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Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination

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  • Levin: J citizens of empire stripped of Japanese nationality in 1952, made into Zainichi by bureaucratic fiat — by a simple MOJ office circular (kairan)!

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on March 3rd, 2012

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    Hi Blog.  While doing research two days ago, I ran across this curious footnote in journal article (Levin, Mark, “Essential Commodities and Racial Justice”; Journal of International Law and Politics (NYU, Winter 2001) 33:419, at 500, footnote 288), which tells us a lot of something quite remarkable about how much extra-parliamentary legislative power is invested in Japan’s bureaucracy:  The power to strip entire peoples of their Japanese citizenship (despite their colonial contributions and experience, including fighting and dying in the Imperial Army) by fiat.  By kairan, even.  Read on:


    288. The involuntary de-naturalization [of hundreds of thousands of Koreans and Taiwanese persons resident in Japan] was accomplished by administrative fiat, interpreting the Nationality Lw under an implicit association with the 1951 Peace Treaty between Japan and the Allied Powers.  “In 1952, nine days before the Peace Treaty came into force, the Director-General of the Civil Affairs Bureau in the Ministry of Justice issued a Circular Notice [an internal government document] to the officials concerned, announcing that all Koreans, including those residing in Japan, were to lose their Japanese nationality.” IWASAWA, [“International Law, Human Rights, and Japanese Law” 52, 299 n. 35 (1998)], at 130-31…; see also MORRIS-SUZUKI [“Reinventing Japan: Time, Space, Nation” 11 (1998)], at 190; Foote, [“Japan’s ‘Foreign Workers’ Policy: A View from the United States”, 7 Geo. Immigr. L.J. (1993)] at 724-25.  Although Japanese courts, including the Supreme Court, have consistently upheld the legality of this act, Iwasawa persuasively argues that the court rulings were analytically unsound, that Japan’s action violated international standards regarding nationality, and that the action was unconstitutional because the act “runs counter to Article 10 of the Constitution, which provides, ‘The conditions necessary for being a Japanese national shall be determined by hōritsu [statutes].’ The question should have been settled by a statute enacted by the Diet.”  See IWASAWA… at 131-34; see also cases [Port, “The Japanese International Law ‘Revolution’: International Human Rights Law and Its Impact in Japan”, Stan. J. Int’l. L. 139 (1991)].  Iwasawa’s work is not scholarship from the radical fringes.  Professor Iwasawa belongs to the law faculty at Tokyo University and is one of the leading authorities on international public law in Japan.


    This degree of extralegal power — to the point of a simple office memo to disenfranchise for generations an entire minority in Japan — shows just how abusive and capricious Japan’s mandarins can be.  And the judiciary will back them up!

    Another more recent (and no less capricious) example of this, once again involving a very elderly Zainichi (with implications for denying all foreigners in Japan their right to seikatsu hogo, a basic living allowance), can be found here and here (item 6 in my January Japan Times column).  As a procedural note, look how the judiciary once again tried to correct their mistake in favor of the mandarins again within weeks by reversing a lower court decision supporting the Zainichi plaintiff.  If the plaintiff hadn’t stayed alive long enough and taken it to another court, the bureaucrats would have won and there would have been legal standing to deny NJ their welfare payments because it would have been, insultingly, “a form of charity“.

    Another interesting anecdotal case of bureaucratic attitudes to the laws that should be governing them (“That’s just a law,” my correspondent claims the bureaucrats said when arbitrarily denying him Permanent Residency under “secret guidelines”), can also be found here.

    Be aware.  As evidenced above, the rule of law in Japan is quite weak, especially regarding the control by and the control of Japan’s bureaucracy.  This will not be news to any Japanese lawyer, but for laypeople thinking that Japan (and the treatment of NJ) is not in fact governed by anonymous bureaucrats, FYI.  Arudou Debito

    28 Responses to “Levin: J citizens of empire stripped of Japanese nationality in 1952, made into Zainichi by bureaucratic fiat — by a simple MOJ office circular (kairan)!”

    1. Charuzu Says:


      I would argue that this statement:

      “the rule of law in Japan is quite weak, especially regarding the control by and the control of Japan’s bureaucracy”

      is certainly true.

      It is certainly true with regard to marginalised groups.

      However, is is also true with regard to the powerful.

      What could be done by bureaucrats easily to zainichi or ethnic Chinese, could not be done to, for example, the relatives of Yoshihiko Noda.

      In contrast, though, if they wanted a law changed to their favour, that could also be done easily.

