Asahi: LDP project team considering making naturalization easier for Zainichis


Hi Blog. Interesting development. Comment follows article:

Asahi Shinbun Jan 24, 2008
Translated by Arudou Debito, Original Japanese at, or see previous blog entry.

TOKYO: A legal division within the Liberal Democratic Party, the “Project Team (PT) on Nationality Issues” (Kouno Taro, Lower House, Chair), decided at a meeting on January 24 to submit to this session of the Diet a bill, entitled “Special Exemption for Special Permanent Residents to Obtain Japanese Nationality”, which would simplify the procedure for Zainichi North and South Koreans etc. to become Japanese.

The bill would in essence provide a special procedure within the Nationality Law, limited to Zainichis, for them to receive fast-track approval within one year after application. Although in 2001 a similar bill was deliberated upon within the same committee, it was not formally submitted. Voices within the three-party ruling coalition countered, “If you create a fast-track for naturalization, you don’t need the [then-proposed] local-election suffrage bill [for Zainichis].” New Komeito countered, “We just can’t give up the Zainichi vote”, and both proposals fell through.

After January 24’s meeting, the 2001 Project Team’s former chair, Lower House Dietmember Ohta Seiichi, stressed, “I was particularly annoyed back then because we tried to take up the issue of local voting rights for Zainichis at the same time as amending the Nationality Laws. We didn’t listen properly to the needs of the actual Zainichi themselves, and look what happened. So this time, we’re only concentrating on simplifying the naturalization procedures, and not touching the local suffrage issue.”

COMMENT: Understood. But what of just granting Zainichis (or everyone who wants Japanese citizenship) Dual Nationality, and just being done with it? That would cut many a Gordian Knot–not the least being naturalization as an issue of identity sacrifice.

A major barrier to taking Japanese citizenship is indeed procedural (says I, a person who went through it), but the bigger barrier is the issue of having to decide whether or not you can stop being “Korean”, “American”, whatever, and start being “Japanese” only. You’re not allowed to be both, even though you WILL (and should) be both in a modern society, suitably tolerant of differences and plurality, as befits Japan.

EVERY ONE of Japan’s developed-country brethren allows somewhere, sometime, somehow, and officially, a measure for dual nationality. So should Japan.

No doubt Kouno Taro, a man who is doing very good works indeed (and I stress this here because I know he reads this blog), would argue that we have to do this step by step–one development here, another there. Or else, like in 2001, both issues will crowd each other out from getting through the door.

The above news is a step in the right direction, to be sure (especially if the bill actually does get passed). But people like me want more than just baby steps, and indeed would like it if naturalization were easier for everybody.

And the easiest way to make it easier for everybody would be to make dual nationality possible. Is my take.

Anyway, kudos to Kouno Taro once again. Arudou Debito in Yurakucho, Tokyo

16 comments on “Asahi: LDP project team considering making naturalization easier for Zainichis

  • This certainly could be a step in treating the Zainichis better.

    I would think a better comparison for Japan would be other East Asian countries, not, say, Canada. What are the laws regarding dual citizenship in South Korea, Taiwan, China, or Vietnam?


  • I’m glad to see progress on this issue.

    Regarding Debito’s comments, I completely agree about duel citizenship. If Japan would recognize it, I would begin the process immediately. Constantly jumping through all of the hoops that immigration makes us go through year after year is not pleasant. However, while I plan on being in Japan for my entire life, I will not trade those discomforts just to have them replaced in another country.

    Note to Debito: I’m a little unclear about why write 河野太郎’s name as “Kouno Taro”. Hepburn would be Kōno Tarō. Wāpuro style would be Kouno Tarou. Ignoring vowel length would be Kono Taro. Yours seems to be a mix of the latter two. And then there is his own webpages, both of which use Kono Taro:

  • Last I looked, Australia required fealty to Oz only, and the relinquishing of previously held citizenships. Colleen Hanson, of racist politics fame down under, was nailed for not giving up her UK/EU citizenship. Germany also has a similar rule, as does Denmark. (Not sure about Russia, but Serbia, of ethnic cleansing fame, is a one-passport only country.) The Yew Ess of Aay allows dual nationality, but, I believe (and I am prepared to stand corrected on this one by anyone more knowledgeable) sets the condition that a US national must not vote for a government/legislation in his/her other country of citizenship which opposes the USA.

    But just imagine, (Wow!) what a positive benefit dual nationality would be to Japan! Better than black ships! Or a Marshall plan! Certainly better than its current militaristic, re-arming leanings, if Taro (the) Aso is to be heeded!

  • I agree Debito, a step in the right direction though recognizing dual nationality would be better- I’ve actually never been under the impression that the zainichi have problems with the requirements for citizenship, rather that they don’t want to give up their identity.

  • South Korea and Taiwan are developed countries. Although I do feel Japan, South Korea and Taiwan should all allow dual citizenship.


  • I’ve often felt the dual-nationality barrow is one that we should be trying a lot harder to push.

