Metropolis Mag has thoughtful article regarding the convoluted debate for NJ PR suffrage


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Hi Blog.  Andy Sharp in Metropolis Magazine offers up a very well researched touchstone article on the debate re NJ Permanent Residents getting suffrage, unearthing more arguments and attitudes behind those who support and oppose it.  Love the quote from the former cop (Sassa) who mistrusts NJ, but of course makes an exception (typical) for the NJ interviewer in the room (‘cos he’s White and from a developed country).  I myself don’t see the DPJ expending more political capital on the NJ PR suffrage issue anytime soon.  But let’s see how the upcoming election treats the Kan Cabinet.  I have already heard from a friend in politics that the below-mentioned far-right People’s New Party is awash in enough cash that they’re attracting a few underfunded candidates ready to make Faustian bargains.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Japan weighs up whether to give foreign residents the vote
Metropolis Magazine By: Andy Sharp | Jun 17, 2010 | Issue: 847 Courtesy of lots of people.

“The Chinese coming to Japan now were educated during the rule of Jiang Zemin. Their ideology is not welcome in Japan. We want more foreigners like you—Americans and Britons—to come here.”

Atsuyuki Sassa, 79, makes no bones about what type of gaikokujin he’d prefer to see living and working in his native country. The former secretary general of the Security Council of Japan is up in arms about recent moves to allow the nearly 1 million permanent residents here to vote in local elections. In April, he organized a “10,000 People Rally” at the Nippon Budokan to bring together opponents of the plan, with keynote speeches by the likes of People’s New Party leader Shizuka Kamei and Your Party chief Yoshimi Watanabe.

“If Chinese could vote in local elections, they wouldn’t vote for [candidates] who criticize China or North Korea,” he says. “What could happen if this type of person were granted the vote?”

The debate over foreign suffrage has rolled on for decades, but it was reignited last summer when the Democratic Party of Japan—a longtime champion of the issue—ousted the ruling Liberal Democrat Party from power. However, with the DPJ itself split over the subject, is there any hope of permanent residents ever getting the vote—local or otherwise?

Forty-five countries—about one in every four democracies—offer some sort of voting rights for resident aliens, according to David Earnest, author of Old Nations, New Voters, an extensive study of why democracies grant suffrage to noncitizens. These range from first-world powers such as the United States, Canada, the UK and other European Union members, to less preeminent nations like Malawi and Belize.

The type of voting rights differ from country to country: the UK permits resident Commonwealth citizens to vote in national and local elections; New Zealand allows foreigners who have lived there for more than a year to vote in parliamentary polls; Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway grant all foreign residents the vote in local polls, but not in national elections; and Portugal offers a hybrid that lets EU nationals vote only in local elections, but gives full enfranchisement in parliamentary elections to Brazilians.

Earnest explains that the consequences of granting local suffrage to foreigners are not yet entirely clear, seeing as how it is a relatively recent phenomenon. However, he gives four benefits that are typically cited by advocates: it encourages foreign residents to naturalize; it leads to better government; it’s an opportunity for “brain gain” rather than “brain drain”; and it makes for a more just society.

On the other hand, there are two core arguments for refusing to enfranchise alien residents. “By far and away, the most common reason is that governments or courts conclude that, as a constitutional or legal matter, the right to vote is reserved exclusively for citizens,” he says. “Another reason is that governments and citizens alike object to discrimination in voting rights. Canada and Australia once allowed British nationals to vote in parliamentary elections, but have since revoked this right. In both cases, the governments concluded that it was unfair to favor one group over other similar foreign residents.”

According to Earnest, critics argue that extending voting rights to foreigners can devalue the institution of citizenship and discourage naturalization. They also say it can marginalize as much as integrate foreign residents, because governments may use it as a substitute for naturalization, assuring permanent populations of foreigners with no prospect of becoming citizens.

According to the most recent Ministry of Justice figures, 912,361 of the approximately 2.22 million foreigners living in Japan are permanent residents. These eijusha are divided into two categories—a classification that has muddied the waters of the suffrage issue.

Nearly half of them (420,305) are considered tokubetsu eijusha, “special permanent residents” who hail mostly from the Korean Peninsula and have additional privileges in relation to immigration matters. The remaining 492,056 “ordinary” eijusha come from 190 different countries, the largest populations being Chinese (142,469), Brazilian (110,267), Filipino (75,806) and Korean (53,106). The Western country with the most permanent residents in Japan is the United States, with 11,814.

Granting local suffrage to these residents has long been a pet policy of DPJ pooh-bah Ichiro Ozawa, and was supported by former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. However, like many of the pledges that the party made prior to its election victory last year, it remains unfulfilled. The government has procrastinated over the issue as it became bogged down by funding scandals and the Futenma base controversy, which spun Hatoyama off the prime-ministerial kaiten-zushi belt and toppled Ozawa from his secretary general perch. New PM Naoto Kan also backs foreign suffrage, but it’s unclear whether he will make it a top priority.

Other parties are divided on the subject. The leftist Social Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party are joined by New Komeito in their support of foreign suffrage, while the right-leaning Liberal Democratic Party, People’s New Party (a member of the DPJ-led coalition) and Your Party are opposed.

