Mainichi: Zainichi Korean’s hate speech lawsuit ends in her favor. Bravo. But Mainichi plays word games, mistranslates “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu) into “ethnic discrimination” in English!


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Hi Blog. Let me turn the keyboard over to JK for some update and analysis:

JK:  Hi Debito: Here’s a follow-up article by Mainichi on the Lee Sin Hae Case, which I originally submitted to in late 2016:

Korean resident of Japan’s legal battle for dignity ends in her favor but problems remain
March 20, 2018 (Mainichi Japan)

OSAKA — A Korean resident of Japan whose damages lawsuit against an anti-Korean hate group and its former chairman ended last year with the top court ruling in her favor told the Mainichi Shimbun in an interview, “The ruling doesn’t mean we’ve crossed the finish line. It means we’ve just started on our way toward ridding the world of discrimination.”

Freelance writer Lee Sin Hae, 46, filed a lawsuit with the Osaka District Court in August 2014 against [officially-acknowledged hate group] “Zainichi tokken o yurusanai shimin no kai” (“Citizens’ group that does not forgive special rights for Korean residents of Japan,” or “Zaitokukai”) and its then chairman, Makoto Sakurai, demanding 5.5 million yen in compensation. Lee alleged that the group defamed her by calling her “an old Korean hag” during rallies in the Sannomiya district of Kobe and “a lawless Korean” on Twitter.

The district court ruled in September 2016 that Zaitokukai had made the statements with the intent to incite and intensify discrimination against Korean residents of Japan, and ordered the group to pay Lee 770,000 yen in damages.

According to Lee’s attorney, in June 2017, the Osaka High Court became the first court to recognize that a plaintiff had been subjected to “composite discrimination” — in Lee’s case, ethnic and gender discrimination [emphasis added].  However, the high court upheld the lower court’s compensation amount of 770,000 yen. Zaitokukai appealed, but the Supreme Court’s Second Petty Bench turned down the appeal late last year, finalizing the Osaka High Court’s decision.

It was through her writings criticizing hate speech that Lee herself increasingly became a target of hate mongers. She looked back on her three-year legal battle, during which she suffered insomnia and sudden-onset deafness as a result of stress caused by remembering painful incidents as she collected evidence for her case. “It’s been made clear that if one singles out another as a target of hate speech, they will have to pay for it with money,” she said.

Lee is hopeful that the precedent the courts set by recognizing that she had been subjected to composite discrimination will serve as a deterrent against discrimination in the future. Yet, people continue to take part in hate speech even when their identities are made public or they are ordered to pay damages, resulting in a reality in which hate speech is still plentiful both on the streets and on the internet.

“With the lawsuit, I became keenly aware that my strength alone was very weak,” Lee said. “Society won’t change unless the central government and administrative agencies come together and pour all their efforts into ending discrimination.” What Lee demands now are effective measures that include criminal punishment.

Hiroko Kotaki, an attorney who represented Lee in the lawsuit, offered a certain measure of praise for the Osaka High Court’s ruling for its recognition of the composite discrimination to which Lee was subjected. But Kotaki pointed out that it was problematic that claims to recover damage done by hate speech directed at an indefinite number of people, such as “Korean residents of Japan,” are not possible under current laws. With that in mind, she said, “In addition to establishing new legal standards, internet service providers need to work to reinforce their self-monitoring capacity.”

When the Osaka District Court ruled in favor of Lee in September 2016, former Zaitokukai leader Sakurai released a statement through his lawyer, accusing the ruling of being “unjust, as it was based on societal prejudice toward Zaitokukai.” When the Osaka High Court upheld the lower court’s decision, he released a statement that said, “I praise the fact that the compensation amount was limited to 770,000 yen, dealing a blow to the intentions of those who hoped to politically exploit the ruling.”

Japanese original
李信恵さん 尊厳回復の闘い
毎日新聞2018年3月9日 20時04分(最終更新 3月9日 20時25分)








JK COMMENTS:  From the article, we learn that Lee Sin Hae’s case wasn’t finished in September 2016 — in June of 2017, the Osaka High Court upheld by the decision of the Osaka District Court to fine Mr. Sakurai ~$7200, and late last year, Mr. Sakurai and Zaitokai appealed the case, but the Second Petty Bench of the Supreme Court denied the appeal.

Now one of the things I find curious in the article is that we’re introduced to so-called “composite discrimination” (複合差別) which, in the Japanese version of the article is defined as racial discrimination (人種差別) plus “gender discrimination” (女性差別; I think ‘sexism’ would be a better choice of words).

However, in the English version, “composite discrimination” is defined as “**ethnic** and gender discrimination”.

How is it that 「民族差別」 now equates to ‘ethnic’ instead of ‘racial’? And if the intent was to convey the notion of ‘ethnic discrimination’ (whatever that is), why does the Japanese version not use 「民族差別」€ instead?