    There would be some problems with it (I can’t imagine the Japanese government being too keen on having joint North Korean/Japanese citizens), but it’s something I think we should be making a case for.

  • Is this the same Kono taro who doesnt want a law against racism because he thinks nj men will then start sueing for racism j girls who refuse to go out with them?
    and youre pinning your hopes on this guy?


  • Debito,

    Not to beat the horse of dual citizenship, which I support, but it seems to me we are entering the Asian Century, and the US era is coming to an end. That being the case, it may the West that has to start conforming to the world community, which will mean the way Asia does things.

    The point I’m making is that arguments of “a world community” may not be effective or wise in the future, as folks in, say, Brazil or India may think that means Asia, not the West.


    Wouldn’t the “gold” standard be the U.N. Human Development Index? That puts South Korea in the same bracket as Germany and many other “developed” European nations (0.9 and above on the index). Some nations generally considered “developed”, like Portugal, don’t even score that highly. Singapore, which doesn’t allow dual citizenship, is there too. Taiwan is not officially measured because it is not recognised by the U.N., but unofficial measurements put it in the same bracket.

    In any case, although it is true that all (Western) developed nations allow some degree of dual citizenship, many don’t hold open the door as widely as you seem to advocate for Japan. Germany is notorious for its restrictions on dual citizenship and countries like Belgium only allow it for people from certain pre-approved nations.

    But isn’t linking naturalisation and immigration policy to level of national development a bit arbitrary? I’m not sure your argument about Japan’s identity claims as “one of the rich countries”* really holds. From 1950 to the late 1970s most Japanese saw “development” in purely in material terms. From 1980 Japan’s status as a materially advanced economy was accompanied by pride that one could secure economic prosperity in a controlled or “non-western” way. Your former supervisor wrote the book on this. In my mind the sole criteria for being a “rich country” are 1) you are a nation state (check) and b) you have more money than most others (check). It has nothing to do with immigration or citizenship. Japan thus doesn’t aspire to be a rich country. It *is* a rich country.

    (By the way, I am in favour of dual citizenship in Japan, and I generally agree with arguments for it on their own merits. I just find the “developed-(code for Western)-nations-do-it-therefore-Japan-should-too” argument a little bit evocative of what Said said.)

  • DR, I dunno where you looked, but Australia definitely allows dual citizenship, many of my friends are.

    “Can I become a citizen of another country without losing my Australian citizenship?

    Yes, provided the other citizenship is acquired after 4 April 2002.”

    And, as far as I know, there’s no person called Colleen Hanson. There’s was rather controversial woman known as Pauline Hanson, but she is 100% aussie (which is the whole point of her being “pro Australian” and anti-everything else).

    Personally, I’d just prefer to be a citizen of Earth and be done with it…

  • I’d like to retract part of my last comment. After talking with someone more familiar than I with the zainichis, I’ve come to see that there are a lot of people that this policy could benefit. Though some don’t want to lose their identity, there are still many having been born and raised in Japan that welcome this policy since they don’t feel that they should have to jump through hoops to be part of the society they were born into. Thanks to S-san for the enlightenment, and I appologise for the near-sighted comment!

  • Tony,
    Thanks for the clarification on the situation regarding dual citizenship in Australia. But, I’m sure I remember Pauline Hanson being reviled in the press, around the time she spent some time in the clink for electoral irregularities, for retaining her UK citizenship, and then, I believe she later renounced it under pressure.

  • DR – I think the biggest issue Pauline Hanson pushed was a anti-immigration policy. I think you are right about her dual citizenship thing.

  • In my country Dual is not allowed but we have similar law to US, which says: we don`t recognize dual nationality but we don`t forbid our citizens to have other ones. Furthermore, in order to renounce one`s nationality one has to go through very long procedure which may take even 2 years, so it`s not easy to do either.My country constitution forbid to take away citizenship, unless I apply in person with my sign, but as I mentioned is not easy. In Japan in order way if they find out you hold another citizenship, they take away your J one just like that. If Japan had at least law as in US and in my one of EU country. At the moment I prefer to have EU Passport than stick to Japanese one. Next reason is below article:

    BRUSSELS: Advancing its effort to combat terrorism on the Continent, the European Union next month will propose tough measures on non-EU travelers entering and leaving the 27-member bloc, including the collection of fingerprints and other biometric information.

    EU justice officials said Friday they were also studying whether to introduce an electronic traveler authorization system, modeled on Australia’s, under which all air travelers to the European Union would have to register their personal data on an Internet site before departure.

    The data would be screened by the EU authorities and, if deemed necessary, travelers would be interviewed at an EU consulate in their home countries.

    The new measures would supplement a U.S.-style anti-terrorism plan that the European Union presented late last year, which calls for the European authorities to collect from airlines 19 pieces of personal data on passengers, including their names, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, passport numbers and billing addresses.

    The information would be stored for 13 years. Information such as whether a passenger had requested a kosher meal was stripped out of the bill under pressure from civil liberties groups.