The liberal-conservative split is also evident in the media. The Asahi Shimbun is in favor, while the Sankei and Yomiuri have slammed the idea, the latter stating in an editorial last October: “It is not unfathomable that permanent foreign residents who are nationals of countries hostile to Japan could disrupt or undermine local governments’ cooperation with the central government by wielding influence through voting in local elections.”

Yet the public seems to approve of opening polling stations to these “lifers.” Surveys conducted by the Asahi in January and the Mainichi last November found that 60 and 59 percent of respondents, respectively, supported foreign suffrage in local elections—turnout for which tends to hover around the 40 percent mark.

This August will mark the 100th anniversary of Japan’s annexation of Korea, an event which understandably has enormous resonance with the Korean diaspora living here today. Zainichi Koreans who were forcibly brought to Japan for work had been able to vote in local elections until they lost this entitlement in December 1945 (which was, ironically, the same month in which women were first given the vote).

Since its establishment in 1946, the Korean Residents Union in Japan (Mindan) has repeatedly urged the government to restore local suffrage to zainichi. The pro-Seoul organization (which is distinct from the Pyongyang-affiliated Chongryon) stepped up its campaign in the ’70s through increased activism by second-generation zainichi.

“We were born in Japan,” says Seo Won Cheol, secretary-general of a Mindan taskforce on foreign suffrage. “All our friends were Japanese, yet we couldn’t become teachers [or] local civil servants, nor could we take out loans or buy homes. We started [campaigning] because of this prejudice based purely on our nationality.”

Mindan has continued to push for enfranchisement of all permanent residents over the years, filing a number of lawsuits—one of which led to a historical ruling. In 1995, the Supreme Court concluded that aliens with permanent residency have the constitutional right to vote in local elections, because local government is closely linked to the daily lives of residents.

Reenergized, the DPJ and Komeito submitted a bill to the Diet advocating foreign suffrage, prior to a visit by South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in 1998. Similar bills have been presented on several other occasions since, but successive LDP-led governments have bounced them all out of parliament.

The South Korean government’s decision in 2005 to open ballot boxes to permanent residents in local elections gave proponents fresh hope, as did the change of government last summer. But Seo, a second-generation zainichi, frets over the DPJ’s procrastination.

“It’s unlikely [a bill] will be submitted before the upper house election in July, but depending on where it lies on Kan’s list of priorities, it may or may not be put to the Diet during an extraordinary Diet session starting in September,” the 58-year-old says. “The resignations of Ozawa and Hatoyama are a blow, but Kan has long been a supporter and we’ll have to wait and see what develops.”

Opponents often argue that foreigners should become Japanese citizens if they want to vote, but permanent residents can be reluctant to relinquish their nationality for reasons of culture and identity—especially zainichi, many of whom were forced migrants or their descendents. “The Supreme Court’s 1995 ruling showed we were entitled to vote at the local level without naturalizing,” says Seo.

Supporters of foreign suffrage aren’t the only ones who were galvanized by the DPJ’s election victory. There has also been a surge in activity by rightists, one of whom was so incensed that he stormed into the DPJ headquarters brandishing a wooden sword and smashed up a computer in Hatoyama’s empty office last October.

Sassa, who was decorated as a Commander of the British Empire for arranging security for Queen Elizabeth II’s visit here in 1975, takes a more conventional stance.

“I’m not prejudiced against foreigners, but the law states that foreigners must not take part in election campaigns,” he says. “The Constitution states that only Japanese citizens may vote.

“Foreigners should nationalize if they have money and speak the language. I do think, however, that [this process] takes many years and the conditions should be relaxed.”

Sassa has bitter memories of zainichi North Koreans from his days as a top brass in the Metropolitan Police Department. He fears that enfranchising pro-Pyongyang Koreans could lead to a repeat of the violent attacks against his constabulary peers during communist-led demonstrations in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.

“If we granted them suffrage, many police officers would have to put their bodies on the line, and so from a security perspective, there is no way that I could agree with the enfranchisement [of North Koreans],” he says. “We’d have to clamp down on some, but grant the vote to people of other nationalities. This is contradictory.”

Sassa also argues that foreign suffrage in local elections could have repercussions at a national level, if residents of prefectures that administer disputed territories were coerced by their respective governments to vote for particular candidates.

Kazuhiro Nagao, a professor of constitutional law at Chuo University, explained how this might work in a March 1 Daily Yomiuri op-ed: “There are about 30,000 eligible voters in Tsushima city, and a candidate can win in the city council election with at least 685 votes. If foreign residents are granted voting rights, those candidates who regard Tsushima Island as a South Korean territory can win in the election.”

While opponents and advocates seem to be interpreting the law to suit their own beliefs, Earnest sees the zainichi situation as unique, and argues that the suffrage issue raises important ethical questions.

“Japan’s special permanent residents did not choose to migrate to Japan,” he says. “No doubt there was some forced migration among the former European colonial powers and their overseas possessions, but Japan’s forced migration is more recent. What obligation does Japan have to permanent foreign residents?

