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Japan Unlikely to Give Suffrage to Ethnic Koreans

Posted November. 11, 2009 08:24,   


A major Japanese daily yesterday said Japan will unlikely extend suffrage to ethnic Korean residents there.

The Asahi Shimbun said the ruling Democratic Party of Japan has set up the framework of a bill on suffrage for expats in Japan, including ethnic Koreans, but this will only affect nationals from countries having formal ties or the equivalent with Tokyo.

Many ethnic Koreans in Japan hail from North Korea, which has no official ties with Japan, so they will be ineligible to vote under the bill.

The ruling party has apparently excluded ethnic Koreans from North Korea to appease negative publicity over North Korea’s previous kidnappings of Japanese citizens and appeal to conservative lawmakers who oppose the bill.

Those eligible for suffrage include permanent residents originally from nations that had been occupied by Japan and their descendants, and general permanent residents who have either stayed in Japan for a given period or who have married Japanese.

In other words, beneficiaries will include ethnic Koreans and Chinese whose nations have diplomatic ties with Japan, even including Taiwan. The bill is almost the same as the suggestion made last year by a lawmakers` league of the ruling party to give suffrage to expats.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama serves as an adviser to the league and Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada is chairman.

The party will also not adopt a reciprocality-based principle under which Japan gives voting rights to permanent residents whose nations give Japanese the same right.

The party rapidly dealt with the bill since Japanese political heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa supported it. Initially, Hatoyama and Ozawa planned to suggest the bill in January next year, when the Diet will hold its plenary session.

Hatoyama said last week, however, “I don’t want to keep pursuing the bill if resistance gets stronger.”

His comment apparently was intended not to raise controversy over the sensitive issue so early in his tenure. Not only the Liberal Democratic Party but also certain lawmakers of the ruling party oppose the bill.

Watching a series of negative prospects emerge after Hatoyama’s comments, the chairman of the ruling party’s Diet Affairs Committee Kenji Yamaoka said Friday, “I’ll suggest and pass the bill at the upcoming extra session of the Diet.”

Ozawa has held talks with Yoshihiro Kawakami, the general director of the Lawmakers’ League to Improve the Legal Status of Expats Permanently Staying in Japan, and a member of the House of Councilors in the Diet.

Ozawa has pledged to suggest the bill.

The party is considering measures to suggest the bill in the form of a legislative body and have lawmakers vote on it.