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Softbank Japan discriminating against non-Zainichi Korean customers?

February 17th, 2008 . by Matt

Softbank is offering a very good mobile phone plan, possibly at cost or below cost, to the organisation representing South Korean residents in Japan, Mindan. The plan is so good that many people that would like to take up the offer are unable to because they are not Zainichi Korean Mindan members or family of members. Relevant points are –

*Although it is not unusual for a company to offer special deals to companies for mobile plans, the cost of this deal is so low that none of the experts interviewed had ever heard of such a low cost plan.

*When such special deals are offered to companies or organisations, it is restricted to officers or employees, and not available the general membership. In case of the deal with Mindan, not only are general members allowed to take advantage of the plan, but so are their family members. This means that a significant percentage of the South Korean Zainichi population in Japan are eligible for it, a defacto super-low rate plan for Zainichi unavailable to anyone else.

*When complaints started coming in that rates were being offered to Zainichi unavailable to the rest of the people, Softbank offered a bizarre excuse along the lines of “That special offer was made by our agent associated with Mindan without our permission, and is not a service offered by our company. Because the computers and infrastructure is our, we cannot say we have no responsibility at all, but we did not agree to the details of the plan. We requested that Mindan cease the advertising.”

*Because the offer is likely below what it costs to provide, it means that the Zainichi Koreans are being subsidized by other users of Softbank (who have to pay higher rates because of it).

*The conditions were analysed, and they found that for the same deal that the Zainichi were getting for 4500 yen per month, it would cost a non Zainichi 40325 Yen per month, and it also costs only 5 Yen per minute for the Zainichi to call South Korea, and 130 Yen per minute for a non Zainichi customer.

*The owner of Softbank is a naturalized ethnic Korean, Mr. Son. Although one of the experts interviewed applauds his spirit on behalf of the Zainichi Korean community of Japan, he points out that his special pricing plan could be illegal under Japanese telecommunications law, which forbids pricing discrimination.

*Although it seems to be a case of discrimination against non Zainichi Korean customers, it will be difficult to know for sure unless the contract with the agency can be seen. The telecommunications regulator should follow up on this.

*A comparison of the costs for Zainichi Koreans, and Japanese and non-Koreans
Monthly Cost

A picture of the ad that appeared in Mindan’s newspaper (click here for enlarged version).

Mindan Softbank

My thoughts –

The advertising ceased, but the plan is still being offered, probably through word of mouth in the Zainichi community. The excuse offered by Softbank is a strange excuse because they are implying that it is almost nothing to do with Softbank, but that is unlikely because it would be impossible for a telecommunications agent company to provide a plan at less than it costs Softbank to provide it unless Softbank was providing them with a below cost rate as well.

You know, Debito could look into this. It would be a much bigger target than a little restaurant or brothel, and unlike all the random places discriminating, the size of Softbank means that Softbanks discrimination (if it is indeed discrimination) is systematic. If Debito at least looks into this issue, he might be able to heal the rifts he has with Japanese people because of his narrow focus.

By the way, the source is 2channel, but from what I can see looking around, it seems to be legitimate.


29 Responses to “Softbank Japan discriminating against non-Zainichi Korean customers?”

  1. comment number 1 by: bonesdog

    First thought, unrelated directly to the issue at hand: Why is Mindan’s paper in Japanese? If these people are “Korean”, then surely they read Hangul, right? 😉

    Second thought: Debito will almost certainly NOT comment on this issue. His beef is with “Japanese discrimination against foreigners”, not “discrimination, period”. Probably, if he even knows about this from reading this or some other English-language blog, he thinks it is Japanese getting their just deserts for years of abusing the Zai-nichi. From what I have seen of his postings and such, he thinks the Zai-nichi can do no wrong.

  2. comment number 2 by: Gerbilbastard

    Can someone explain to me what 民団 is? Is that the Zainichi refer to themselves in Japanese? Also, since it is 団 does that mean that there is some kind of membership process involved? Also, in order to receive this 民団対象 what kind of proof do you show?
    Also, can Japanese people join this 民団? The answers to these questions might help me figure out what’s going on here. 🙂
    That’s a pretty big price difference though. I can’t really see how that’s justifiable if it is being restricted only to a certain group of people.
    On a side note, does anyone know if DoCoMo still requires foreigners to pay the 3万 down payment to get a phone with them? If that’s still around maybe this Zainichi deal is legal?

  3. comment number 3 by: GordonM

    damn! that’s a pretty good deal! My softbank bill is now up to about 20,000 yen a month (sometimes more), luckily I dont pay for it myself, however.