“Japan may offer a case where two wrongs make a right,” he continues. “While one might normally object to discrimination in the granting of voting rights, in this case, one might justify special rights for Japan’s special permanent residents as the country’s commitment to redress an historical injustice.”

While such a solution could appease zainichi, however, the majority of permanent residents would remain disenfranchised. This is unlikely to placate the likes of Shayne Bowden, an Australian teacher and musician who is a permanent resident living in Fukuoka.

“I’ve been here 11 years,” he says. “I should be able to have a say in the politics of my community. We pay our share and contribute to the place we live. This should justify our right to vote.”

61 comments on “Metropolis Mag has thoughtful article regarding the convoluted debate for NJ PR suffrage

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  • I have permanent residency status here ([herikutsu deleted]).

    I have mixed feelings really. Yes we all contribute, but at the same time many of us are not citizens, simply because we do not want to be.

  • What a pleasant surprise to see a well reported, non-sensationalized, quite deeply nuanced article that jogs along without rushing through a complex topic. It was wonderful to hear from a conservative figure and understand something of the more understandable arguments against allowing (whatever) extension of (some, more, certain) voting rights.

    What concerns me however, is the fact that so much sensible and informed debate seems to be drowned out by hysterical, scare-mongering uuyoku. It seems to me that there is more rational debate on the issue of voting rights than I realize. But then I remember this past Saturday morning here in Takasaki with the morning ruined by a cacophony of screaming and gurgling vituperation from a sound truck tooling around the station.

  • Personally, I’m split. I want more people to naturalize, but if they don’t want to lose their other citizenship…..if Japan had dual-nationality laws then the problem would be solved.

  • Getting PR is all well and good….I have it too and I would love to participate in the democratic process, but it does not make any real difference to me in the long run. If you don’t have a Juuminhyo (Residency Certificate), you don’t legally exist….PR holder or not. You don’t even officially have any children, despite the fact that you biologically do. That’s just crazy!!! Sure, as a PR holder with the right to vote, I could vote for the candidates that would champion the causes of the disenfranchisement of all NJ’s and PR holders….but that would only go so far due to the sheer lack of “us”.

    Debito: If I remember correctly, you mentioned on your blog something to the effect of the Juuminhyo law being altered to some effect????? Am I brain-farting????

    — No no.

  • Sassa makes no sense at all. How is suffrage supposed to help North Korean zainichi fight the police? And how are city councilmen in Tsushima supposed to affect Japanese foreign policy? This is a terrible article because the author didn’t even think to ask those questions.

  • “Foreigners should nationalize if they have money and speak the language. I do think, however, that [this process] takes many years and the conditions should be relaxed.”

    “If they have money”. And if they re white. Well, thanks so much Mr Sassa for the offer. No doubt making you a Commander of the British Empire has paid off!(sarcasm mine).

    I ll take my money elsewhere thanks. Good luck in attracting tax payers from countries who have in many cases little to gain-and a lot to lose, such as voting rights- from settling here.

  • “I’m not prejudiced against foreigners, but the law states that foreigners must not take part in election campaigns,” he says. “The Constitution states that only Japanese citizens may vote
    So, if the constitution outlawed interracial marriage, would he lock up all the contributors to this board? The reality is that whenever someone prefaces a statement with “I’m not racist, but…” you can bet the next thing out of their mouths will be a blatently racist statement. But, as Type II racists, they fail to see the flaw within themselves. At least on this point, the BNP and NF in the UK are more intellectually honest.
    “There are about 30,000 eligible voters in Tsushima city, and a candidate can win in the city council election with at least 685 votes. If foreign residents are granted voting rights, those candidates who regard Tsushima Island as a South Korean territory can win in the election.”
    If that’s what the people want, live with it. Democracy is about enforcing the will of the people, not fiddling the law to prevent the democratic outcome you don’t want.
    Shayne Bowden is right: no taxation without representation. I’m sure there was a tea party about that somewhere, once…

    Why don’t you want to be a citizen? Is it because dual nationality is not allowed? Because the process is arduous? What’s the issue here?

  • >zainichi, many of whom were forced migrants or their descendents.
    >”Japan’s special permanent residents did not choose to migrate to Japan,”

    These statements are very much misleading. I think David Earnest is misled by Koreans.

    Japan did draft Koreans to work at factories and mines in Japan that produce military supplies during WW2. Other than that, as far as I know there has never been any forced immigration. Those laborers came to Japan leaving their family back in Korea, so they went back home as soon as the war ended. If there was “forced immigration” from Korea to Japan, I really want to know when it happened. I can never find one by searching the internet.

    Joe Jones, there are about 500,000 Korean nationals in Japan. They can all move to Tsushima just a couple of months before local election and hijack the local government. Then they can declare independence from Japan and merge with Korea. Remember how Israel was created.

    — Open Season.

  • @Kimpatsu, the HUGE difference is that one of those you can do something about (by naturalizing) the other you cannot (being born to a specific race). Not allowing foreigners suffrage has nothing to do with race or racism – at least directly (it’s hard to argue that the loudest voices against it aren’t a bunch of racists, but the silent majority are harder to nail down).

