Over the past year, the relations between Japan and South Korea have deteriorated to an unprecedented degree. Both sides' different perceptions of the comfort women issue and former South Korean president Lee's visit to the Liancourt Rocks (Takeshima or Dokdo) have resulted in a diplomatic stalemate between the two governments. Moreover, opinion polls show that more than 70% of Japanese and South Koreans describe their countries' bilateral relationship as "bad". This conflict is not limited to international affairs, but also has an important domestic dimension.
In September 2013, 2.000 people participated in a "March on Tokyo for Freedom" to demonstrate against "hate speech" demonstrations targeting resident Koreans. Anti-Korean protests have become weekly phenomena in the Korean towns of Shin-Okubo in Tokyo or Tsuruhashi in Osaka. The main organization behind these activities by so-called netto uyoku (internet right-wing extremists) is the Zaitokukai (Citizens' Society against Special Privileges of Resident Koreans in Japan). Established in 2007, the organization claims to have 15,000 members. The reason why the group's protests have gathered domestic and international attention is the radical nature of their message. Unlike traditional right-wing protesters, the Zaitokukai does not only criticize Koreans, but also calls for their expulsion or extinction ("Death to all Koreans, good and bad"). In October 2013, however, the Kyoto district court dealt a serious blow to the Zaitokukai's ambitions, ruling that its protests against a Korean school constituted "discrimination" and therefore were illegal. While the media response to the judgment was unanimously positive, Japanese society at large has yet to decide how and where to draw a line between constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and the protection of minorities against discrimination. Where should Japan draw the line between these two conflicting principles? Are the "hate speech" demonstrations yet another piece of evidence supporting the argument of Japan's slow but steady drift to the right? What is the ideological background of the Zaitokukai's aggressive message and which connections exist to official or public anti-foreign sentiments? Last but not least, what is the larger political and social context of the emergence of the "hate speech" demonstrations (social problems, political ignorance, historical consciousness, etc.)?
This workshop brought together a group of established international scholars of history and politics science working on Japan and Korea with a focus on nationalism, right-wing activities, history problems, and political discourse. It aimed to find answers to the aforementioned questions by examining the emergence of hate speech, its social, political, and ideological classification, and the problems of Japanese society in handling "hate speech" as an expression of discrimination and contempt of Otherness.