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(Yonhap Interview) Korean resident strives to rid Japan of hate speech

All News 17:21 June 13, 2016

By Nam Sang-hyun

SEOUL, June 13 (Yonhap) -- A Korean resident of Japan spearheading a campaign to ease anti-Korean emotions there on Monday stressed that discrimination against minorities should not take place in society.

"It should not be tolerated either in South Korea or Japan,” freelance writer Lee Shin-hye said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.

Lee, 45, has focused on such discrimination issues as hate speech in Japan and the country's sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II,

Some of these hate speech incidents involve racist and discriminatory propaganda against Koreans used at street rallies and on the internet, disseminated by anti-Korean groups.

Lee made headlines in August 2014, when she filed a damages suit against an anti-Korean activist group, Zaitokukai, and its leader Makoto Sakurai for defaming her through hate speech.

In a separate damages suit filed with the Osaka District Court, she also accused the operator of Hoshusokuho, an online bulletin board that posts discriminatory remarks against Koreans, seeking damages from the Japanese ultra right-wing group.

According to Lee, Sakurai called her "a Korean crone" on the internet and during right-wing rallies in 2013, while Hoshusokuho attacked her in an article based on anonymous posts on the internet that included an insulting description of her, saying, "Get out, crone."

"Some Japanese people have been perpetrating hate-speech at street rallies and on the internet, saying it is an act of constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech," Lee said. "I was one of those victimized by such people."

Even though hate speech victims filed complaints with operators of the internet and social network services, they had no effective way to stop incidences of hate speech in cyberspace from taking place.

"Actually, there are no viable means for minorities to protect themselves when they are targets of hate speech," Lee said.

She has been visiting Seoul to take part in the Seoul Queer Culture Festival, a festival for South Korea's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people that opened on Saturday.

In January, she attended a weekly rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to call for the Japanese government to apologize to the victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery and provide compensation.

At the time, she saw a group of young people staging a vigil around a statue symbolizing the former comfort women in a protest against South Korea's deal last year with Japan on resolving the issue. The view of the young people's rally struck her as encouraging, but an attempt by some of South Korea's right-wing people to foil the demonstration raised the specter of the Zaitokukai anti-Korean rallies.

Lee said she had been heartened by two developments involving Japan's efforts to put a break on hate speech. In January, the Osaka Prefectural Assembly passed the first local ordinance against hate speech in the country.

The ordinance passage was followed by the enactment of a law by Japan's parliament on May 24 designed to deter hate speech.
"I was so happy the law passed the parliament," she said. The law defines as discriminatory any expression of intent to harm people who were born abroad and reside in Japan lawfully and their descendants, or to incite discrimination against them.

"I was so much moved upon hearing that an anti-Korean group was forced to call off a demonstration on June 5 after participants of the rally were surrounded by hundreds of citizens voicing opposition against the event," in the Japanese city of Kawasaki, Lee said. "Hate speech demonstrations should be held nowhere."

She hoped that the newly established law against hate speech, whose effectiveness is limited because it does not prohibit or penalize hate speech, needs to be enhanced down the road. "In addition, what is important, is the efforts to education people on things related to it," she said.

According to Lee, hate speech is a virus which originates from the internet and plagues the world.
"The virus should be dealt with by vaccines that can be education and people-to-people exchanges," she said.

"It is up to general citizens to change society. In that sense, everybody ought to have awareness not to tolerate discrimination," she stressed.

Lee is waiting for the verdict of her 2014 damages suits. She said she "will win them no matter what and the victory will be not only mine but also ours."


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