    As for Democracy enforcing the will of the people it also enforces the tyranny of the majority. In this case that majority don’t seem to want non-citizens to have the right to vote in elections. I would be willing to bet that if you put inter-racial marriage to a vote you might not like the results…

  • HO, you have a strange habit of mixing reasonable-sounding comments with utter drivel. How on earth can some local govt simply “declare independence”? It’s just not within their remit, any more than they could change immigration law or ratify CERD.

    (Along similar lines, a handful of councils in the UK have declared themselves “nuclear free” but it is just a meaningless slogan.)

  • Hi HO

    I’m sorry, but I doubt local city councils have the right to declare independence from Japan. If they do, then perhaps we could understand this nonsense about people moving to irrelevant little islands. Otherwise, please demonstrate how the influence of these ‘bogey-Koreans’ on garbage collection and school lunches is going to inconvenience anyone.

    I mostly appreciate your contribution to this board, but this time…

    All the best


  • @HO: A local council cannot force a secession from Japan like that, except as a completely ineffectual stunt. Didn’t you see Jon Heese’s comment on this blog a couple of months ago about how he couldn’t even get the local police to change the stoplights?

  • Ho,

    You have just inadvertently stumbled on the solution that the right winger’s have been searching for. Get all of the Zainichi Koreans to move to Tsushima for an election, declare independence, and then the gov’t can bar them from re-entering Japan, therefore effectively disposing of the whole lot. I never knew that you were so forward thinking. You could run for office and help put the “plan” into action. (Sarcasm)

    Xenophobia gets so tiring!

  • Mark Hunter says:

    Ho. Hiroshima and Nagasaki never happened. The ‘evidence’ of bombings is fabricated to make the U.S. look bad.

    (Well, Debito…you did say open season)

  • Ho that is a ridiculous argument, albeit one that several Japanese have also stated to me in private. I cannot stop my eyes from rolling back in disbelief at their paranoia and lack of understanding how things work.

    As if huge numbers of people can just up and move wherever they like without regard for their families and jobs. Find any Japanese group with an agenda – I don’t know, say the society for legalization of cannabis, and ask them why they haven’t done the same thing – i.e., pick up their lives and move off to wherever and try to get the laws changed by force of numbers. Apart from it being not possible to change a national law, that is.

    People say giving the zainichi the vote is bad because they are already in such great numbers in some places (eg kansai) that they could control some areas of the local government. Yeah well these people are forgetting 2 things. 1) not all zainichi see eye to eye on all issues (shock!) and 2) Hello! they make up a large percentage of taxpaying people so why SHOULDN’T they have a say in local government?

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    I’ve seen this argument that activist Koreans and Chinese could move to some small municipality and then manipulate it toward their anti-Japan agenda, both in the article above and also in some scare-mongering magazines and “mooks” by Tamogami and his ilk.

    I sometimes wonder if there’s another agenda hidden below the surface that has nothing to do with foreigners or voting rights: namely, the continued livelihood of small, independent villages and towns.

    In the past decade or so we’ve seen hundreds of smaller municipalities swallowed up in the Great Heisei Town Merger. (In the 1950s there was abother great wave of mergers — it was much more possible to find a village with under 1,000 inhabitants then than it is now. Now it’s almost impossible.)

    Quite a few have managed to stay independent, but the Tamogami mooks inevitably contain charts of the municipalities with the smallest populations in Japan — the Izu islands are a favorite — with scaremongering text describing a potential nightmare in which a few hundred nationalist Koreans or Chinese descend on a tiny hamlet of a few hundred souls, and then vote as a bloc and control everything.

    I could imagine a scenario where nationalism and patriotism are invoked as these small villages are pressured into giving up their autonomy and merging with some bigger town. Remove the threat of non-national voters taking over a small village by simply merging the village into something less independent and less influence-able!

    Small-town mayor: “No; we value our traditions and have no desire to let Big City push us around.”
    Tokyo government: “But this tiny village of yours could be taken over by zainichi Koreans now that they have the vote. If you’re really Japanese, do your duty and merge with that city!”

    And by presenting it at a “foreigner problem”, the tiny towns who didn’t say “shoganai” during the last round of mergers will now be forced to.

  • @HO

    Even IF all of the zainichi agreed with each other and conspired to vote for things they want, they would STILL have to fight against the rest of the population with their votes. Its a democracy. If the zainichi did this conspiracy (that is completely impossible by the way) it would still be the will of the people. The people voted and that’s how it is. Why do you think campaigning exists? Its to make people want to vote for a single thing. Its to convince the people that THEIR way is the right way. This is why even if you are a democrat in America, a Republican may still win the presidency because the people voted for a republican.

    I have to say HO, you offer some interesting reading. I think Fox News wants you for a job.

  • Ignoring social integration, constantly stirring up peoples passions with rethoric has been the only stand of the ultra right leaning politicians.The fact that they get so much media coverage which portrays them in such a way that distorts the opinion of the people constantly.

    “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
    — Samuel Johnson (Boswell’s Life of Johnson)

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    Can we vote to get HO exiled to Tsushima? (Sarcasm)
    If it was so easy for a local council so cede from Japan, why haven’t all the supporters for an independant Okinawa just moved to the same village?
    Every single Zainichi Korean in Japan could move to Tsushima, but there would stil be no vote for independence.