    2. Mark in Kanto Says:

      Ignoring laws, control of “law” by bureaucrats, and enforcement through memos, backroom deals, and the like–
      All brings to mind, once again, the overnight citizenship of ex-President of Peru, Fujimori, currently behind bars. Wonder whether he is now safely excluded from gaijin hanzai statistics….

      — Not sure I get your last point.

    3. debito Says:

      Debito here. Mark Levin responded to me offlist, thought I would just forward these links:

      If you think your readers would appreciate a link to the article on SSRN, it’s at (All my stuff aside from my legal education writings are at

    4. Jim Di Griz Says:

      But this seems to be a systemic problem in Japan, that is to say bureaucratic interpretation of the law trumping ‘the law defined by the constitution’, and that decided by legally elected representatives.

      We have seen it before here in cases relating to application for PR and such.

      What always surprises me is how much the Japanese are happy to tug their proverbial forelocks to the aforementioned mandarins, be bullied into compliance, and respond with a ‘shouganai’. I used to be surprised that elected politicians didn’t resent this kind of behavior that undermines their own authority, until I realized that;

      a) Most J-politicians are in the pockets (or hope to be as soon as they retire from politics) of the bureaucrats,

      b) Most J-politicians don’t have the smarts to understand why this situation is not democratic (the self fulfilling prophecy mantra of ‘but this is Japan!’),

      c) Most J-politicians are quite happy to abdicate responsibility to nameless mandarins who make such decisions via opaque memos, since it absolves them of having to actually do their own job, and make a decision, and then live withe the consequences (we have discussed on, with particular reference to Fukushima, how J-politicians seek to avoid responsibility for one bad decision, rather than seeking to make many good ones).

      It is all very ‘Japanese’ when viewed from the perspective of Japan’s culture of ‘responsibility avoidance’ (for ‘responsibility avoidance’, please refer to such phrases as ‘group harmony’, ‘group decision making’, ‘consensus building’, and such).

    5. Edward J. Cunningham Says:

      I’m not surprised Fujimori was granted citizenship in Japan. All that mattered to the GOJ was his ethnicity, not the human rights abuses he committed while he was President of Peru.

    6. Loverilakkuma Says:

      So, many zainichies were de-naturalized after WWII not because their massive migration–both voluntary and involuntary–was deemed illegal from democratic standpoint, but because the government only considered them as citizen at a wartime emergency? It just sounds like enacting Alien Espionage Act (1917) in an inverse manner. Was the state so convinced that they wouldn’t be able to use zainichies as ‘indentured servitude’ anymore? So stripping the rights to take the shackles off from all Asian migrants as if the regime freed these slaves like Dredd Scott??? Geez, that’s quite a perverted view J-history revisionists may like.

      — I’m currently reading BORDERLINE JAPAN and THE JAPANESE COLONIAL EMPIRE 1895-1945. If I have anything to report along these lines, I’ll share it.

    7. debito Says:

      Colin Jones and I have had a conversation on this topic on Facebook. Forwarding parts with permission:


      SVM: Very interesting. I had not even known that prior to 1952 these persons had been regarded as Japanese nationals under Japanese law.
      Yesterday at 12:31pm · Like

      Colin Jones Well they would have been registered in the family registry and treated differently – for example, Koreans and Taiwanese were not subject to the draft until well after WWII had started. Anyways, it wasn’t that they were Japanese “nationals”, but as Imperial subjects.
      Yesterday at 1:20pm · Like

      Arudou Debito Thanks Colin. But didn’t they (technically, as citizens of empire) have the same rights of migration, residence, suffrage, and vote as J citizens? What set them apart from “nationals” aside from chouheiseido as you mentioned above?
      Yesterday at 1:53pm · Like

      Colin Jones Not sure that J citizens had a lot of rights to start with. Remember that most Japanese people (well, men) didn’t have the right to vote until the election of 1927 (or maybe it was 1928) by which time there was a whole thought control regime in place to make sure that improper ideologies did not affect the process. Since Korea and Taiwan were ruled by appointed governors, I am not sure what rights to vote the colonials could have enjoyed, and I don’t believe that they were ever represented in the Diet (certainly not in the House of Peers). “True” Japanese people were 内地人 and registered in the koseki, whereas everyone else was 外地人 and may have been registered in a local registry, but just that fact meant that all sorts of discriminatory treatment would have been possible. Not that different from any other sort of colonial regime (including some US territories today…)
      Yesterday at 2:27pm · Like · 1

