KAWASAKI -- A group of suprapartisan Diet members inspected a public facility in this eastern Japan city on Jan. 22 after a New Year's card with messages threatening to massacre ethnic Korean residents in Japan was sent to the facility.
The postcard was found on Jan. 4 by an employee of the Kawasaki municipal Fureai-kan hall when it opened for this year's services. The card reads, "Happy New Year. Let's annihilate Korean residents in Japan. If there are survivors, let's kill them in a cruel manner."
The hall was established in 1988 with the aim of providing a venue for exchange between Japanese residents and those of foreign descent as part of efforts to turn the town into a multicultural, inclusive one. The facility has offered literacy programs for first-generation Korean residents in the area and places where local children can play. The area surrounding the facility in the Kanagawa Prefecture city of Kawasaki, south of Tokyo, is home to many ethnic Korean residents.
The card's characters were written in straight lines as if they were rendered using rulers, suggesting that the sender might have wanted to hide their handwriting.
Following the incident, the number of visitors to the facility between Jan. 4 and 21 sharply dropped to 2,315 -- 843 fewer people than during the same period the previous year, according to an explanation a facility employee provided to the lawmakers' group during the inspection.
"While an anti-hate speech law was introduced, there still are some insufficiencies. In light of the latest incident, we'd like to consider what we can do and strive to submit a bill to revise the law," said Shinkun Haku, a House of Councillors member of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), after interviewing the facility's employees.
Haku was among seven members of a legislators' group calling for the introduction of a basic law to eliminate racial discrimination, who visited the facility on Jan. 22.
After the New Year's card arrived at the facility, several children appeared anxious, with one elementary school child asking an employee, "Are we going to be killed?"
Tomohito Miura, secretary-general of Seikyu-sha, a social welfare corporation operating Fureai-kan, said that the incident sent shockwaves throughout the local community.
"This was advance notice of a crime. Employees of the facility have been under tremendous pressure over the past two weeks. We are looking into ways to ensure safety at the facility while offering support to users," Miura said. He also revealed that the social welfare corporation was preparing to file a damages report to police.
Yoshifu Arita, an upper house member of the CDP, said the postcard threatened not only the facility but the district of Sakuramoto where it is located, as well as the city of Kawasaki.
"We are living in an extremely serious era in which threats may not end with words alone, as seen in the tragic Tsukui Yamayuri En case," Arita said, referring to the 2016 massacre in which 19 residents of a care home for the disabled in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, were killed by a man who harbored a discriminatory ideology against people with disabilities. "We'd like to put our utmost efforts into finding a breakthrough," the lawmaker said.
Atsumi Kakimori, an official of the Kawasaki Municipal Government's department overseeing Fureai-kan, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "The New Year card is tantamount to a bomb threat, and it is regrettable that it was sent to the facility. We'd like to secure the safety of the facility in collaboration with police."
Yoshiharu Yamaguchi, the 80-year-old chairman of the neighborhood association of the Sakuramoto 1-chome district, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "Korean and Japanese residents here have gotten along well so far, so it is undesirable for this relationship to be disrupted by this kind of incident. We must prevent attacks (as announced in the New Year's card), after what happened to Tsukui Yamayuri En."
The Japan Network towards Human Rights Legislation for Non-Japanese Nationals and Ethnic Minorities, a group of lawyers and academics seeking to eliminate racial discrimination, launched an online signature-collecting campaign on Jan. 21 to demand that the national government and the Kawasaki Municipal Government respond to the New Year's card incident with countermeasures. The campaign, launched on the website Change.org, denounces the threat, stating, "It discourages Korean residents in Japan by threatening to massacre them, knocking them into an abyss of despair, horror and a sense of isolation, and is an extremely despicable act that triggers division within the local community, as well as discrimination and violence. This is hate speech and a hate crime, and is absolutely unforgivable."
The signature drive calls for the central and Kawasaki governments to issue statements condemning hate speech and hate crimes, and for the city to adopt concrete safety measures such as deploying security guards at the entrance to the Fureai-kan facility, as well as for police to do all they can to arrest the sender of the card. As of 1 p.m. on Jan. 24, more than 20,000 people had signed the petition.
(Japanese original by Yoshiya Goto, Photo Group)