  • This is very interesting, just saw this on the beeb. I wonder, now the ‘financial’ shoe is on the other foot, how this will be played out? New laws to ostensibly oust NJ exec’s perhaps???

    Here NJ exec’s of Japanese firms/partners are being paid significantly more than their Japanese born and breed exec’s.

    This shall be very interesting to watch, since the arguments of NJ v J’s permeates everywhere and not just where the GoJ wants it, in this thread/case – voting, to favour ‘home grown’ to NJs.


    Japan’s top earners forced to disclose salaries
    Wednesday, 23 June 2010 12:14 UK
    By Roland Buerk
    BBC News, Tokyo
    Listed companies are disclosing top salaries for the first time

    The Japanese are finding out for the first time the salaries of executives at the country’s top companies.

    A new regulation requires firms to disclose the pay of anyone earning more than 100m yen ($1.1m; £750,000).

    The head of Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, is the biggest earner in corporate Japan to so far reveal his pay, which was 890m yen last year.

    But the list of millionaire bosses is short, and it is foreigners who are earning the really big money.

    The Japanese public has been watching with keen interest as listed companies disclose salaries at the top for the first time.

    They are being forced to do so by a new regulation intended to improve corporate governance.

    But what’s being revealed is that Japan has few millionaire executives.

    Companies tend to make decisions by building consensus among a group of managers, all getting a fraction of the pay of their counterparts in Europe or the United States.

    The comparatively large salaries of Carlos Ghosn and the other directors of Nissan were approved by shareholders, but not without dissent.

    One man stood up and demanded the chief executive share his pay with the company’s workers.

  • OK. What is the mane of the state that once was a part of Mexico, but because of accepting too many Americans (those immigrants who maintained US nationality), declared independence and then merged with the US?

    If Tsushima declares independence, Tokyo will say such declaration is void. But that declaration will create a lot of room for foreign intervention. Due to Article 9, I think Tokyo has a lot of hard time protecting Tsushima from military intervention in such a case.

    TJJ, the difference from cannabis is possibility of foreign intervention. Special permanent resident Koreans in Japan are people who have been refusing to get naturalized because of their loyalty to Korea. Their lack of loyalty to Japan is the problem.

  • > it encourages foreign residents to naturalize

    I don’t see this. If suffrage is a right given only to citizens, than how is giving portions of that right to non-citizens encourages them to naturalize? Is it the idea of “if you give them a piece from the pie they would want the whole thing eventually?” Somehow the more likely scenario seems like they would demand to have the whole pie without having to give up their native citizenship.

    If they want to seriously encourage non-citizens to naturalize, they either need to accept dual citizenship, or at least do something about that requirement where you have to change your name to a Japanese-sounding name. Giving up your name given to you by your family (or not, but someone important nonetheless) is quite a big sacrifice they’re asking for.

  • @HO: First of all, Texas fought for its independence with a volunteer army. If zainichi really wanted to go that far, they could do so right now; whether or not they are citizens makes absolutely no difference. Secondly, the elected municipal council STILL has no ability to effect independence. The police report to the prefectural government. The SDF report to Tokyo. Finally, the Japanese government (and courts) do not interpret Article 9 to mean that Japan cannot protect itself from attack or insurrection. This is why the SDF exist and are even allowed to use force in protecting Japanese interests overseas (like protecting ships from Somali pirates).

    So, again, the whole secession idea makes no sense.

    — This is why I just approved HO’s comment and let others take it apart. His half-baked ideas have gotten tedious over the years to debunk (especially when a lot of them have been debunked before, but, undaunted, HO just keeps coming back and repeating the same boilerplate). Thanks to everyone for being calm and logical.

  • “Special permanent resident Koreans in Japan are people who have been refusing to get naturalized because of their loyalty to Korea. Their lack of loyalty to Japan is the problem.”

    So, with that in mind would all the PRs be bad people because their “lack of loyalty to Japan”? They haven’t become citizens, so what are they then just bottom-feeders with a conspiracy to take over Japan with their foreign ideas? Your logic makes no sense.

  • Let’s say for a second that they could, in fact, put independence on the ballot in Tsushima. Let’s even assume that they could even succeed, ignoring all the logistics of literally doubling an island’s population overnight, and the inevitable backlash by opponents to the plan (it’s not exactly a subtle scheme, and let’s face it, the sad truth is there are likely more xenophobes in Japan willing to move to block this than Zainichi willing to move to pass it). Furthermore, let’s say Tokyo, for some reason, gives it a big old rubber stamp and has no qualms. Do you really think such an action wouldn’t necessarily involve sacrificing their PR status?

    So let me see if I’m following here: the children and grandchildren have been toiling for over half a century in the dark so that one day they can sacrifice it all for a sleepy little fishing island? That wouldn’t even be “theirs”, just their ancestor’s country’s?

    Yeah. I can see that.

  • Allen, lack of loyalty is a big problem. If you do not have loyalty to Japan, you really do not deserve a vote.

    — See what I mean about boilerplate?