      Arudou Debito Excellent, Colin. Thanks. May I post these (your authorship billed or anonymously) up on my blog? In any case, I think I could still argue that the GOJ was trying to make sure the former 外地人 (i.e., 三国人 resident in Japan) never possibly became 内地人 by stripping them as per above of the new postwar status of citizenship as 国民 being substituted by SCAP reforms for Imperial Subject. No?
      Yesterday at 2:53pm · Like

      Colin Jones Well, I am speaking off the cuff here so I am not sure everything is completely accurate. I assume you are aware of how the Japanese changed “the people” in the US draft to “国民” in the Japanese draft because of concerns that otherwise non-Japanese would be able to claim the right to vote. As for stripping former colonial subjects of citizenship, I am not sure how much that is the case as opposed to the fact that at the time the Treaty of San Francisco was signed it was in the middle of the Korean war so there was no single effective Korean government to deal with the Koreans in Japan who were losing their nationality. The Taiwanese have never seemed to have the same issues as the Koreans and I have always assumed it was because the Republic of China was a party to the treaty and able to immediately confer nationality on those that wanted it. There is probably also a distinction between the two because under the Treaty, Japan recognized the independence of Korea even though it was in the middle of a civil war, but merely renounced its claims to Formosa.
      Yesterday at 3:01pm · Like

      Colin Jones My mistake – China did not sign the treaty either. I guess it was sort of involved in a civil war as well.. But at least there was a government around. Anyways, I don’t know that it is as simple as you might be tempted to characterize it.
      Yesterday at 3:04pm · Like

      SVM Professor Jones, are you suggesting that it might have been something more like a sincere effort to renounce colonial claims on former subjects?
      Yesterday at 3:07pm · Like

      Colin Jones The Republic of China signed a separate peace treaty with Japan the same year, which includes language stating that: ” For the purposes of the present Treaty, nationals of the Republic of China shall be deemed to include all the inhabitants and former inhabitants of Taiwan (Formosa) and Penghu (the Pescadores) and their descendents who are of the Chinese nationality in accordance with the laws and regulations which have been or may hereafter be enforced by the Republic of China in Taiwan (Formosa) and Penghu (the Pescadores)” so I think the Taiwanese never had to deal with the degree of being left stateless the way the Koreans may have been.
      Yesterday at 3:07pm · Like

      Colin Jones SVM – it is an interesting area and there are certainly people who know much more about it than I do, so I would hesitate to answer. I guess the question would be what the Japanese intended when they used the term “Kokumin” (Japanese nationals) in the Japanese draft of the constitution, knowing that the Potsdam Declaration required them to abandon all their colonies. I can’t imagine they would have thought very much about what happened to those colonial subjects in Japan, except that they probably would (should) go “home”.
      Yesterday at 3:10pm · Like

      Colin Jones By the way Arudou, if you haven’t already seen this it is probably relevant to a lot of the things you are talking about… . Borderline Japan: Foreigners and Frontier Controls in the Postwar Era: 本

      Arudou Debito Thanks for the T M-S book reference. I will get it from the library today (they have it, bless ’em).
      Yesterday at 4:05pm · Like

      Colin Jones Not sure – “Partners for Democracy” is a great account of the process by which the constitution was drafted, as are the chapters on the subject in John Dower’s “Embracing Defeat” but those accounts both basically present the switch to “kokumin” as something the Japanese slipped in (it isn’t a concept that is apparent from the English version), but as I recall both accounts only mention the effect on non-Japanese imperial subjects in passing.
      Yesterday at 4:26pm · Like

      Colin Jones Mark Peattie edited put together an entire book on the Japanese Colonial Empire a couple of decades ago, but I am not sure which chapter would have the specifics of how the colonials were treated under the law.
      Yesterday at 4:27pm · Like

      Arudou Debito Funny you should mention Peattie. I just went to the library and searched out the stacks, and there Peattie just happened to be. Borrowed that book too. …

    8. Scipio Says:

      This is a very complex issue, as opposed to a black and white issue of someone putting up a notice saying ‘no foreigners’, being treated in a very simplistic manner.

      I suggest, from a layman’s perspective, you get a copy of Democracy in Occupied Japan: The U.S. Occupation and Japanese Politics and Society’ (Routledge Studies in Asia’s Transformations)and peruse Chapter 7 ‘Resident Aliens: forging the political status of Koreans in occupied Japan’ as an introduction to the background to the whole issue of Korean Japanese in post 1945. I can offer other sources, but the above mentioned source is a good place to start.

      As Caprio and others point out, the changing status of Korean nationals in post-war Japan was a culmination of attitudes held by all parties and the economic and legal benefits of not being classified as japanese nationals in occupied Japan, rather than any conscious decision on the Japanese part.

