to let them to — so actually they are prisoners of Korea not Japan) you have to be willing to deal with all the hassle that it can cause. For the people that do it because of ‘their culture’, that’s fine, your decision, I respect it, but claims that people are putting you down because you’re Korean or not racists issues, they’re nationality issues, and it’s a hassle for everyone in every country to deal with foreigners when it comes to paperwork, so if you want to get a good job you’d better be better then every other possible applicant who doesn’t bring lots of extra work and extra costs along with them.

  11. comment number 11 by: tomato

    The strange thing about this is that whenever Japan tries to assert its right of sovereignity, former citizens of the long lost Empire comes to the attack. What is the problem with them? If they choose to become Korean citizens, why don’t they try to receive social benefits from the Korean government instead of accusing Japan for being racist? I don’t see the reason in hating a society so much.

    Anyhow, about 10,000 Korean nationals are naturalizing each year, and the fact is, the Japanese government does not take racist policies. Racism is forbidden in employment laws, social security systems, everywhere you name it! The ones who are racist are the Zainichis who think their nationality is something special, even when they have no intention to leave Japan.

  12. comment number 12 by: wjk

    kimchipie, only a Korea hating expat such as you (including chonko, wiesunja) would be so stubborn and hating when in concerns any issue about Korea.

    That link doesn’t have one word that says “racism”.

  13. comment number 13 by: wjk

    this site has its useful parts, but it’s also a vent site for all those who hate Korea to release.

  14. comment number 14 by: Richardson

    Thanks for the info, Matt and Darin. It sounds about as easy to do as the U.S.

  15. comment number 15 by: だりん

    “it’s very likely that you will not be approved.”

    that’s a type-o.. it’s very UNlikely that you will not be approved.

  16. comment number 16 by: ponta

    this site has its useful parts, but it’s also a vent site for all those who hate Korea to release.

    I wish I heard this at Marmot’s and some blogs’ in Korea, replacing the word “Korea” with “Japan”.

  17. comment number 17 by: Lepanto

    Hello Troglodytes,

    For your information, the US, the EU and other civilized countries do allow allien permanent residents to vote and run for office in local elections as part of the UN civil rights convention. Permanent residents in Japan do not have such a right, despite the fact that Japan has signed such convention.

    Naturalization in Japan is long and difficult process and what it is worse, it is an arbitrary one, giving that the decision depends on the Ministry of Justice civil servants. They often have refused applications because people did not want to change their names. Up to the late 1990`s, they would forced people to change into a Japanese name, even when it was not a requierement.

    Another point, Japan does not allow dual nationality. Most of developed nations allow to keep one`s nationality and to keep one`s name. You don`t need to change your name to Paul Smith to become a british citizen for example. Nevertheless, the recognized international law “one-nationality rule” applies in cases of dual nationality (Meaning you are only American in America, though you might have Korean nationality too).

    A similar situation is in good old Nazi Germany, they don`t allow dual nationality and now they are having serious problems with the Turkish comunity there.

    I am telling you, the situation in Japan is far worse than many people believe. Legally speaking, the Japanese government systemactically violates international conventions and their own (American) constitution regarind rights of children, single mothers, foreigners, working women, burakumin, etc.

    Hope this information is useful. Welcome to the XVI century!

  18. comment number 18 by: egg

    Lepanto

    For your information, the US, the EU and other civilized countries do allow allien permanent residents to vote and run for office in local elections as part of the UN civil rights convention. Permanent residents in Japan do not have such a right, despite the fact that Japan has signed such convention.

    I think you are mentioning about International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights article 25, am I right?
    Article 25 is about political rights and it says “every citizen”, while other articles about other rights say “everyone” or “all persons”. I think this difference means that this treaty secures political rights to the people who have the nationality.
    Thus Japanese government is not violating international conventions. Is there any misunderstandings in my ideas?

  19. comment number 19 by: picard

    Lepanto,

    For your information, the US, the EU and other civilized countries do allow allien permanent residents to vote and run for office in local elections as part of the UN civil rights convention.

    http://www.imdiversity.com/villages/asian/politics_law/sampan_noncitizen_vote_0407.asp
    So does that mean Boston is an uncivilized rogue city?