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    HO, why is loyalty to a large nation-state whose decisions are made very far from your town a requirement to vote in a small municipality?

    I think that to vote locally, the only loyalty needed is to that municipality.

  • Mark Hunter says:

    Ho. You seem to assume that the Korean population of Japan is not loyal. Why? They live here, pay taxes, support local communities, and add to local economies. And why cannot a person be loyal to two places? Don’t transfer your binary world onto others. I’m sure some Koreans feel loyalty to only Korea, but that would be a very small minority, in my opinion. A duality of loyalties is reflected in dual citizenships that many countries offer. I’m British and Canadian by nationality and feel a certain degree of loyalty to both. I’ve lived in Japan for many years and also feel a strong sense of loyalty to Japan. Following your logic, all those nations that have granted local sufferage to resident foreigners have got it wrong. Must be sad living with such a binary and apparently hateful world view.

    Debito, I hope you don’t view this as too strong, but I do feel a certain lack of basic respect for Koreans in Ho’s posts. That needs to be challenged, especially when there is no logical basis for that lack of respect.

  • interesting discussion is going on here. why everyone wants to vote so much? Old guards are like big family just rotating among themselves, nothing going to change. By the way, Body Scanners only for foreigners in Narita soon? Here we are: get in fingerprinted like a criminal, get out, scanned as potential terrorist. Japanese? Well, free in/out

    — We want to vote because we believe in the democratic process. Just assuming that nothing will ever change therefore suffrage is meaningless is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    Need a source for the body scanners for NJ only. Stay on point.

  • “Sassa, who was decorated as a Commander of the British Empire for arranging security for Queen Elizabeth II’s visit here in 1975”

    Sadly honorary British awards are not recorded in the London Gazette (which publishes all full awards). Any online Japanese archives where this claim can be checked? Google gives nothing but the Metropolis article.

  • HO, for one thing, you are making assumptions. The other thing, there are native people in every country who does not approve of the way their country works and is therefore not “loyal” to it. That includes native Japanese. Should they not be allowed to vote because they are not full of patriotic pride? I myself do not feel a loyalty to my native America. I do not even pledge when others do? Why? The same reason many are not “loyal” to their country: many consider themselves citizens of the world and would rather not bind themselves to one country. That sort of open-minded thinking scares away any xenophobic action based on “patriotism”. The world is not black and white, HO. You just gotta open your eyes.

  • Ho. The logic is not that they ‘refuse’ to take citizenship. It is that they refuse the notion of having to ‘apply’ for it when they already once had it forced upon them during the annexation.

    Why would I want to apply for something I once had forced upon me to show my loyalty to the very same people who had forced it upon me, required me to show 100% loyalty, and then took it away when it was convinient. Oh and don’t mention Sanfransisco. It was nothing but a brilliant coincidence and good fortune for the Japanese that it was decided there.

    The Japanese notion that zainichi have any obligation to naturalize is dispicable.

  • devil's advocate says:

    @HO, taking your logic and the logic of Japan’s extremists to it’s logical conclusion, Okinawa should no longer be part of Japan, and Japan should give up any claim to the disputed 4 northern islands, as they contain large numbers of NJs.

    Arguably, at the base of HO and Co’s argument is the racial element, ie. if the population content is overwhelmingly non ethnic “Japanese”, then they become an untenable part of Japan for one reason or another.

  • Mark in Yayoi, that is because Tsushima is not far from Japan, but is in Japan. I do not think voting right of foreigners should be allowed or disallowed based on the distance to Tokyo.

    Mark Hunter, how about asking special permanent resident Koreans if they are loyal to Japan? You say one can be loyal to two or more nations. But what happens if the interests of the nations conflict each other? Can one be loyal to both North Korea and Japan at the same time? I do not think so. Special permanent residents live in Japan for generations. They can get Japanese citizenship if they want. If they want voting right, they can get one by naturalizing. Why do they demand voting right in local elections without naturalizing? It is safe to conclude they are loyal to Korea, not Japan.

    Allen, I am glad to know you are from America. Why are permanent residents in the US not allowed to vote in most states? For example, in Massachusetts where the famous tea party took place, only citizens can vote.
    I am sure you would conclude the US is xenophobic.

    Alex, why should I not mention San Francisco? It was the policy of allied forces that Koreans be given Korean nationality and lose Japanese nationality.
    “The aforesaid three great powers, mindful of the enslavement of the people of Korea, are determined that in due course Korea shall become free and independent.” Cairo Declaration.
    Your argument is unbelievable. It goes that special permanent resident Koreans really want to get Japanese citizenship, but are too lazy to apply for one, and are waiting for generations the day when Japanese government will present one, though they do not act for it, yet they are active for voting right at local elections.

    Devil’s advocate, I do not understand you. Why does my argument lead to independent Okinawa?