      In Occupied Japan, those inhabitants of Korean ancestry did their best not to be classified as Japanese nationals because if they were classified as ‘other’ they were eligible to food rations and not to be tried within the japanese judicial system. During the occupation the japanese authorities were responsible for feeding their populace, but the newly formed UN, in the form of SCAP, was responsible for feeding all nationals of non-belligerent nations. The japanese authorities were in no position to feed their nationals.
      The same conditions were applied to the application of domestic law. Japanese were tried under their austere legal system, while non-Japanese could appeal to be tried under the very lax UN courts.

      By 1952, the distinction of non-Japanese residents and Japanese had been well established long before a bureaucrat had put pen to paper. The real problem for the japanese authorities in 1952 was that with the Taiwanese they could address the issue with the sovereign government of the PRC and the Taiwanese japanese could be awarded a Taiwanese passport, but Korea was in the throes of the Korean war and there was no sovereign government in the south and the north was being run by a government who was in a de facto war with the West.

      As a last note, you really do have to consider the attitude of the US in Japan’s 1952 attitude to its Korean residents. During WW2 and after WW2 the Americans were consistently racist towards Korea and the Koreans, and saw them as the lesser Asians in comparison to the Japanese. Once occupying Japan, the US wanted to see the complete repatriation of Koreans to the Korean peninsular from Japan. For various reasons, mainly the economic limitations placed on the transfer of any returnee’s wealth from japan to Korea, very few Korean Japanese took up the offer of repatriation. However the distinction of who and who wasn’t a japanese citizen had been set in stone long before the japanese regained their power of self determination in 1952.

      Like I said, a very complex issue.

      — Quite. Regarding the last paragraph, which government decided the policy on, “the economic limitations placed on the transfer of any returnee’s wealth from Japan to Korea”?

    9. Xavier Says:

      Hi In the case of the Taiwanese prior to WWII, not only could they vote in Japan elections, but theoretically a taiwanese born “japanese” could even have been elected as president or premier or whatever Japan had at that time. I remember to have read this in a book dealing with Taiwan under Imperial rule. For the taiwanese, (those born in Taiwan) and not those that later came in from Mainland China with Chang Kai Shek, even tough there was some kind of national pride in being brought back to good old China, it quickly disappeared when the population saw the Kuomingtan troops landing in Formosa. Remember most taiwanese fought under Japanese flag and where used to a highly functional and organized military, and CKS’s troops couldn’t be defined in those lines. I am also quite amazed at the amnesia on taiwanese troops that did fought under japanese flag not only in SE Asia, but also in China, against communist and Kuomingtan troops, some still buried in the Yusukuni shrine despite calls from Taiwan to repatriate their remains, (CKS looked very suspiciuosly on them and was quick to send most of them to Mainland China to fight impossible battles against the Communists). I just recall that one of the last imperial soldiers to give up fighting in The Philipines or PNG, sometime around 1955-1960 was a taiwanese aborigene, and you can imagine how he must have felt when both Japan and Taiwan didn’t know what to do with him when he finally surrendered.
      As for nationalty, the fate of Taiwan was not really settled on the peace treates between China and Japan, and CKS just arbitrarily declared as citizens of The R.O.C those people living in Taiwan including, the taiwanese aborigenes, who ethnically are not chinese.

      — I’ll approve this, but it would help your argument’s credibility if you would render the spelling of historical figures and organizations correctly.

    10. Scipio Says:

      Quite. Regarding the last paragraph, which government decided the policy on, “the economic limitations placed on the transfer of any returnee’s wealth from Japan to Korea”?

      The occupying authorities. Initially it was limited to a few hundred yen, which in SCAP’s estimate would last a returnee a few days on their return to Korea.

      By the time it had been increased to a realistic amount, the Korean war had started and return for both North and South Japanese Koreans was not an attractive option.

      — Thanks. Your source on this is also, “Democracy in Occupied Japan: The U.S. Occupation and Japanese Politics and Society”, right?

    11. Mei Nona Says:

      @Scipio – wow, only a few hundred yen? I had read that there were limits, which was one reason why some Koreans chose to stay put rather than be “repatriated” – and I put that in quotes because there were quite a few Koreans who had already been in Japan proper for a couple of generations before the war, and had businesses, family etc. in Japan whereas they had absolutely nothing on the peninsula and would have been forced to completely start over.

