The Kyoto District Court has made a landmark ruling on a lawsuit filed by a Korean school against activists who organized rallies outside the school. The court has ordered the anti-Korean activists to pay 12 million yen ($120,000) as compensation for disturbing their classes and frightening the children who witnessed the hate speech rallies.
This is the first legal acknowledgement that the sentiments expressed during these rallies are not part of freedom of expression but already constitutes racial discrimination. Human rights experts say that this might eventually lead to hate speech being exempted from the country’s constitutional rights to free speech. Judge Hitoshi Hashizume ruled that what the notorious anti-Korea group Zaitokukai outside the school was illegal, as they shouted explicit insults and carried banners. Furhtermore, he said that the video footage they posted online was also illegal. They are also banned from future rallies in the neighbourhood where the pro-Pyongyang school is located. The school filed the lawsuit in June 2010 over three rallies held between December 2009 and March 2010, which resulted in some children developing stomach pains from the tension. An earlier ruling convicted four of the eight activists named in the lawsuit for obstruction of business and vandalism but this is the first ruling that discussed the content of the rallies.
The rallies are considered racial discrimination under the United Nation’s convention on the elimination of racial discrimination where Japan was one of the ratifying countries. But rallies of this ilk have been escalating in Japan, especially in places with a strong Korean population. The activists use terms like “cockroaches,” in referring to the residents, and shout “Kill Koreans” or “throw them into the sea.” Zaitokukai claim they were protesting the illegal use of the school of the city-run park as well as the “privileges” given to ethnic Koreans. They have also said everything they said during the rallies are part of their “freedom of expression.”