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Man found guilty of hate speech against pro-Pyongyang school in Kyoto

The Kyoto District Court (Mainichi/Takuya Murata)

KYOTO -- The Kyoto District Court on Nov. 29 found a former member of the anti-Korean group Zaitokukai guilty of defamation via hate speech against a pro-Pyongyang school here, marking the first such ruling against hate speech in Japan.

Hitoshi Nishimura, 51, former head of the Kyoto branch of Zaitokukai, was fined 500,000 yen for damaging the reputation of school operator Kyoto Chosen Gakuen in April 2017.

According to the ruling, Nishimura delivered a speech at a park near the former site of Kyoto Chosen Daiichi elementary school in Kyoto's Minami Ward on April 23, 2017, stating, "The Korean school that used to be located here kidnapped Japanese nationals," and "There was a Korean school to which the abductor belonged." He streamed online the footage of his roughly 10-minute speech, which he performed with a loudspeaker.

The Kyoto District Public Prosecutors Office indicted Nishimura without arrest on charges of defamation in April 2018. The case was the first in Japan for prosecutors to indict a person for defamation over hate speech.

During his trial, Nishimura acknowledged the content of his speech. He argued that a former principal of the pro-Pyongyang Osaka Korean school was involved in the kidnapping of Japanese nationals and was placed on an international wanted list, and that pro-Pyongyang schools are controlled not by Kyoto Chosen Gakuen but by Chongryon (the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan), which he claimed was involved in the abduction case.

However, he pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, claiming that he meant "Korean schools in general" in his speech and that the essence of his remarks was factual. He also asserted that his speech was aimed at denouncing Chongryon and that he did not intend to dishonor Kyoto Chosen Gakuen.

Nishimura began to engage in Zaitokukai's activities in around 2008. The group's name is short for Zainichi Tokken o Yurusanai Shimin no Kai (Association of citizens against special privileges for Korean residents in Japan). In December 2009, he was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for four years, after the court found him guilty of forcible obstruction of business and insult for delivering a hate speech in front of Kyoto Chosen Daiichi elementary school along with 10 others.

In a civil suit over the case, he was ordered to pay about 12.2 million yen in damages, a ruling that became fixed in 2014. Since February 2017, Nishimura has been involved in activities of the Japan First Party, a political group led by the founder of Zaitokukai.

Nishimura had also been sentenced to one year in prison for coercion after trying to force Rohto Pharmaceutical Co. to supply its views on the Takeshima Islands in Shimane Prefecture in western Japan, which are also claimed by South Korea, in March 2012. His move came after the company cast a South Korean actress in a TV commercial.

(Japanese original by Kanae Soejima and Hiroshi Odanaka, Kyoto Bureau, and Yoko Kunimoto, Osaka Regional News Center)

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