      Out of curiosity, does “Democracy in Occupied Japan” discuss the forced laborers? I have read before that SCAP divided the Koreans in Japan into those who were legitimate immigrants (those who were in Japan pre-war / who moved to Japan as economic immigrants) and those who were forcibly brought to Japan, and gave priority to repatriating as quickly as possible those brought over forcibly. Supposedly SCAP was pretty efficient at repatriating the forced laborers, although not always for strictly “humanitarian” reasons. I have read somewhere that SCAP was concerned with communist infiltrators amongst the Koreans and thought the best way to solve the “problem” was to get the Koreans out of Japan as quickly as possible.

    12. Scipio Says:

      – Thanks. Your source on this is also, “Democracy in Occupied Japan: The U.S. Occupation and Japanese Politics and Society”, right?

      Among others, Richard Finn’s ‘Winners in peace: MacArthur, Yoshida and postwar Japan’ touches lightly on the subject. ‘Koreans in Japan: Ethnic Conflict and Accommodation’ deals with the subject in detail, but I found it very subjective.
      Mark Caprio’s paper in ‘Democracy in Japan..’ has been the best writing I’ve found on the subject because not only does he appear to have had access to all the OSS documentation of the time, but as a non-Japanese or non-Korean, he was able to venture into sensitive areas that are either avoided by Asian researchers or are dealt with as an exercise in nationalism.
      Caprio is at Rikkyo and it would be a real plus if he could opine on this topic on here.

      — Somebody who knows him email him!

    13. TJJ Says:

      It’s very convenient to blame the loss of Japanese nationality on the San Fransisco Peace Treaty, but that’s just BS. If they were actual Japanese citizens, with all the rights and obligations that come along with it, before the San Fransisco Peace Treaty, then how could they possibly be identified as ‘Korean’ after the Treaty? Riddle me that batman.

    14. Mei Nona Says:

      @TJJ – re-read the posts above, if you would. Japanese citizens (as in: ethnically Japanese) didn’t have much by way of rights at the time, let alone nominal “citizens”, aka colonial subjects of the Japanese Empire. Also, if you will recall, Japan lost the war, and the territories it held? So if Koreans and Taiwanese were made Japanese citizens based on the fact that Japan had made their homeland a colony, why would they be eligible for Japanese citizenship after Japan had been forcibly divested of those colonies?

      Not to mention that the victors said “these folks are Koreans, not Japanese…” and the Koreans said “we’re Koreans, not Japanese…”

      Sure, it would have been nice if everyone had been given a choice, but I really wonder how many Koreans living in Japan in 1952 would have said “yes, I want to keep my Japanese citizenship, thank you very much”. 60 years later, there are still a lot of Zainichi of that generation who won’t accept Japanese citizenship and pressure the younger generations to likewise refuse to naturalize.

    15. Scipio Says:

      13.TJJ Says:
      It’s very convenient to blame the loss of Japanese nationality on the San Fransisco Peace Treaty, but that’s just BS. If they were actual Japanese citizens, with all the rights and obligations that come along with it, before the San Fransisco Peace Treaty, then how could they possibly be identified as ‘Korean’ after the Treaty? Riddle me that batman.

      The assumption that Japanese based Koreans had been considered Japanese citizens before the end of the war is was one of the biggest misunderstandings.They were considered subjects of the Japanese emperor, but they were not classified as Japanese citizens.
      Obviously with the end of the Japanese Empire, they were no longer subjects of the emperor.
      The OSS and SCAP were against offering Japanese based Koreans any Japanese citizenship as a remedy to their new state of purgatory, something they had never had.
      SCAP saw this ‘troublesome’ minority as a future destabilizing factor in any new Japan, because of historical antagonisms between the two nationalities. SCAP had also noticed that Japanese based Koreans made up a disproportionate high number of supporters for left wing organizations and participants in organized crime.(‘Occupation Of Japan’ United States Planning Documents 1942-45, Volume 3 of the set located in the Japanese National Library)

    16. Scipio Says:

      Mei Nona Says:
      @Scipio – wow, only a few hundred yen?

      Actually I reread my notes and it was a Y1000 until 1950.

      Mei Nona Says:
      Out of curiosity, does “Democracy in Occupied Japan” discuss the forced laborers? I have read before that SCAP divided the Koreans in Japan into those who were legitimate immigrants (those who were in Japan pre-war.

      It does, the statistics Caprio gives is that 500,000 Koreans came over after the passing of the emergency mobilisation laws during the war (the forced labourers) to join the already 1,000,000 Koreans, who had migrated to Japan before the emergency mobilization laws.