    — Give me a “T”… Give me an “R”… Give me an “O’…

  • Mark Hunter says:

    Ho…you really need to read up on dual citizenship and especially landed-immigrant status in various countries of the world. You reach for any reason not to give voting rights, to satisfy your xenophobia. Any potential disagreement between Korea and Japan is a ridiculous hypothetical only. Are you so insecure that you would deny local voting rights based on some remote hypothetical disagreement between nations? I don’t buy it. I sense you just don’t like Koreans, period. There is no correlation between not naturalizing and not being loyal to Japan. I haven’t naturalized but I’m very loyal to Japan. It’s a wonderful country with many, many positive attributes that deserve to be defended. I have no desire to become a citizen, though. Your ‘logic’ is very twisted, in my opinion. Unfortunately, you are not atypical of many people I’ve encountered who hold illogical, nationalistic opinions that some great Asian hoard is just itching to come across the sea and take over precious Nippon. What comedy it would be if it weren’t thinnly veiled racism.

  • HO

    It still does not change the fact that an entire generation was brought up to be Japanese and stripped of citizenship forcedly at the wars end. If Japan really wanted to solve this issue they would grant automatic citizenship at birth to the children of special permanent residents. Give a japan born and raised korean the option of japan or korea and by age 22 they will chose no doubt choose japan 95% of the time. What they are reluctant about is having to go out of their way to apply for it despite being born and raised here like any other Japanese.

  • @HO

    At least America allows PRs to vote in parts of the country. Better then none. Also, I don’t know how you can jump all the way from “they don’t let PRs vote in some states” to “America is just as xenophobic”. The difference between America and Japan is LAWS. America has laws against racial discrimination and discriminatory behavior is frowned upon within the culture. The only xenophobes in America are a minority people. Just like the xenophobes in your country.

    — And the fact that you have to explain this all over again once again to HO shows how he’s either not listening or he’s trolling. Thanks for making the effort.

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    I wonder if, just for the record, HO could kindly define what “loyalty” means.
    And, just to be clear, define “loyalty to Japan”, “loyalty to (South) Korea” and “loyalty to North Korea”. And how they are mutually exclusive.

  • Andrew Smallacombe, loyalty to a nation means to act for the best interest of the nation. Since Japan is a democratic nation, one can argue, for example, that Japan should raise tax, that Japan should decrease tax, that Japan should accept more immigrants, or even that Japan should make concession with foreign nations, as long as the person believes such policy is for the best interest of the country. If the argument is based on ill will against the country, he is not loyal to the country.

  • So, by your logic, if one chooses to have Permanent Residency, they are seeking ill things towards the country? By your logic, PRs do not think for the benefit of the nation and only its downfall? You are reminding me of the governor of Arizona who recently said that most illegal immigrants in America are drug mules( Most illegal immigrants are druggies and PRs are criminals plotting the downfall of Japan, it would seem. What a interesting world you live in, HO.

    — I’m surprised HO hasn’t raised Arizona as an example of American xenophobia. He’s mentioned Massachusetts, setting the bar pretty high.

  • Mark Hunter says:

    Ho, I’m veering off topic a bit, but do you think Japanese citizens are 100% loyal? Should those non-loyal ones be allowed the vote? By your logic, maybe not. Who gets to decide what’s in the best interests of the nation? Groups of citizens collecting signatures to protect article 9? Right wing nutters in sound trucks who occasionally mail bullets to politicians they don’t approve of? The loyalty thing can quickly get muddied, me thinks.

  • Sooo… voting rights should be given or denied based on whether one has the best interests of the people of Japan as a whole in mind? I think that’s just about… no one. How many people voted for the DPJ primarily because they wanted that 26,000 yen per kid, or free highways, or one of the other hundred or so things they haven’t delivered? And that’s just the most recent example. Yes, I imagine that some people do consider the nation as a whole as ONE of the factors when casting their vote. But in the end, I’d choose a candidate who’s going to protect MY family, MY town, dare I say it MYself? (Now, 9 times out of 10 I’d say the best interest of the country and the best interest of an individual citizen probably, in the end, amount to the same thing, but if it was a choice between one or the other I’d choose something that would benefit me and the people I care about. I doubt that I’m alone on this either)

    That, I think, is the issue. You’ve got someone on a Working Holiday visa who’s going home in six months…. now that person absolutely deserves basic human rights and legal protection for those six months, but I think anyone would agree that it makes no sense for someone who doesn’t call Japan their home to have any say here… that person can still vote in their country of birth and since THAT is the country that they’ll probably be in by the time the people they vote into office have made any difference, that’s where they need to be voting. BUT… those Zainichi Koreans are never going back to Korea… I imagine a good percentage of PR holders will never go back to their home country to live permanently. So maybe they can vote for the chairman of the school board in the county they lived in 30 years ago, but why would thy even CARE at that point who holds that particular job? Their children aren’t going to that school, whichever candidate was elected it wouldn’t affect that person or their family at all. But the election of the local mayor or town council, for the town in which that PR holder actually LIVES, that does affect their life and their family’s. I think people deserve to vote on issues that affect them personally. Has nothing to do with the good of the masses, especially not at the local level. One voice may not matter all that much, but it’s extremely important to me to matter JUST AS MUCH as all of the other residents, taxpayers, parents, workers, whatever, who all have their one little insignificant voice too. I’m paying the same taxes, after all.

