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HOME  > Past issues  > 2022 May 18 - 24  > Arson attack on Korean community underlines need to realize a Japan free of hate crimes
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2022 May 18 - 24 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Arson attack on Korean community underlines need to realize a Japan free of hate crimes

May 18, 2022

Akahata ‘current’ column

The Utoro area in Kyoto’s Uji City was established during WWII. Its history began as the living quarters for ethnic Koreans who were mobilized by the wartime Japanese government as laborers for the national project to construct an airfield in Kyoto. After the war, this area became known as a Korean neighborhood.

During the war, Korean workers were forced to work under slave-like conditions and when Japan lost the war, they were abandoned like disposable waste. They faced no choice but to settle in this neighborhood which was densely packed with shacks without a water supply. Despite such a poor living environment, Korean people called Utoro their second hometown and helped each other survive.

In postwar Japan, Koreans living in the Utoro district experienced discrimination in education, employment, and marriage. The Utoro Peace Memorial Museum which opened last month displays exhibits depicting the history of the Utoro district which tell us the importance of human rights and coexistence.

Recently, the trial of an arson case which occurred in the summer of 2021 in the Utoro community began. The 22-year-old male suspect admitted to the crime. Regarding his motive, the public prosecutor explained that he felt hatred toward Koreans. In addition, the man reportedly said that he committed the crime in order to attract attention.

The arson case reveals the suspect’s cognitive distortion and racism. People in the Utoro area and the arson victims’ legal team expressed their concern over the impact of the arson attack on society as it has the nature of a hate crime.

Crimes based on racial hatred and racial prejudice are unacceptable. However, in Japan, it is unfortunate that politicians frequently make speeches that fan such adverse sentiments among the general public.

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