    17. TJJ Says:

      But for some reason the idea persists. Even Wikipedia perpetuates the story:

      “The Allied occupation of Japan ended on 28 April 1952 with the San Francisco Peace Treaty, in which Japan formally abandoned its territorial claim to the Korean peninsula, and as a result, Zainichi Koreans formally lost their Japanese nationality.[10]”

      Source: ^ United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (September 26, 2000): “E. Korean residents in Japan 32. The majority of Korean residents, who constitute about one third of the foreign population in Japan, are Koreans (or their descendants) who came to reside in Japan for various reasons during the 36 years (1910-1945) of Japan’s rule over Korea and who continued to reside in Japan after having lost Japanese nationality, which they held during the time of Japan’s rule, with the enforcement of the San Francisco Peace Treaty (28 April 1952).”

    18. Loverilakkuma Says:

      @#13 Scipio

      >The assumption that Japanese based Koreans had been considered Japanese citizens before the end of the war is was one of the biggest misunderstandings. They were considered subjects of the Japanese emperor, but they were not classified as Japanese citizens.

      I agree with your point. The problem; however, is with the definition of citizenship in wartime. It is not the same as the one defined by Michael Walzer or any other researchers working on scholarships relating to war, democracy, and civil society. Many historians and researchers tend to make a very narrow definition of ‘citizens’–or don’t even make a clear definition of what constitutes ‘citizen’ of the state. Japanese natives were no exception to the subjects of the imperial state. I personally doubt that the citizenship in wartime served as rhetorical signification that highlighted a clear distinction from Japanese to other Asian migrants in terms of labor and economy.

    19. Scipio Says:

      Loverilakkuma Says:
      The problem; however, is with the definition of citizenship in wartime.

      Totally agree and the term citizenship, just like the term kokumin, is more an exercise in semantics than any observation of the reality, then or now. It would also be rather irrelevant, if not for the Japanese supreme court’s interpretation of civil rights, guaranteed under the constitution, being very much determined by possession of citizenship/kokumin.
      However my point is that the issue was rather complex at the time, because of the attitude shared in general by the three concerned parties (SCAP, Japanese and Japanese based Koreans)who saw it in nobody’s interest to ‘award’ Japanese nationality to Japanese based Koreans.

    20. David Says:

      Pak Chun-Geum was elected to the Diet from Tokyo’s 4th district in 1932 and served two terms. Koreans and Taiwanese had voting rights and the right to run for national office in the Japanese Empire. Much more rights than those given to current special permanent residents, who have chosen South Korean citizenship or Chosen-seki, a non-committal status of being Korean but not supporting the ROK. It is much easier for a special permanent resident to naturalize in Japan, compared to people with non-SPR status. SPRs also cannot be deported from Japan for anything short of murder, so they have some very special privileges that are denied to others. It is unfortunate that the rights afforded to SPRs cannot be extended to all people who wish to live in Japan. It would be much more fair if a consistent standard was used for everyone.

    21. Charuzu Says:


      You say:

      “It is unfortunate that the rights afforded to SPRs cannot be extended to all people who wish to live in Japan. It would be much more fair if a consistent standard was used for everyone.”

      I disagree.

      The privileges afforded zainichi Koreans and Chinese are essentially a second class version of the rights afforded Japanese citizens.

      After the SPRs were stripped of their citizenship, the SPR seems to be an ersatz set of rights.

      The full citizenship which was stripped should be considered for restoration.

      Moreover, if, as you say “SPRs also cannot be deported from Japan for anything short of murder” I think it would be unreasonable to extend such a privilege, as you propose, to all who wish to live in Japan.

      In the Netherlands, for example, foreigners who are NOT murderers but who are armed robbers, rapists, etc. can certainly be deported. I believe that such criminals should be subject to deportation.

      I think that Japan should behave like other civilised nations, with laws that prohibit racism etc.

      But, I do not think that Japan should be required to tolerate seriously criminal, dangerous foreigners who may wish to reside in Japan.

    22. David Says:

      SPRs can naturalize far more easily than any other foreigner. Most SPRs alive today were never Japanese citizens so there can be no restoration of citizenship. However, they can apply for Japanese citizenship with much easier documentation and much lower hurdle for evidence for the application than any other nationality.

    23. Scipio Says:

      Charuzu Says:
      March 8th, 2012 at 4:53 am
      After the SPRs were stripped of their citizenship, the SPR seems to be an ersatz set of rights.
      The full citizenship which was stripped should be considered for restoration.

      The conversation seems to be going round in circles. Unless people read before they comment, it isn’t going to go anywhere.