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    Thank you for your reply HO. So you are saying that loyalty is open to personal interpretation, right? So, who gets to judge whether someone is acting in the best interests of the nation? And what is to stop someone who doesn’t hold citizenship for wanting the best for this country?

    — I see this conversation going on for a long, long time. If HO ever shows the intent of addressing the points raised properly.

  • Andrew Smallacombe, it is a good question. Loyalty, love and faith are not easily observed. So, we need an oath. Prove your love by saying I do, and you get married. Special permanent resident Koreans can show their loyalty by applying for Japanese citizenship. If they do, they get citizenship and voting right. Fair enough.

    Allen, being an American, you know US law 8 USC Sec. 1324b “Unfair immigration-related employment practices”, that prohibits workplace discrimination based on national origin and citizenship.
    The law defines “Protected individual” at 1324b(a)(3). If you are not a US citizen and you fail to “apply for naturalization within six months of the date the alien first becomes eligible to apply for naturalization”, you will not be protected by the anti-discrimination law. Why is it OK to discriminate against PRs if they do not apply for US citizenship? Permanent residents are welcomed to naturalize. If they do not, the inconvenience is on theirs.

    Mark Hunter, your questions are answered by learning what democracy is.

  • I didn’t know my status as an American meant that I naturally have the entire law of my nation memorized. I’m an actor, but dang, those would be some lines to memorize!

    But seriously, at least America has laws protecting individuals against discrimination, unlike Japan. I do admit, the six-month deadline is not something that I like, but at least they state that “It is an unfair immigration-related employment practice for a
    person or other entity to discriminate against any individual
    (other than an unauthorized alien, as defined in section
    1324a(h)(3) of this title) with respect to the hiring, or
    recruitment or referral for a fee, of the individual for
    employment or the discharging of the individual from employment –

    (A) because of such individual’s national origin, or
    (B) in the case of a protected individual (as defined in
    paragraph (3)), because of such individual’s citizenship
    status” unlike Japan which does not have a similar law.

  • HO, but 99%(+) of Japanese got their nationality just through accident of birth without any oath to prove their allegiance. Does their loyalty come with their genes?

  • D.B. Cooper says:

    I , like AWK {#30} am interested in why everyone is clamouring to vote. I assume nothing will change therefore suffrage is meaningless because huge amounts of evidence show it to be true. Here I’m talking about radical change, not tinkering with the system to appease one group of voters or another. The latest disappointments being the Obama administration in the U.S.A. and our very own D.P.J. Both, despite pre-election pledges, seem unable to enact even mildly progressive policies.

    The huge popularity contests held every few years, mostly between elites, are big distractions and have little to do with the dictionary definition of “government by the people”{democracy}. They divert people from the real business of taking control of their lives and seeking ways and means to seriously influence political outcomes. With bread and circuses, the electorate is somehow convinced it has power to influence meaningful change. I’m not sure what a ‘belief in the democratic process’ is, but what happens now is that people relinquish their power to elected officials. Of course there are different candidates but the difference is superficial and once elected there is no control over their day to day decisions. If the elected official makes bad choices the voter can only complain about being taken for a ride and not vote for the same candidate next time instead voting for someone else equally unaccountable.

    I realise this discussion is about local elections but I’ll [iyami deleted] broaden the debate to those who are eligible {or want to become eligible} to vote in national elections.
    It’s worth thinking about how ‘democratic’ most systems really are. Before this years U.K. General Election the nef (the new economics foundation) published the Voter Power Index. An excerpt..
    ‘In the UK, the only voters with any real power to choose the government are those who live in marginal constituencies. Less than 20% of constituencies can be considered marginal.
    The rest of us have little or no power to influence the outcome of the election. In fact, statistical analysis by the nef (the new economics foundation) shows that one person in the UK does not have one vote……it’s more like 0.25 votes.’

    OSAKA (Kyodo) The Aug. 30 general election that brought the Democratic Party of Japan to power was “unconstitutional” because the disparity in the value of a vote reached as high as 2.30, the Osaka High Court declared Monday

    In the coming years as world population continues to increase, climate change puts stress on food and water and energy sources become scarcer, we will need some serious solutions to these serious problems. I don’t think egoistical candidates who are hobbled by narrow local or national considerations, and with their main priorty being to get elected next time, will be able to provide them.

    Overt dictators may sometimes be overthrown, but the real rulers in “democratic” regimes, the tiny minority who own or control virtually everything, are never voted in or out or rarely challenged. This is because people are distracted by the illusion of ‘difference’ or ‘choice’ as portrayed by the candidates in elections.

    If people are happy with this system then go ahead and cede your rights as a human being to the person who has the most trustworthy character. Or the brightest smile. But bear in mind that real social change requires participation, not representation.

    As one of the May 1968 graffiti put it, “It’s painful to submit to our bosses; it’s even more stupid to choose them!”

    — Hokay. But I still say 1) you’re confusing the flaws of suffrage with the flaws of legislative processes (cf. “despite pre-election pledges, seem unable to enact even mildly progressive policies”), 2) simply don’t trust representative democracy in any form (cf “people relinquish their power to elected officials”), and 3) you’re arguing against a system but not for any particular replacement. Fine. Agree to disagree. Back on point, please.


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