Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Japanese nationalist "Go back to Korea" video from Tsushima

By now you may have seen the YouTube video of Japanese nationalists holding up flags and screaming at Korean tourists who are arriving at and, later, leaving the port at Tsushima (対馬), the part of Japanese territory closest to South Korea.

Indeed, this isolated island grouping is so close to Pusan that it can be seen on a clear day (and Pusan may be closer to Tsushima than it is to nearby Taegu). A two-hour boat ride from Pusan makes it the easiest Japanese territory to get to, and Tsushima officials themselves have tried to exploit this proximity, promoting their island as a great place for South Koreans to own a second home and get away from it all for some fishing, golf, or what have you.

[right: According to a 2006 article in the Chosun Ilbo, Tsushima officials were promoting investment opportunities for Koreans on the island, including shops and "second homes."]

Just as with those in South Korea who take things like the political wrangling over Tokto/Takeshima, right-wing Japanese whitewashing of history textbooks, attitudes and apologies regarding the so-called "Comfort Women," and other testy issues that and use them to promote anti-Japanese sentiment and animosity, it's important to see this group (listed at YouTube as Zaitokukai And Sinpu, which might be Shimpu), and understand them for the fringe group that they are.

I watched the video with "M," a native-speaking Japanese student here. Paraphrased by "M," these are some of the things that were screamed at the South Koreans disembarking and embarking in Tsushima:
  • "Chōsenjin kaere!" (Koreans go back!)
  • One visiting Korean apparently tries to calm the man yelling at his group and says, "Ikimashō!" ("Let's go," or sort of "Go with us"), to which the protester replies, "I don't want to go to Korea!"
  • "Go back, kimchi!"
  • "Tsushima is Japan's, not Chōsen's!" (Throughout the video, "Korea" and "Koreans" are referred to as Chōsen (朝鮮) and Chōsenjin (朝鮮人), respectively. Japanese recognize this usage as derogatory. Only once from what I could here was the word Kankoku (韓国), the term for South Korea, used.
  • "Koreans commit many crimes: shoplifting, littering, not paying for taxis!"
  • "Korean fishermen are poaching fish." (This relates to a fisheries dispute.)
  • "Tsushima belongs to Japan! Don't say Tsushima is Korean!" (I think this is the one part where Kankoku was used.)
  • "Go back to Korea immediately!" (Sort of fitting, since they are getting on a boat to head back to Pusan.)
  • "Never come to Japan!" (Well, that probably won't happen, since tens of thousands of Koreans visit Tsushima every year, helping to prop up the local economy, in fact.)
  • "Don't bring kimchi to Japan!" ("M" laughed out loud at this one and said, "That's silly." But you know what, Japanese do have enough kimuchi [キムチ] of their own.)
  • "We have to protect Japan from shoplifters." (I guess if they're not careful, one of the South Korean tourists will slip the whole island in his/her pocket and that will be the end of it.)
Okay, my glib side comments aside, this is serious for several reasons, but it ultimately should not be made a big deal out of. Like any hate group (and I'm looking at you, Anti-English Spectrum), they should be watched. But ultimately, how much do they represent Japan?

As I wrote here, this is vulgar nationalism, but these people are probably not particularly representative of the average Japanese. "M," for one, was quite shocked and dismayed that such groups exist in Japan. (Similarly, she was unaware of such xenophobic publications as these which got a lot of attention in the blogosphere in the past.)

Imagine how South Korean citizens would like it if the whole world (or just Japan) saw Korea through the prism of the finger choppers or the chinboista subway propagandists?

In fact, rather than thinking that Japanese in general are full of seething hate toward Koreans, the learning moment I hope the South Korean public will take from this is that vitriolic rhetoric and angry displays do no one any good.

I had intended to add a paragraph on how the claims to Tsushima by some South Koreans (who call the islands Taemado [대마도/大馬島; aka Daema-do] in Korean), may be partly to blame for this. Citing historical connections from many centuries ago, the Republic of Korea may have briefly sought in the late 1940s and perhaps as early as 1950 to "reclaim" Tsushima.

