August 13, 1999

Japan Abolishes Foreigner Print Law

Filed at 12:02 p.m. EDT

By The Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's parliament decided Friday to stop
requiring the fingerprinting of foreign residents, a move that should
end decades of protests that the practice is demeaning and
discriminatory. Friday's law, which takes effect next April, will apply
to the 880,000 non-permanent residents of Japan. Under the law, they
will only have to provide the government with a photo and a signature
when registering to live in Japan.

The protest against fingerprinting has long been the center of the
civil rights movement of Japan's Korean residents. After years of
protest from Korean residents that they were being treated like
criminals, the fingerprinting of permanent residents was abolished in

"Japan is finally approaching the international standard," said Hwang
Yung-man, secretary-general of the Korean Residents Union in Japan.
"This is a right that we have won through a long struggle. And we
welcome the decision to extend it to all foreigners." The more than
600,000 Koreans in Japan include those who were forcibly brought here as
labor during Japan's 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.
They continue to suffer discrimination in employment and social status.
Many Koreans in Japan are second- or third-generation. But Japan does
not offer citizenship by birth. Some Koreans choose to hold on to their
Korean nationality, saying the process of attaining Japanese citizenship
is discriminatory because it forces assimilation into Japanese culture
and society.

Japan first used the fingerprinting system in 1952.

Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company