    Having conveyed that, I do think this is healthy publicity for this debate. I am all for letting non-residents vote in local elections.

    On the other hand, non-residents, –who are planning to live in the country the rest of their lives and want all the rights of a citizen yet do not want to naturalize even though they can–, are abusing the system.

    (Meaning you are only American in America, though you might have Korean nationality too).

    FYI, The Government of the Republic of Korea does not recognize dual citizenship.

  20. comment number 20 by: egg

    Lepanto

    Naturalization in Japan is long and difficult process and what it is worse, it is an arbitrary one, giving that the decision depends on the Ministry of Justice civil servants.

    Are there any countries where the authority doesn`t have discretion when allowing naturalization? I will appreciate you if you present me some examples. And can you show me the average time needed? If not why do you think naturization is especially long and difficult compared to other countries?

    They often have refused applications because people did not want to change their names. Up to the late 1990`s, they would forced people to change into a Japanese name, even when it was not a requierement.

    I wish you would show me some examples. By the way, are you sure that those who were refused used Japanese official characters? I think I won`t be able to naturize using Japanese characters to express my name in other western countries.

  21. comment number 21 by: egg

    Lepanto
    Sorry above

    If not why do you think naturization is especially long and difficult compared to other countries?

    should be

    If not why do you think naturization is especially long and difficult in Japan compared to other countries?

    .

    Another point, Japan does not allow dual nationality.

    Talking about over twenty-two years old person, yes. But why do you think allowing dual-nationality is developed? If both countries denand you a military obligation, which are you going to follow? Are you going to require rights without excuting your obligation?

    Most of developed nations allow to keep one`s nationality and to keep one`s name. You don`t need to change your name to Paul Smith to become a british citizen for example.

    You don`t have to change your name to Toyota or Honda in Japan either. I think Ruy Ramos will be a counter proof against your claim. (Though Japan doesn`t use middle names officially. In that meaning you will have to change your names. You will have to register your middle name as a family name adding it to your family name or just give it up.)

    A similar situation is in good old Nazi Germany, they don`t allow dual nationality and now they are having serious problems with the Turkish comunity there.

    I didn`t know about this probrem but what has Nazi do with it? Immigrant law in Germany was made in 2000, isn`t it? I am fond of Turkey very much but about this probrem, I will take German shoulders. By the way, is turkey allowing dual-nationality and how is the conditions of naturization?

  22. comment number 22 by: Lepanto

    Hello overthere,

    – Here a list of countries allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_of_foreigners_to_vote

    – Guy Ramos does have a Japanese name: 瑠偉 (Rui)

    Up to the late 1990`s most of Korean surnames were not part of the list of “accepted” caracthers. The situation has improved though.

    – The problem with naturalization in Japan is that it is not a LEGAL process but an ADMINISTRATIVE one, meaning it is up to the arbitrary decision from the civil servants to decide if you are Japanese enough or not. It is not based on a set of rules like other countries: Years of residence, no criminal records, family ties, etc. In the UK would take from 5 to 10 years if one has no connection with the UK or from 2 to 5 years with connection. In Spain, it is the same for South Americans, etc.

    – By this logic, Koreans should be the fastest getting Japanese nationality. I think the problem is more with Korea and coming to terms with the post-colonial era and civil war. In this sense, the MINDAN group are too much because they discriminate against any Korean that integrate into Japanese society.

    – Another problem with naturalization in Japan is that one needs to give one`s nationality up. For international marriage kids, it means they need to give up part of their identity. The Japanese governemnt cannot tolerate that a person can be Japanese and also have another identity.

    – Right, I meant the “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” but regarding article 26 and 27 to allow minorities to participate in the local community. Of course, full rights should be reserved only to citizens.

    – As for military service, Japan does not have conscription. Most of EU, South America, Commonwealth have agreements that allow a person to do his military service in one country.