    Do you know if softbank offer such deals to other sorts of groups, e.g. schools, or sportsclubs?

  4. comment number 4 by: bonesdog

    Gerbilbastard: Mindan is the Association of South Koreans Residents in Japan. They are one of two organizations providing services to Korean residents in Japan. The other is the Chosen Soren, for North Koreans. They both run Korean schools and provide access to services from the respective governments, as well as looking out for the general welfare of South Korean and North Korean nationals.

    The Mindan is by far the more open of the two, and works with the Japanese government where neccesary. Mindan-run schools are accredited by the Japanese Education Ministry, which means that their graduates can go on to Japanese state-run universities (those who graduated from Chosen Soren-run schools, which refuse to become accredited as they argue it is a plot to “Japan-ize” the students, cannot, although why they would even want to is one of those odd schizophrenic dilemmas surrounding the Zai-nichi).

    Non-South Korean nationals cannot join the Mindan, from what I understand. You have to be a South Korean national.

    Of course, this could be a membership-drive ploy to lure over the North Koreans. I have known “North Korean” Zai-nichi with South Korean passports. They switched because they found out they couldn’t take the group tours to Guam and Hawaii with their North Korean passports. Really. So offering really cheap phone service could be an attempt to lure them over. 😉

  5. comment number 5 by: Matt

    Can someone explain to me what 民団 is? Is that the Zainichi refer to themselves in Japanese? Also, since it is 団 does that mean that there is some kind of membership process involved? Also, in order to receive this 民団対象 what kind of proof do you show?
    Also, can Japanese people join this 民団? The answers to these questions might help me figure out what’s going on here. 🙂
    That’s a pretty big price difference though. I can’t really see how that’s justifiable if it is being restricted only to a certain group of people.
    On a side note, does anyone know if DoCoMo still requires foreigners to pay the 3万 down payment to get a phone with them? If that’s still around maybe this Zainichi deal is legal?

    I have included a wikipedia entry in the main text. However one thing I find unlikely from the wiki entry is that it claims that 65% of Zainichi Koreans in Japan belong to Mindan. I doubt that very much. Surely they mean that 65% of Zainichi Koreans have South Korean citizenship, and are confusing that with membership in Mindan.

  6. comment number 6 by: Gerbilbastard

    Thanks bonesdog. More questions…

    Does membership into the Mindan cost money, or is membership dependent solely on nationality? If it is only based on nationality it seems like this policy is in the wrong. If members have to pay to enter into the Mindan, then there might be some room for deals like this. Like for example with a private country club or something. Then again, if the Mindan is being granted national recognition and receiving some sort of tax benefits then this deal is probably illegal. Does anyone have more information?

  7. comment number 7 by: Gerbilbastard

    Sorry Matt, missed that link.

  8. comment number 8 by: Matt

    Sorry Matt, missed that link.

    Ah, don’t be, I put it in after you asked the question. The article is not a good one anyway. You seem to be able to read Japanese so try this –

    在日本大韓民国民団

  9. comment number 9 by: Gerbilbastard

    韓国の公的機関ではないが韓国籍パスポートの申請、韓国の戸籍処理などの依頼を代行し、年間数億円の政府補助金を韓国から受け取っている。

    外国人登録令/法への反対・永住権獲得など日本人と比べた法的・経済的格差の撤廃、地方参政権付与、韓日民族交流の促進を主な活動としている。傘下に、金融機関(商銀信用組合を参照)や教育機関を多く保有している。

    This is pretty interesting but I’m not sure if it goes as far as to say that the Mindan receives tax money. Based on this though, “金融機関(商銀信用組合を参照)や教育機関を多く保有している,” I would be really surprised if they weren’t. That’s purely speculation on my part though.

  10. comment number 10 by: Gerbilbastard

    Oh, and I’m not really sure if this line of questioning is relevant, but if they are receiving tax money as an organization than this kind of deal is probably illegal.

  11. comment number 11 by: Matt

    This is pretty interesting but I’m not sure if it goes as far as to say that the Mindan receives tax money. Based on this though, “金融機関(商銀信用組合を参照)や教育機関を多く保有している,” I would be really surprised if they weren’t. That’s purely speculation on my part though.

    It says Mindan receives money from the South Korean government for the work they do in registering Koreans, but what you pasted above just says they have many financial and education institutions.