      ONE MORE TIME. Japanese based Koreans and Chinese never had Japanese citizenship before 1952. They were subjects of the Japanese Emperor until 1945. To say that citizenship came with their subject status is to say that 25% of the World’s population, before 1948, had British citizenship because they were subjects in the British Empire/Commonwealth.

      The Japanese Empire was disolved in 1945 and both Koreans and Chinese (including those based in Japan) were no longer classified as Japanese subjects.

      This release from being subjects, did not mean that the Japanese based Koreans and Chinese gained Japanese citizenship, far from it. All parties concerned liked it that way.

      Can we move on?

    24. Charuzu Says:


      Thank you.

      I would still point out that Japan has a historical duty to those whose ancestors were brought to Japan and then stripped of subject status, and without a clear option for citizenship.

      Koreans and Chinese were maltreated during the Japanese Emprire’s era, and were not individually given a choice.

      Yet, by allowing them to remain, individually, as a choice, it ensured a work force in Japan that had few rights.

      So, I continue to believe that citizenship should be more formally offered to the SPRs, and that such an SPR status should not be granted to all foreigners.

    25. Scipio Says:

      Charuzu Says:
      March 9th, 2012 at 7:08 pm
      I continue to believe that citizenship should be more formally offered to the SPRs.

      No disagreement from this end on that, but the real problem lies with the way that the Japanese supreme court interprets the constitution. Without such a narrow interpretation of the constitution, stating that basic human rights (ie. protection from discrimination in society and employment, and access to state welfare funds) are closely intertwined with the status of kokumin, this issue of Japanese citizenship would be a non-issue: Probably on par with the distinction of citizenship and PR in the UK

      Clearly certain sections of the Korean Japanese population, for historical and contemporary political reasons, did not / do not want to take Japanese citizenship, and the majority of Japanese citizens have been opposed to them having access to Japanese citizenship.
      Initially this suited all parties, since Japanese human rights existed more on paper than in reality. However since the late 50s and 60s (I’d place Minamata as a point in history) Japanese society has been more proactive in claiming those rights promised under their constitution and the Japanese supreme court has been very restrictive in interpreting who does or does not have access to those rights promised under the constitution, the issue of Japanese citizenship for Japanese Koreans has become an issue.
      It wasn’t so in 1952 and the real political fault line today lies with the Japanese supreme court and its restrictive and exclusionary rulings. In the Japan of the 21st Century the supreme court has clearly stated that access to civil human rights is determined by citizenship. That great sentence once spoken by the head of the Osaka prosecution office to his trainees,’ foreigners have no rights’.

    26. Oh come on Says:

      Yes, we all know how cynical that was. However, empires and other authorities do this kind of thing elsewhere and sometimes to those whose ancestors actually come from the home country.

      Take Australians who have English/Irish/Scottish/Welsh greatgrandparents/great great grandparents. Ireland was not an independent republic then. Australians with those demonstrably strong ties with Britain/the UK cannot make it or the other countries their residency. There is no right of return despite the ancestry and despite the fact that if you are of a certain age, your parents’ grandparents were English/Scots/Welsh/Irish.

      Instead there was an unpublicised registration system whereby if Irish people registered their children, possibly the child and grandchildren could have residency rights. However, I have never met an Australian of this background who knew about it. The secretiveness of it was designed to prevent Irish people and their descendants from returning.

      If you have direct English ancestry in the same way, again you have no right to reside in the UK despite the fact that former British colonies’ people have or had that right. Discrimination is not always so simple and confined to institutional barriers against certain people.

    27. Mumei Says:

      I had need to discuss this topic with a friend in Japanese so searched and found the original text.
      I’ll include it below, along with a quick English translation.
      Note that the treaty calls Taiwan “Formosa”, but I do not know what to call a Formosa人 in English so I went with Taiwanese. (Formosan? Formosian?)
      Sections II and III are less relevant here but are included for completeness.
      The translation is meant to be informational and any mistakes are mine.

      I thought that it was interesting that the rational given for these decisions is the 1952 peace treaty, but as far as I can determine the peace treaty does not specify that such actions are required or even suggested.

      Clerical Processing of Citizenship and Family Registries for Korean and Taiwanese in According with the Enactment of the Peace Treaty

      Civil Affairs A No. 438, Director-General Circular Notice, April 19th, 1952

      In accordance with the the peace treaty (henceforth “treaty” below) that will soon come into effect, matters regarding citizenship and family registries shall be handled as follows. It is with hopes that this be understood and that that its application shall be without regret by each office and municipality.


