AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Voter apathy

Posted by ampontan on Friday, October 19, 2012

ONE of the more controversial proposals of Japan’s Democratic Party government is to give people with permanent resident status the right to “participate” in local elections. The assumption they wish everyone to make is that this means voting. But the actual Japanese phrase used is “participation” rather than “voting”. That euphemism contains the implication of non-citizens being allowed to stand for office, which would surely be the next demand. Need it be mentioned that the agitation to further extend the privilege to national elections would start shortly thereafter? We’ve all seen how certain political elements behave once they jam their foot in the door. Indeed, jamming their foot in the door is an integral part of their strategy.

The opposition parties insist the Constitution prohibits this “participation”, and some of them have written proposed Constitutional amendments that would remove any ambiguity about citizenship being a prerequisite for political activity.

To clear up any possible ambiguity: This legislation is not intended to enfranchise people such as me — permanent residents with citizenship in countries outside the region. It is to enfranchise native-born ethnic Koreans who choose Korean citizenship.

The DPJ position is based on several factors. These include political contributions from ethnic Koreans, some DPJ members who have hung their Korean ethnic heritage in the back of the closet, and the antipathy of some in the party to the nation-state concept. A somewhat benign form of that third factor was manifest in former Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio’s peculiar claim that the Japanese archipelago did not belong exclusively to the Japanese people. Most of the Japanese archipelagians thought that was errant nonsense. But they knew Mr. Hatoyama was lighter than air, and discounted his notions in the expectation that the DPJ might deliver some of the domestic political reform they promised. That was, after all, the primary reason they were voted into office. It was only a matter of weeks before the voters realized the DPJ promises were lighter than helium.

The political commitment of the ethnic Koreans resident in Japan more closely resembles an inert gas. It would be a simple matter for those born in Japan to obtain Japanese citizenship, but many prefer to swear paper fealty to a country they’ve never been to. And as a recent Yonhap news agency report explains, they seem to have little interest in the privileges of citizenship bestowed by their passport of choice. Here’s the report in English. It’s every bit as entertaining as an article from the horsenbuggy news media from any other country, and short to boot:

*****
There are 578,135 Koreans living in Japan — 461,627 with permanent resident status, and 116,508 without that status. Interest among them is growing in the 19 December presidential election in South Korea.

The South Korean Central Election Committee estimates that 462,509 of these people in Japan, or about 80% of the total, are eligible to vote. This year, South Korean citizens living abroad will be eligible to vote in the presidential election.

The number of registered voters for the National Assembly election held on 11 April totaled only 18,575 people, or 4.02%. Of the registered voters, only 9,973 actually cast a ballot, or 52.57%.

The atmosphere has changed before the presidential election, however. Interest is rising in the possible winner of the the election as bilateral relations are chilled due to the Dokdo controversy. Some ethnic Koreans wonder which candidate will pull Korean-Japanese relations toward stability.

There are also many among those eligible to vote intensely curious about the issue of Korean citizens voting in Japan, and the ethnic education of Koreans there.

As of 1 October, with just 19 days left to register for the presidential election, the number of registered voters in Japan totaled 15,986, or an estimated 3.45% of those eligible. That is 1.7 times higher than the number who registered for the assembly elections in April.

(End translation)
*****

* Yonhap is excited because as many as 3.45% of those eligible in a particular district have done their civic duty at a distance and registered to vote. If the earlier election results are a guide, only about half of these will be able to muster the energy to fill out and mail in the ballots.

Why should it be cause for excitement that the number of overseas citizens interested in a presidential election is 1.7 times greater than the number of the same citizens interested in a legislative election? I’m an American living overseas with a better idea of the positions and accomplishments of both major presidential candidates than a lot of people in the United States. Yet I wouldn’t know who was running for the House or Senate in the four states that I once lived in if they walked up and bit me. If any of these South Korean “citizens” have ever lived in their district of eligibility, and are conversant about the candidates in that district, the number is miniscule.

* Is it possible for a South Korean news outlet to write any article about Japan without mentioning Dokdo/Takeshima, no matter how remote the connection? “With interest in Dokdo rising of late, Typhoon #18 struck the southern coast of Kyushu yesterday…”

* According to Yonhap, some ethnic Koreans wonder which presidential candidate in South Korea will contribute to stability in Korean-Japanese relations. I can answer that question: None of them.

There are two reasons for that. One is that none of them are interested to begin with. The other is that the South Korean polity will, by its nature, ensure that any candidate who might be interested will conceal that interest to ensure his political viability.

* Yes, the phrase “ethnic education” does have a tinge of the ein volk, doesn’t it? But the real issue, which Yonhap ignores, has nothing to do with “ethnic education”. Schools for ethnic Koreans already exist in those areas with a population sufficient to support them. The intense interest is in whether or not parents who send their children to these schools should receive the same government subsidies that parents who are Japanese citizens receive for sending their children to private schools teaching a Japanese curriculum. In other words: Where’s my free money!

Most of the schools for ethnic Koreans, incidentally, are operated by Chongryeon, the local citizens’ group associated with North Korea. Their curriculum is based on the glorification of the Kim Dynasty and the defamation of the country that allows them to operate.

Mindan, the group affiliated with South Korea, offers supplementary Saturday classes in “ethnic education”. Here is Mindan’s explanation for the reason they are disenfranchised:

(D)ue to the influence from the conservative wing, symbolized by ‘distortion of the history textbook’ and ‘worship of the Yasukuni Shrine’, the legislation has been delayed, and the law is still held under its pending state.

On the other hand, more than a few Japanese citizens have an intense interest in answers to their questions: Why should their tax proceeds be used to fund the “ethnic education” of the children of people born and raised in Japan who insist on maintaining Korean citizenship?

And: Why should they allow demi-separatists too lazy to exercise the privileges of citizenship in the country to which they pledge allegiance, to establish ethnic enclaves and vote in elections in a country to which they won’t pledge allegiance?

Other than the demand to satisfy a hypertrophied sense of entitlement, that is.

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5 Responses to “Voter apathy”

  1. yankdownunder said

    Koreans in Japan do not like Japan or Japanese people. Most Koreans say they stay in Japan as a reminder to Japanese that they were/are so terrible. I wish Japan could kick them all out
    but I know that’s not possible.

  2. Ken said

    What the most controversial is is those who want suffrage in Japan are almost only Koreans that hate Japan and Japanese culture.

  3. Joey said

    It’s pathetic that many people spout off about how ethnic Koreans are so “discriminated” against in Japanese society, when in fact the ethnic Koreans in Japan themselves prefer to isolate themselves, refusing to get proper citizenship. How they can receive the benefits of a country they purport to hate is beyond my understanding.

  4. Tony said

    Do all ethnic Koreans living here hate Japan? Where can I find such information?

  5. nipkilla592952959 said

    yankdownunder and joey, hope you end up dismebered

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