  12. comment number 12 by: Gerbilbastard

    I think what I was thinking was that if they are running financial institutions and schools that there has to be some kind of Japanese government cooperation (i.e. taxes). That’s why I have to label this as speculation because it could be that these institutions are solely supported by the Korean government. I can’t tell.


  13. […] For more on this story, check out Occidentalism’s full post about it. […]

  14. comment number 14 by: kojibomb

    is this mean only ppl in mindan gets this special deal or all zainichi south koreans?

    if its just mindan, isn’t it ok?
    because it will be just like my plan here in Canada.
    I have much better rate than others because I m in the BC students Union Association…

  15. comment number 15 by: The Overthinker

    Debito did mention when NTT Docomo started charging foreigners 30,000 yen deposits for paying by cash or something back in 2002, but as far as I can recall all he did was fuss about it.

  16. comment number 16 by: Gerbilbastard

    If that 30,000 yen deposit is still around I can’t really see what’s wrong with doing it in reverse for zainichi. Unless I’m wrong, that policy is simply about applying a unique pricing policy to a group of people based on nationality.

  17. comment number 17 by: bonesdog

    if its just mindan, isn’t it ok?
    because it will be just like my plan here in Canada.
    I have much better rate than others because I m in the BC students Union Association…

    Except that students are not an ethnic group. Anyone can become a student and take advantage of the plan, and then when they are no longer a student they lose out. But we can’t very well become Koreans, now can we? Therein lies the rub – favorable treatment for a group based on nationality/ethnicity, not a temporary social status.

  18. comment number 18 by: Brian

    “The owner of Softbank is a naturalized ethnic Korean, Mr. Son.”

    There is your answer. Mr. Son is also the richest man in Japan… that must really be a source of massive insecurity for certain Japanese nationals like Garlic face. lol.

  19. comment number 19 by: Matt

    is this mean only ppl in mindan gets this special deal or all zainichi south koreans?

    if its just mindan, isn’t it ok?
    because it will be just like my plan here in Canada.
    I have much better rate than others because I m in the BC students Union Association…

    It is Mindan officers, members, and their families (any Zainichi South Korean can be a member). This means that even if it doesn’t extend to every Zainichi Korean, it must extend to a good portion of them, perhaps even most of the South Korean Zainichi in Japan.

    It is not really like the students union because there are other deals like those available at the students union elsewhere, if you look around for it. This plan on the other hand cannot be found anywhere else, and it costs more for softbank to provide it than they can get from those customers.


  20. […]   https://www.occidentalism.org/?p=832 […]

  21. comment number 21 by: GarlicBreath

    Blian:
    There is your answer. Mr. Son is also the richest man in Japan… that must really be a source of massive insecurity for certain Japanese nationals like Garlic face. lol.

    For heavens sake Blian. Japan isn’t like corea. Coreans treat non coreans like dirt, everybody knows that.
    .
    Just look at all the thousands of coreans that immigrate to Japan and the.. what.. 10 Japanese that immigrate to corea. Japan is heaven for coreans.
    .
    There are lots of famous wealty Corean-Japanese. Joji Obara and Shigenori Togo, and Hisayuki Machii are three that I am sure you are proud of.
    .
    Best wishes for Mr Son and his Japanese wife.

  22. comment number 22 by: Ken

    This discriminative marketing would have come up as natural consequence that Soft-bank is considerably recruiting from colleges in Korea.
    Following sites are about Korean-Japanese privilege for your reference if you understand Japanese.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlB96d–UDc
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8DVfp5-wTM
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eA64LeTZL8M
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AOoEhIgKlk

  23. comment number 23 by: wiesunja

    why in the world would anyone want to immigrate to korea or become a korean citizen? no added plus at all. you would seriously be taking steps down the ladder.

  24. comment number 24 by: kojibomb

    wie~~~~~~~~~
    because there are thousands of ppl who would do anything to get out of their country, but USA, Japan, etc too expensive. So they turn to South Korea. South Korea is not that bad lol prob rly bad for you spoiled child though lol

  25. comment number 25 by: bonesdog

    I threw Debito a bone and challenged him to dig into this, but somehow I strongly doubt we’ll ever see anything on his site about it. Wrong group being discriminated against…

  26. comment number 26 by: Matt

    I threw Debito a bone and challenged him to dig into this, but somehow I strongly doubt we’ll ever see anything on his site about it. Wrong group being discriminated against…

    Did you send an email, or post a comment somewhere?