While the ROK government makes no such official claim, there are civic groups and individuals that still press the Tsushima/Taemado claim. To some extent, this has been in retaliation for (and perhaps leverage against) Japan's actual official claim to Tokto/Takeshima.

And yes, that is stupid tit for tat. And perhaps this group today is doing the same. Except that South Korea's purported claims to Tsushima are not their only rant. They are a xenophobic bunch talking of foreigners as criminal miscreants that stinks of groups like AES.

And at any rate, one big difference between South Koreans concerns about Tokto/Takeshima and Japanese concerns about Tsushima/Taemado is that South Korea has no official claim to Tsushima, very unlike Japan's real and persistent claim to Tokto. That this non-issue is an issue for this group of nationalists is a very dubious thing indeed.


  1. Even with the close proximity of the two countries, not only Pusan to Tsushima but in general, I cannot think of two races of people who are so completely different in their behavior. Japanese can never accept the way that Koreans behave. I think a lot of the harsh behavior towards the Koreans during the Japanese colonial period stems directly from the japanese being disgusted by the Koreans behavior and lifestyle. I am sure that the residents of Tsushima are all none too happy to see the Koreans coming en masse as a new destination or to buy homes there.

  2. Okay, but don't forget that some---many? I dunno---Koreans consider Tsushima part of Korea, so add that to the vitriol. When the Liancourt Rock thing flares up, so does the Tsushima thing. In what is probably repeated in neighborhoods all over the country, when the Dokdo crap started last summer, signs went up in my fiance's neighborhood: "Dokdo is Korean land! Daema-do is Korean land, too!" Add that bullshit to the reports you read of Koreans being . . . well, Ugly Koreans on the island, and it doesn't surprise me that there's some anger. Doesn't make the video right or wrong, but it puts it in perspective.

  3. Indeed, Brian, I had actually meant to make that point, but when I was "translating" this with "M," I had switched computers and left my earlier notes behind.

    I'm going to add that right now, because it is important.

  4. Japan's rebuttal!


    Nihon banzai!

  5. Oh... and I forgot...

    Tenno Heika, Banzai!

  6. 1994, there's a whole lot of things I would like to say about your comments that are, frankly, fraught with ignorance, but I just don't have time right now (I've been blogging-on-break all day and now must get some serious work done).

    But I will point out that you could follow some of the links to see that the people of Tsushima — an isolated part of Japan which Japanese don't pay much mind to in ways that help the local economy — have been encouraging South Koreans to come for tourism and to buy property. That's what that picture is about (where the two people are looking at the bilingual sign).

  7. 1994, that's a pretty racist thing to say... but it's not nearly as racist as what Arakawa Goro said in 1906:

    "[The Koreans] all look just like the Japanese... [but] if you look at them closely, they appear to be a bit vacant, their mouths open and their eyes dull.... Indeed, to put it in the worst terms, one could even say that they are closer to beasts than to human beings."

  8. Kushibo,
    You could, of course, prove my ignorance if you took a tangent and ran with it. You cannot deny that the Japanese look down on the Koreans due to lack of social order, unhygenic, dirty, and rude. Refute that.

  9. 1994, please. Isn't there enough racist crap going on these days?

    Lack of social order? Confucianism, warts and all, is all about social order. Unhygienic? Dirty? Walk into a Korean household without taking your shoes off and see what happens. And this flu has been having an effect with other hygienic habits. Rude? Go and take a hike on a mountain someplace and I defy you to think all Koreans are rude.

  10. Among the things that bother me about what you wrote, 1994, is this sense that the Koreans (during the colonial era) got what they deserved because they were such disgusting people.

    If the Japanese didn't care for their allegedly disgusting behavior and lifestyle, no one was forcing them to be in Korea in the first place.

    At any rate, I want to emphasize again that this is a fringe group in Japan. And I would say from personal observation going back to when I was in college, Japanese and South Koreans living outside their respective countries get along extremely well because of similarities.

  11. 1994,

    How many Koreans do you know well?

    I lived with a Japanese guy for two years... messiest roommate I ever had (although I still think most Japanese are relatively clean)!


Share your thoughts, but please be kind and respectful. My mom reads this blog.