“I hate Korea” 20s who set fire to Utoro village… Japanese prosecutor seeks 4 years in prison

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On the morning of March 30, Utoro village in Uji City, southern Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. The reason that Utoro Village drew national attention was the arson incident on August 30 last year. The photo is of the incident site. Woozi = Correspondent Lee Sang-hoon january@donga.com

A 20-year-old man accused of setting fire to the village of Utoro, home to a group of Koreans living in Japan, was sentenced to four years in prison.

According to Kyodo News on the 21st, at the decision hearing held at the Kyoto District Court (district court) that day, the prosecution requested the court to sentence Shogo Arimoto (22), who was charged with arson, etc., to four years in prison.

The prosecution revealed the reason for the sentence, saying, “I committed a vicious crime because I wanted to get the attention of society and unilateral hatred of Koreans living in Japan.” Prosecutors determined that the case was committed by a young man who was unable to adapt to his job and lost his job out of hatred of Koreans.

Arimoto admitted to the crime during the open trial, and said, “I hated Korea” when being investigated by an investigative agency.

Arimoto is accused of setting fire to an empty house in the Utoro district of Uji City, Kyoto Prefecture, on August 30 last year, burning seven buildings, including houses and warehouses. Fortunately, there were no casualties from the fire.

At that time, the fire destroyed about 40 pieces of materials, including the signboards used by Koreans residing in Utoro in Japan during the struggle against the demolition of Utoro Village. Some of them were meant to be displayed at the Utoro Peace Memorial Hall.

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In July of the same year, Arimoto was also indicted on charges of damaging the walls of the building by setting fire to the Aichi prefecture headquarters and Nagoya Korean school facilities.

Kwak Jin-woong, CEO of the Utoro Private Fund Foundation, and Akiko Tagawa, director of the Utoro Peace Memorial Hall (from left), hold a press conference for foreign media at the Japan Foreign Correspondents Association in Tokyo, Japan, on the 15th. Tokyo = Correspondent Lee Sang-hoon sanghun@donga.com

At a press conference on the 15th, officials from the Utoro Peace Memorial Hall said, “It is an unforgivable incident. It shows the disease that Japanese society is afflicted with.” This press conference, hosted by the Japan Foreign Correspondents Association, was held to inform the world of the memorial that opened last month and raise an alarm about the increasing number of hate crimes against xenophobia in Japan.

Akiko Tagawa, director of the Utoro Peace Memorial Hall, said, “I thought the Korean-Japanese grandmothers would be angry (the arson incident), but I felt sorry for the 22-year-old who ruined my life. He said, “Utoro is a precious community nurtured by such people.”

Utoro Village is a residential area for Zainichi Koreans formed by Koreans who were mobilized to build a military airfield during the Japanese colonial period and remained there even after the war. Residents who had endured the worst living conditions were at risk of being evicted according to a Japanese court ruling in 2000 that they “occupied private land without permission.”

Afterwards, a foundation established by the Korean government and the Utoro Private Fund Foundation purchased some of the land, and Uji City, which has jurisdiction over Utoro, conducted a housing improvement project to provide a living space. The village without even water and sewage was neatly decorated. Residents who used to live in boardwalk workers’ restaurants are living in municipal apartments built on land purchased by the Korean government and others.

The Utoro Peace Memorial Hall displays various records of the struggles of Korean residents in Japan against the Japanese government and others to protect Utoro. In the 1980s, various activities such as posters for ‘We will live in Utoro, Our Hometown,’ produced by residents and civic groups, stand out. Woozi = Correspondent Lee Sang-hoon january@donga.com

Reporter Lee Hye-won, Donga.com hyewon@donga.com

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