  27. comment number 27 by: bonesdog

    Did you send an email, or post a comment somewhere?

    e-mail:

    Here’s your chance to put your money where your mouth is re. discrimination in Japan:
    https://www.occidentalism.org/?p=832

    And assuming you can read the Japanese:
    http://news24.2ch.net/test/read.cgi/news4plus/1203026130/

    Or just do a search for softbank and mindan (use kana and kanji) on yahoo.co.jp. Lots of info out there for you. But will you act on it?

  28. comment number 28 by: moYom

    Arudou Debito promotes “Gaijin only” discount
    http://www.debito.org/index.php/?p=1301

    Arudou Debito bashes “Japanese only” discount
    http://www.debito.org/HISpricing.html

  29. comment number 29 by: Errol

    Money for Zainichi but not Bookhansaram?

    Human Trafficking Thrives Across N.Korea-China Border

    A 26-year-old North Korean woman, Mun Yun-hee crossed the Duman or Tumen River into China in the dawn of Oct. 22 last year, which at that point was some 40 m wide, guided by a human trafficker. She was being sold to a single middle-aged Chinese farmer into a kind of indentured servitude-cum-companionship. Both of them wore only panties, having stored their trousers and shoes in bags, because if you are found wearing wet clothes across the river deep at night, it is a dead giveaway that you are a North Korean refugee.
    Mun was led to a hideout, and the agent left. Asked why she crossed the river, she replied, “My father starved to death late in the 1990s, and my mother is blind from hunger.” Her family owed 300 kg of corns, beans and rice and sold herself for the sake of her blind mother and a younger brother. The middleman paid her 350 yuan, or W46,000 (US$1=W939), equivalent to half of the grain debt.

    A Chosun Ilbo news team became the first in the world to see the scale of human trafficking in the China-North Korea border. The exodus in the famines of the latter half of the 1990s has degraded into blatant human trafficking. In the 10 months since May, 2007, the team witnessed the lives of North Korean refugees in five countries: China, Russia, Japan, the U.S. and Britain. In China, the refugees live day and night in fear of deportation to the North and poverty.
    “I was first sold to a 34-year-old Chinese man in Shandong Province. Six months later, public security officers arrested me one day at midnight. Asked how, they said on a notification by a neighbor,” Mun said. She was immediately sent to Dandong prison, from where a group of North Korean detainees were deported to Shinuiju chained two and two. There, she was thrown into a North Korean State Safety and Security Agency camp for a month. “They took a quantity of blood to check possible venereal disease. Undressing the women, they checked even inside the sexual organs with gloved hands,” Mun recalled. If you repeat sit-and-stand 20 times, you vomit up everything you have eaten. Male inmates are forced to strike their heads against the steel door and beaten with clubs when they resist. Pregnant inmates were forced to miscarry on the grounds they were bearing Chinese children. “The meals of corns with one side dish served were so poor that we longed for the meals we were given by the Chinese prison.” Transferred

    An officer from the Durihana Mission, an organization assisting North Korean refugees, asked her, “We won’t sell you to a Chinese. Will you go to South Korea?” Without hesitation, she replied, “I’ll go back to the Chinese man who bought me first. I want to live with him, eating plenty and earning money, and send money to my family at home.” For the benefit of her blind old mother and younger brother, she opted to stay in China, risking another deportation. The Durihana Mission officer, failing to persuade her into going to the South, bid her farewell after buying her a few pieces of winter clothes.
    The title given to North Korean refugees until the early 1990s was “hero defector.” Symbolized by Lee Woong-pyung, a North Korean air force officer who flew a MIG fighter jet to South Korea in 1983 and died of cancer in 2002, hero defectors offered the South Korean government meaningful information and were used as a propaganda tool for the superiority of our system. Then, in the latter half of the 1990s, famines hit the North. The food shortages, described by the North Korean regime as “the Hardship March”, claimed an estimated 3 million lives. The exodus to China followed. North Koreans crossed the border to escape from hunger braving strict patrols by the Chinese border police. The food shortage has moderated in the past decade, but the flow of North Korean refugees never ended. North Koreans who have come to the South now number more than 10,000, and an estimated 40,000 North Koreans live in third countries including China.
    North Korean refugees in China are officially illegal migrants. They enjoy no legal protection, and when discovered they are deported to North Korea. With the political thaw expanding throughout Northeast Asia, “hero defectors” have become “new arrivals” in search of a new life. With China, North Korea and South Korea almost equally unconcerned about them, the rights of North Korean refugees in third countries, are thoroughly trampled down.

    url: http://english.chosun.com/w21data/html/news/200803/200803030010.html