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Japan passes anti-hate speech law as Koreans targeted by racism

The bill is mostly a response to the rising number of anti-Korean rallies being held in the country.

By Elizabeth Shim
Japan passes anti-hate speech law as Koreans targeted by racism
Japan adopted a new anti-hate speech law on Tuesday but critics say the law does not penalize would-be offenders. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

TOKYO, May 24 (UPI) -- Japan passed its first anti-hate speech bill Tuesday in a bid to address a problem that has intensified with the country's worsening relations with South Korea.

The law condemned racist language as "unforgivable" and marks a first step for the country signatory to the United Nations' international convention on the elimination of racism, The Japan Times reported.

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But the bill does not have clauses that are binding. Critics have said the legislation is mostly philosophical, according to the report.

The law doesn't ban hate speech and there are no mention of penalties for acts like holding a hate rally in public spaces.

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Gatherings of ultra right-wing groups in Japan condemning ethnic Korean residents have increased in frequency.

Some 347 such protests were held in 2013, but by 2014 that number was up to 378. For the first nine months of 2015, 190 hate speech rallies were held, according to Tokyo's justice ministry.

The ministry's findings included investigations into Zaitokukai, an anti-Korean organization that meets on a regular basis.

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Though South Korea and Japan are security allies, right-wing groups have stepped up activities over historical controversies, including reparations for Korean comfort women who were forced to serve in wartime military brothels.

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Conservative organizations have called for the deportation and at times mass executions of ethnic Koreans residing in Japan.

South Korea has responded positively to the bill, which was submitted by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, another political party.

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"We hope the new legislation will create an environment in which all those from outside of Japan, including ethnic Koreans, can live in greater safety," said Cho June-hyuck, Seoul's foreign ministry spokesman.

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