The only explanation I can offer is that Mainichi is playing word games and deliberately whitewashing ‘racial discrimination’ with ‘ethnic discrimination’ in the English-language version because the latter is more palatable to the reader. What’s your take? Regards, JK


DEBITO COMMENTS:  The mistranslation is very indicative.  My take is that one of three things happened:

  1. The mistranslation was accidental, because Japanese society is so blind to the problem of “racial discrimination” in Japan (as has demonstrated, it’s taken decades for it to be explicitly called “jinshu sabetsu” in the Japanese) that editorial standards have reflexively reverse-engineered the language to make it “ethnic” all over again.
  2. The mistranslation was deliberate, because Japan has no races, therefore “racial discrimination” cannot exist in Japan (after all, holds the liberal Japanese view, “Japanese and Koreans are the same race, therefore discrimination against Koreans isn’t racial; it’s ethnic“).  More on that below.  Or,
  3. The mistranslation was subterfuge, because the translator at the Mainichi happened to be one of those White Samurai types, who personally doesn’t see “racism” as a problem in Japan (despite the original Japanese wording), and sneakily changed things to protect his Japan from the outside world.

Of course, this all begs the question of people in Japan still accepting the antiquated notion of “race” as an abstract, biological concept — as opposed to a socially-constructed one that differs from society to society in its definitions and enforcement, or as a performative one that is created through the process of “differentiation”, “othering”, and subordination.

So strong is this centuries-old belief that even Mali-born naturalized Japanese Dr. Oussouby Sacko, recently-elected president of Kyoto Seika University (congratulations!), made the bold statement in the New York Times that his differential treatment in Japan is not due to racism:

“Dr. Sacko, a citizen of Japan for 16 years, says he is treated differently because he does not look Japanese. But he distinguished that from racism. ‘It’s not because you’re black,’ he said.”

Sorry, that’s not now modern definitions of racism work anymore, Dr. Sacko. Differential treatment of Visible Minorities in Japan is still a racialization process.  But I guess anyone can succumb to the predominant “Japan is not racist” groupthink if it is that strong.

In this light, the Mainichi can be seen as merely maintaining the narrative, reverse-engineering the censorious language into English this time.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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7 comments on “Mainichi: Zainichi Korean’s hate speech lawsuit ends in her favor. Bravo. But Mainichi plays word games, mistranslates “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu) into “ethnic discrimination” in English!

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Yeah, it should be ‘racism and sexism’. Whatever the cause doesn’t really matter in the end, since it is proof that Japan is so irrelevant, no one except us will notice.

    • Baudrillard says:

      These are subtleties. J PR may claim this a “victory” but as you say, most will not notice.

      The average international businessperson these days is quietly aware that the Japanese are “difficult” at best, “so racist” at worst (these are quotes) and basically steer clear on the way to other markets.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Oh its that Sakurai again. ” societal prejudice toward Zaitokukai.”
    – The old, Japanese as victim of discrimination? CHECK
    he released a statement that said, “I praise the fact that the compensation amount was limited to 770,000 yen, dealing a blow to the intentions of those who hoped to politically exploit the ruling.”

    – He is basically saying by extension that comfort women and other claimants “just want money”.

    And unfortunately the claimant said ““It’s been made clear that if one singles out another as a target of hate speech, they will have to pay for it with money,” she said.”

    Not sure if this helps, the racist J Right have deep pockets. For fascists like Sakurai, they ll just say this “proves” Koreans just want out money”

    IMHO they have been “paying to be racist/exclusionist/unique” for some decades now in a number of ways. Arguably it goes back to the odd manner some war reparations were paid. Will look into this trend and post again.

    But there is a long term, outdated mindset amongst the Knee Jerk Right that Japan’s burden (as “economic leader” of the region) has to “support” the surrounding countries through financial aid.

  • I think that most native English speakers use “race” and “ethnicity” interchangeably.

    Debito, is there some (even if just academic) difference that makes this distinction important to you?

    — No they don’t. And it isn’t just important to me. It’s important existentially.

    Ethnicity: A social group that shares a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like.

    “Race”: An arbitrary and socially-constructed classification of modern humans, sometimes, especially formerly, based on any or a combination of various physical characteristics, as skin color, facial form, or eye shape, and now frequently based on such genetic markers as blood groups.

    Both are basic dictionary definitions, so they are not “interchangeable”. Further, consider this:

    1. Ethnicity is about the learned cultural behaviors celebrated throughout regions around the world.
    2. “Race” is an indication of the heritage with which you were born, regardless of location or learned behavior.
    3. Ethnicity can be altered or mimicked through choice and beliefs. There is an element of individual self-ascription.
    4. “Race” cannot be altered. Ascription is imposed.

    Significantly different in both function and form. Conflation of the two is merely laziness or ignorance.

    In terms of performative differentiation, othering, and subordination, both “race” and ethnicity are factors in the creation of racial discrimination (defined by the UN CERD as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”)

    Both are there in the UN definition. But they are different factors. Hence different words.

    And in terms of this court case, it’s not “ethnic discrimination” (whatever that means; and the splitting of hairs by Japanese society is done to convince the gullible or culpable that it’s somehow “different” or “less serious”).

    It’s racial discrimination. Full stop. And even the Japanese courts have said so, at last.

    • Hi Debito,

      Thanks for the thorough answer.

      That being said, I wish that you had not used negative language (e.g. “laziness”, “ignorance”) in your reply.

      I’m sure that your thorough answer will help other people who read this page.

      — Quite welcome. But people who don’t choose their words carefully (and I say this as a Writing Teacher) are by definition lazy with their language. And those who are unaware (or worse, don’t care) about the impacts of doing that are ignorant.

      “Negative language” or not, using words this important incorrectly is a negative thing to do (as it impacts upon people’s lives), and deserves to be called out as such.


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