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Tribute in Tokyo to Korean victims of 1923 massacre streamed online amid pandemic

Participants are seen offering prayers at a memorial ceremony for the Korean victims of a massacre by Japanese locals and others following the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, in Tokyo's Sumida Ward on Sept. 1, 2020. (Mainichi/Kota Yoshida)

TOKYO -- A memorial ceremony for the Korean victims of a massacre by Japanese locals and others following the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake was held at Tokyo Metropolitan Yokoamicho Park in the capital's Sumida Ward on Sept. 1.

    There were no major clashes between the participants of the memorial ceremony and a conservative organization that held a rally opposing the event right next to it.

    Though Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike sent a condolence message to a broader ceremony held for all victims of the huge quake held by the "Tokyo-to Irei Kyokai" (Tokyo metropolitan memorial association), she failed to send a message of condolence to the ceremony paying tribute to Korean victims of the massacre for the fourth year in a row.

    The tribute was held by an executive committee comprising groups including the "Niccho Kyokai" (Japan-Korea association). Yasuhiko Miyagawa, chairman of the organizing committee, addressed the participants, saying, "The tragedy came against the backdrop of discrimination against Korean people in Japanese society at the time. We hope that friendship and trust can be built between the people of Japan, South Korea and others on the Korean Peninsula."

    This year, to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the ceremony did not allow general participants, but was streamed online.

    Last year, comments delivered in a rally held by conservative organizations including the "Kanto Daishinsai no Shinjitsu wo Tsutaeru Kai, Soyokaze" (Soyokaze, an association to tell the truth of the Great Kanto Earthquake) were recognized as hate speech under the metropolitan human rights ordinance. A clash between participants of the memorial ceremony for Korean victims and the rally led to at least one arrest.

    In the wake of the earthquake, many Koreans were slaughtered by locals and others who believed false rumors, including one blaming Koreans going around poisoning wells. A report by the Japanese government's Central Disaster Management Council recognizes that between 1% to several percent of some 105,000 people who were killed or went missing after the quake were Koreans killed in the massacre.

    (Japanese original by Mei Nammo, City News Department)

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