      第一 朝鮮及び台湾関係
      I. Regarding Korea and Taiwan
      (一) 朝鮮及び台湾は、条約の発効の日から日本国の領土から分離することとなるので、これに伴い、朝鮮人及び台湾人は、内地に在住している者を含めてすべて日本の国籍を喪失する。
      1. Korea and Taiwan will be split from Japan’s territories from the day that the treaty [=Treaty of San Francisco] goes into effect, so as a result all Koreans and Taiwanese–including those residing within the country [Japan]–will loose their Japanese citizenship.

      (二) もと朝鮮人又は台湾人であつた者でも、条約の発効前に内地人との婚姻、縁組等の身分行為により内地の戸籍に入籍すべき事由の生じたものは、内地人であつて、条約発効後も何らの手続を要することなく、引き続き日本の国籍を保有する。
      2. For people who were originally Korean or Taiwanese, those who have reason to be included on a Japanese family registry due to a social act such as marriage or adoption prior to the treaty going into effect are Japanese and will continue to keep their Japanese citizenship without need of any procedures after the treaty goes into effect.

      (三) もと内地人であつた者でも、条約の発効前に朝鮮人又は台湾人との婚姻、養子縁組等の身分行為により内地の戸籍から除籍せらるべき事由の生じたものは、朝鮮人又は台湾人であつて、条約発効とともに日本の国籍を喪失する。
      3. For people who were originally Japanese, those who have reason to be removed from a Japanese family registry due to a social act such as marriage or adoption with a Korean or Taiwanese prior to the treaty going into effect are Korean or Taiwanese and will loose their Japanese citizenship after the treaty goes into effect. Further, for such persons, there is no need to record the lose of citizenship on their registry.

      (四) 条約発効後は、縁組、婚姻、離縁、離婚等の身分行為によつて直ちに内地人が内地戸籍から朝鮮若しくは台湾の戸籍に入り、又は朝鮮人及び台湾人が右の届出によつて直ちに同地の戸籍から内地戸籍に入ることができた従前の取扱は認められないこととなる。
      4. The prior clauses shall not be applied in the event that after the treaty goes into effect a Japanese immediately moves from their Japanese family registry to a Korean or Taiwanese family registry due to adoption, marriage, or divorce, or a Korean or Taiwanese files notification of moving from their family registry to a Japanese registry.

      (五) 条約発行後に、朝鮮人及び台湾人が日本の国籍を取得するには、一般の外国人と同様、もつぱら国籍法の規定による帰化の手続によることを要する。
      5. Following the treaty going into effect, for a Korean or Taiwanese to acquire Japanese citizenship, they will be treated as normal foreigners and must undergo naturalization procedures as defined in the Nationality Act. Further, in the case of naturalization, a Korean or Taiwanese (excluding those who were Japanese as defined in 3) shall not quality under Nationality Act Article 5 Section 2 “a person who was once Japanese” or Article 6 Section 4 “a person who lost Japanese citizenship”.

      第二 樺太及び千島関係
      II. Regarding Sakhalin (Karafuto) and Kuril (Chishima)
      Along with the treaty going into effect, both Sakhalin and Kuril will be split from Japanese territory, but those who have these regions as their place of domicile shall of course not loose their Japanese citizenship after the treaty goes into effect. However, as a result of these regions being outside of Japanese territory after the treaty goes into effect, such persons will loose their place of domicile so need to file a change to their family registry as per the Family Registry law.

      第三 北緯二十九度以南の南西諸島、小笠原諸島、硫黄列島及び南鳥島関係
      III. Regarding Nansei Islands, Ogasawara Islands, Iō Islands, and Minamitori Island south of latitude 29
      For those who have their place of domicile as the aforementioned islands, they shall not loose their Japanese citizenship even after the treaty goes into effect, and they may continue to keep these regions as their place of domicile. Of the aforementioned islands, for those who have their place of domicile in Okinawa or the Nansei Islands south of latitude 29, after the treaty goes into effect their family registry shall be handled, as before, by the Okinawa-Amami Ōshima Family Registry Office which is the office of the Fukuoka Legal Affairs Bureau. Also, for those with their place of domicile in Ogasawara Islands, Volcano Islands, or Minamitori Island, after the treaty goes into effect a Ogasawara Family Registry office shall be built, and their processing will be done here. (See Civil Affairs A No. 416, Circular Notice dated April 14.)

      — Thanks very much for this. Is there a source or a link you can provide, just for completeness’ sake?

    28. Mumei Says:


      It took a bit of back-translation and searching, but I eventually found the above text at the following link:

      Please note the the link to the main 資料 page at the top which is full of links to issues regarding immigration, family registries, and citizenship:

      — Very grateful. Thanks!

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