OSAKA, Japan (Reuters) - Ethnic Koreans living in Japan are nervously watching growing tensions over North Korea and are wary of a possible backlash against their community as Pyongyang ramps up its sabre-rattling.
While public antipathy towards Koreans does not appear to have escalated in reaction to the North’s latest nuclear test and missile launches, the community has been the target of abuse by Japanese nationalists after similar incidents in the past.
The North conducted its most powerful nuclear test ever last week, and in late August fired a ballistic missile over Hokkaido in northern Japan in a new show of force.
In the western Japanese city of Osaka — home to the country’s largest population of ethnic Koreans — few are willing to talk publicly about North Korea, and those that do have mixed views on Pyongyang’s actions.
Pu Kyon Ja, owner of the store selling Korean traditional clothes and a second-generation Korean resident in Japan, said she felt the North’s pursuit of nuclear weapons was a natural reaction against threats from the United States.
“I can’t say this loudly but I secretly think well done” on North Korea’s development of missile and nuclear capabilities, she said. North Korea is “under great pressure (from the international society), which I believe should end.”
“I’m watching over the current situation with great hope,” she added.
On the other hand, Chung Kap-su, another second-generation Korean in the town, said he hopes North Korea stops further provocations and pursues a peaceful path by seeking dialogue with South Korea.
“North Korea can’t defeat (the United States), so I hope it changes its way.”
Some 453,096 South Koreans and 32,461 North Koreans lived in Japan last year, according to government data. Many were forced to move there during Japan’s occupation of the Korean peninsula before and during World War Two.
Japan passed an anti-hate law last year, which may be discouraging fresh acts of abuse against the community, but the issue still bears watching, said Moon Gyeong-su, professor of ethnic Korean studies at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto.
“When North Korea launches missile or conducts nuclear tests, for example, Korean schools have been an easy target for bullies and accusations (in Japan),” he added.
Writing by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Kim Coghill