    “Terrorism remains the number one threat,” said Franco Frattini, the EU justice commissioner, who was attending a meeting in Slovenia, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency. “The package of measures will aim at increasing the capacity of the EU to protect its external borders.’

    Frattini has spoken of the biometric proposals before, notably at a meeting of EU ministers in Lisbon in October. On Friday he added details and said his proposals would be made next month. He said the tougher controls, including the registration of travelers’ fingerprints, would help the authorities determine whether travelers were staying on EU territory longer than allowed.

    EU officials said the preregistration system on the Internet could also prove beneficial to travelers, allowing customs officials to process them more quickly during border controls.

    France joined Spain, which experienced major terrorist attacks in recent years, in backing strengthened collection of information.

    “I am in favor,” said the French interior minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie. “It is paradoxical that we don’t have here what we have with the United States,” she said, referring to the EU-U.S. agreement that gives the American authorities access to data on air passengers from the European Union.

    Analysts said the proposals, which would need to be approved by all EU member states to take effect, could face an uphill struggle amid growing concerns in Europe that governments are sacrificing civil liberties in the fight against terrorism.

    European Union justice officials said they planned to organize an informal meeting of justice and home affairs ministers from the bloc on March 13 in Slovenia to discuss the plans.

    EU officials also are considering whether to introduce a new U.S.-style electronic visa registration system under which non-EU citizens would be asked to give passport and other details to the EU authorities electronically.

    Under the proposal, a “green light” transmitted electronically would confirm that visa-free travel was allowed, while a yellow light would require the traveler to be interviewed at an EU consulate. The proposal has led to concerns among non-EU travelers that processing the information could delay their trips.


  • Willie
    I’m with you on the autumnal days of the US era. However, the US has a very large domestic population that loves to shop. It is consumer heaven, in regards to choice etc. Which has in many ways led to its down fall. So whilst the US may be dropping/falling, the economy of the US still needs feeding. Who will feed its appetite for consumerism?…yes, Asia. This is already the case in terms of cars, electronic goods etc. So the US even when it becomes a “small bit part player” (if ever) in the world economics, it will still have significant clout, because it will be able to dictate to the ‘manufacturing’ countries what it wants/needs, being the buyer/consumer of their products. This should assist in the dual nationality issue.

    But since Japan is not self sufficient in resources of energy, the countries that provide the oil/gas etc, could play a part in the dual nationality issue, perhaps?

    The whole notion of chips etc, for border controls is totally bogus too. The US started these biometric checks, not for terrorism, but for control and fear. Those days way back in Sept 11th greatly assisted the US in gaining back control of its citizens by the notion of fear of terrorism. In the absence of an “evil empire” such as the old communist block, the Govt. didn’t like the idea of its citizens being “free” from threat of the big commy. Since this eventually leads to the people dictating to the state how it wants its country to be run. This is true democracy as the state should be run by the people for the people, and not to serve itself. The easiest way to quell these “thoughts” is by fear. Once fear or the notion of fear is entered into the psyche it becomes 1) hard to remove and 2) a great way for total manipulation and control, of its citizens.

    The UK and many other counties have had true terrorism on a near daily basis for many years, which fortunately has just about died down. Such Orwellian measures were not required then, so why now….control, simple! It doesn’t stop or prevent terrorism. Spain is a good simple example of that. They all have ID cards etc….didn’t stop the Madrid bombing.

    So, what is nationality/citizenship???…clearly most of us would say 1) born and raised in said country and/or 2) live and work and pay taxes and contribute to the society on a permanent bases, not transitory, ie a PR. As has been pointed out many times, being western does not automatically make “us” nationals of Japan, even jumping through all the hoops like an Olympic athletic, to obtain that little bit of paper. Since the evidence appears to the contrary that “we” are suddenly treated the same, simply because of a piece of paper we may have at home. The owners of bars etc won’t change their attitude because of possession of said paper even if waved in front of their faces.

    The only way to remove this notion of “us” and “them” is to level the playing field. Dual nationality will then suddenly make a national or even heaven forbid, the police, take a stance that realises the “western” person may actually be living here, may actually be here for many years and may therefore have to treat “them” just as a national (not an outsider). Since “they” are recognised as being of foreign birth but does live here and by implication be treated accordingly as its nationals. This should (I hope) begin the education for the discrimination being recognised more openly. Or is this wishful thinking?

    A final part would be the notion of having to have a Japanese/kanji name to be “considered” Japanese. I think this is the last but major hurdle that has yet to be scaled or even addressed.

    I am typing this on my “computer”. It is a noun and a foreign noun. Is this word translated into Japanese, or even into kanji?….no. Katakana is used and it is still pronounced as close as possible as co-n-pyu-ta, コンピユータ-。Why is the word computer not in kanji (apart from the obvious), many computers are made here, does this change the spelling? If foreign words are recognised and used daily, why insist on family names being only kanji?

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