INTERVIEW: Foreigners' rights activist says new secrecy law may encourage xenophobia

December 13, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

When the new state secrets protection law takes effect within a year, it will impose severe punishments on public servants and other people who leak information concerning security.

The law, which passed the Diet on Dec. 6, was promulgated Dec. 13. Although the government said the lives of citizens will not be affected, Shin Sugok, a third-generation Korean resident in Japan and activist working for foreigners’ rights, fears that the law will increase antagonism against Koreans and other foreigners living in the country.

In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Shin explains why. Excerpts from the interview follow.

* * *

Hate speeches against Korean residents in Japan are being repeatedly made in Tokyo’s Shin-Okubo (Koreatown) district and other areas. To counter this, we formed Norikoenet in September, and I became a co-leader of the group.

Those who make hate speeches shout loudly, “Koreans! Get out of here.” They seem to enjoy engaging in discrimination without remorse. That’s because they feel that the government is a backer.

Due to the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents, the government has excluded pro-Pyongyang Korean schools from its free tuition program for high schools. The government’s attitude is also indifferent toward the issue of “comfort women,” who were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers during World War II. With the government taking such stances, the hatemongers believe the authorities are on their side.

There is a real danger that discrimination against foreigners will only increase under the state secrets protection law.

The categories that are covered by the law are defense, diplomacy, spying and terrorism. These designations give the public the impression that foreigners are dangerous.

Under the state secrets protection law, those who are likely to encounter classified information are evaluated in advance to determine if they are suited to handle those secrets. The nationalities of their spouses and parents are also checked.

This is nothing less than racial discrimination because it presumes that friends and foes are divided based on their lineage. As a result, residents of other nationalities could be exposed to attacks from the Japanese public and state.

Using our rented office in Shin-Okubo as a stronghold, Norikoenet will start to broadcast programs on the Internet from April. The programs will share the viewpoints of minorities.

I will quit my current job (as a human resources development consultant) in order to devote myself to the group’s mission. I am determined to speak out against the dangers of the state secrets protection law and take back the Internet from racists.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Activist Shin Sugok speaks in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo on Dec. 9. (Photo by Kazuhiro Nagashima)

Activist Shin Sugok speaks in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo on Dec. 9. (Photo by Kazuhiro Nagashima)

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  • Activist Shin Sugok speaks in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo on Dec. 9. (Photo by Kazuhiro Nagashima)

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