    – Germany changed its immigration law but did not change its nationality law. They still do not allow dual-nationality. Turkey allows dual nationality.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nationality_law#Europe

    – The deep problem is that the Japanese government refuses to accept society as a diverse, dynamic entities, they keep insisting that 130.000.000 Japanese are all the same when such a fact is simply not true.

    – A bit beside the point, the Japanese government also violates article 24 of the Covenant regarding the registration of kids born of out of bedlock, foreign parents, etc. I don`t know if you are familiar with Koseki system. Korea had a similar system up to 2005.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koseki

  23. comment number 23 by: Lepanto

    More on dual nationality:

    http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1753.html

  24. comment number 24 by: egg

    Lepanto
    Thanks for your reply.

    – Guy Ramos does have a Japanese name: 瑠偉 (Rui)

    Are you trying to say if you can`t register your name in alphabets, that will mean that you are forced to change your name?

    – The problem with naturalization in Japan is that it is not a LEGAL process but an ADMINISTRATIVE one, meaning it is up to the arbitrary decision from the civil servants to decide if you are Japanese enough or not. It is not based on a set of rules like other countries: Years of residence, no criminal records, family ties, etc. In the UK would take from 5 to 10 years if one has no connection with the UK or from 2 to 5 years with connection. In Spain, it is the same for South Americans, etc.

    The way you say is not accurate. “国籍法”(nationality laws) gives the authority the power to decide whether someone can naturalize or not. It is a legal process. As a Japanese I trust the authorities and I feel there is nothing wrong. Whether you accept a foreigner as a Japanese citizen or not, is a question that the Japanese people will decide. But I think the standards may be stated more clearly.

    – Another problem with naturalization in Japan is that one needs to give one`s nationality up. For international marriage kids, it means they need to give up part of their identity. The Japanese governemnt cannot tolerate that a person can be Japanese and also have another identity.

    I can`t see where the problem is. If the kid`s can`t get not a single nationality of the parents, it would be a problem but it is not the case, isn`t it? Please tell me where the problem is.

    – Right, I meant the “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” but regarding article 26 and 27 to allow minorities to participate in the local community.

    Article 25 excludes the political rights so article 26 is saying about the equalty of rest of the rights. Article 27 is saying nothing about political rights.

    – As for military service, Japan does not have conscription. Most of EU, South America, Commonwealth have agreements that allow a person to do his military service in one country.

    Sorry, what I wrote as an example was not appropriate. I wanted to ask you what you will do if the both countries ordered you to do different things at the same time.

    Turkey allows dual nationality.

    I couldn`t find the condition of naturalization in Turkey but anyway the link you provided was interesting. Thank you.

    – The deep problem is that the Japanese government refuses to accept society as a diverse, dynamic entities, they keep insisting that 130.000.000 Japanese are all the same when such a fact is simply not true.

    I don`t feel as you feel. The Japanese government may dislike rapid changes but she isn`t refusing to accept society as a diverse, dynamic entities. If so there will be no naturalization allowed.

    – A bit beside the point, the Japanese government also violates article 24 of the Covenant regarding the registration of kids born of out of bedlock, foreign parents, etc. I don`t know if you are familiar with Koseki system.

    Koseki is the record of people who have Japanese nationality. If you don`t have Japanese nationality, of course you will not be recorded. Are you suggesting that Japanese government should make another record of people who don`t have Japanese nationality?
    By the way, sorry, I couldn`t take the meaning of “bedlock”. (I couldn`t find the word in Yahoo! dictionary too.)

  25. comment number 25 by: Ocebey

    Lepanto Thanks a lot for your long and detailed explaination. There are so many variables in this that i probably wouldn’t have had the courage to look it up.
    Althought i do feel it is up to the Japaneses wether they want or don’t want to become a multicultural society like the USA. If they don’t then they can perfectly refuse dual nationality.

  26. comment number 26 by: Ocebey

    Egg
    Lepanto probably meant Wedlock which mean maried. He probably wanted to talk about the problem of the registration of kids conceived without marrying.