A new apartheid in Japan

By Nam Sang-so

On February 11, the prominent Japanese author Sono Ayako wrote an opinion piece in the conservative daily Sankei Shimbun. The title was ? “Let them in, but maintain appropriate distance: Labor shortages and immigrants. ” “Since learning about the situation in South Africa, I’ve come to think that whites, Asians, and blacks should live separately,” the 83-year-old author insisted.

Japanese call, without any disdainful intention, people of white skin, hakujin, or white person, Africans kokujin or black person, and Asians mainly Chinese, Koreans and Japanese ojin or the yellow race.

I’ve read a dozen of her publications and I liked her honest style and have known that her frequent voluntary activities in African countries stem from her love for mankind. Now the lady is in hot water by exposing her thoughts, or rather those of the Japanese, about non-Japanese people.

While it was fine for people of all races to work with each other, they should live apart from each other In Johannesburg there stands an apartment building that was once home to white families alone. After the discriminatory policies were done away with, however, blacks also came to live there. It did not take long for this multiunit residence to fall to pieces after that, Madam Sono wrote.

Now if residents choose to sleep not in their own beds but on the floor, it is their prerogative. But water is a different matter This apartment had only arranged a water supply that was enough for families of the expected size to use.

Soon enough, this place became a building where water never came out. The remaining white families all left. Only blacks live there now. Ever since learning of this, I have said, humans can do many things together but when it comes to living, this is one area where we must remain apart, she said.

Her call for segregation, published ironically on the 25th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, brought angry responses from the Embassy of South Africa in Tokyo. The African-Japan Forum, too, demanded that Sankei retract the column and apologize to the people of South Africa

A digest version of the ambassador’s statement is: South African citizens found the article shocking. I wish to offer strong caution about emulating apartheid laws. She states in her column that she supports the idea where whites, blacks and asians live separately. In essence this condones and glorifies apartheid. This is a scandalous proposal in the extreme.

Apartheid is a crime against humanity. President Nelson Mandela has said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin, or background, or religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. ”

Madam Sono, on her part, retorted that “I’ve never commended apartheid, but I do think that the existence of a Chinatown or Little Tokyo is a good thing.” She also said, “Excuse me if the ambassador was fluent in Japanese but my words of lsquodistinction’ and lsquodiscrimination’ have not been properly understood. ”

It’s very interesting to note in this hideous issue that many Japanese weekly and monthly magazines do not cross-examine her but rather show signs of vindication on her apartheid article. Many Japanese still call Korean residents in Japan some derogatory words. Koreans including myself who have long been “distinctly discriminated” in Japan realize Sono is a candid non-fiction writer

The writer is a Japanese-English-Korean translator whose email address is sangsonam@gmail.com

SOURCE: The Korea Times

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