KYOTO--A court here on Oct. 7 banned an anti-Korea organization from demonstrating near a pro-Pyongyang elementary school, ruling that the group’s words blared through sound trucks were “extremely insulting and discriminatory.”
The Kyoto District Court also ordered Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai (Group of citizens who do not tolerate privileges for ethnic Korean residents in Japan) to pay about 12.26 million yen ($126,400) in damages.
“It is defamation of character and amounts to racial discrimination,” Presiding Judge Hitoshi Hashizume said about the use of sound trucks by the group, known more commonly as Zaitokukai.
The lawsuit was filed by Kyoto Chosen Gakuen, an operator of pro-Pyongyang Korean schools, including Kyoto Chosen Elementary School in Kyoto’s Fushimi Ward.
The operator sought a ban on Zaitokukai activities using sound trucks within a radius of 200 meters from the main and east gates of the school building. They also sought 30 million yen in damages from the group and nine members for past protests, saying their activities made it difficult to carry out ethnic education in a quiet environment.
“The ruling recognized the wrongfulness of the hate speech that was directed at the children, guardians and teachers, and it also took into consideration the psychological damage that we suffered,” Son Ji Jong, head of Kyoto Chosen Gakuen, said at a news conference.
Kyoto Chosen Elementary School was created through a merger of two schools, including Kyoto Chosen Daiichi Elementary School, in April 2012. It moved to Fushimi Ward in April 2013.
The Zaitokukai has not sent sound trucks to the new school site, but the district court referred to previous acts near the site of Kyoto Chosen Daiichi Elementary School in Minami Ward.
According to the plaintiffs, Zaitokukai members on three separate occasions between December 2009 and March 2010 gave speeches near Kyoto Chosen Daiichi Elementary School. Their words included: “Children are being educated by criminals” and “Go back to the Korean Peninsula.”
Zaitokukai argued that it had performed a legitimate protest based on the constitutional right to freedom of expression.
But the court ruled that “acts to defame the character of the school through demonstrations could not be considered as having a public objective since they involved the use of sound trucks and microphones near the school while classes were being held.”
The ruling also said the Zaitokukai speeches were racially discriminatory in light of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, of which Japan is a signatory.
Article 4 calls on signatory states to legally ban “incitement to racial discrimination.” However, Japan has not passed legislation against hate speech.
A lawyer for the plaintiff said it is extremely rare for a court to order compensation in cases involving hate speech.
The district court said it accepted the injunction because of the danger that the group and its members could demonstrate in front of the new school building.
Yasuhiro Yagi, deputy chairman of Zaitokukai, told reporters that the ruling was unfair.
“It is regrettable that our actions were not recognized,” he said. “While there may have been some inappropriate comments made (during the protest), most were legitimate. We cannot be convinced by the argument that the comments were discriminatory through the focus on less than 10 percent of the comments.”
He added that his group’s activities were gaining the sympathy of society.
Amid strained relations between Japan and South Korea, as well as lingering problems concerning North Korea, incidents of hate speech against ethnic Koreans have become more prevalent this year, especially in the Shin-Okubo district of Tokyo.
The U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has called on Japan to prevent hate speech.
Groups are taking action to counter anti-Korea protesters who have shouted such words as “Kill all Koreans” in the Koreatowns of Tokyo and Osaka.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also expressed disdain toward the actions and words in the anti-Korea rallies.
During the court proceedings, Zaitokukai also argued that the plaintiff had been the one acting illegally.
“The comments were a fair commentary based on facts,” a Zaitokukai official said. “The activities by the sound trucks were in protest of the illegal occupation of a children’s park, and the activities have stopped since the problem was resolved. There is no reason for the court to approve an injunction protecting the vicinity of the new school building.”
In 2010, the Kyoto District Court made a provisional decision banning sound truck activities around Kyoto Chosen Daiichi Elementary School.
Subsequently, four Zaitokukai members were indicted on charges of using force to interfere with school operations and insulting the school.
In April 2011, the Kyoto District Court convicted the four on grounds that their actions went beyond the limits of political expression.
In September 2010, the former principal of Kyoto Chosen Daiichi Elementary School was fined for violating the law controlling urban parks. The elementary school used a nearby park for some school activities because it did not have its own playground.
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