Crowdfunded documentary to deepen anti-foreigner discrimination in postwar Japan

The image of Wishma Sandamali is seen at a funeral held in Nagoya in May, in this photo provided by Ko Chanyu.

OSAKA – Non-fiction writer and Osaka resident Ikuno Ward, Ko Chanyu, 74, is producing a documentary on discrimination against foreigners living in Japan.

Ko was prompted to redouble his efforts by the shocking death of Sri Lankan Wishma Sandamali in March 2021. She was only 33 years old when she succumbed to the disease while in detention at the Nagoya Regional Bureau of Immigration Services. without having access to appropriate medical care. Describing his goals for the job, Ko said, “I intend to paint a full picture of the post-war discrimination against foreigners living in Japan, including against Koreans in Zainichi and issues related to them. immigration services. ”

He plans to complete the work by spring 2022 and is raising funds to do it through crowdfunding and other means.

Born in 1947, Ko graduated from Korea University in Kodaira, a suburb of Tokyo. He was a playwright, magazine editor, and his serial reporting in the Mainichi Shimbun – “Ikyo Gurashi (Tahyansari)” – roughly translating to living in a strange land – has been turned into a book.

Ko Chanyu is seen holding a flyer asking for help with a documentary, in this image taken in the Tennoji neighborhood of Osaka in September 2019 (Mainichi / Ken Uzuka)

He continued to write on the various problems faced by foreign nationals living in Japan long term, with particular emphasis on Zainichi Koreans. He has published many books, but the film he produced in 2019 – “Aitachi no Gakkou” or “Our Children’s Schools” – received the Japanese Cinema Revitalization Incentive Award. It has been well received, has even been shown in South Korea, and is in the collections of university libraries in the United States.

His film this time is intended to be the culmination of all his investigations so far, and will provide a comprehensive portrait of the continued discrimination against foreign nationals in Japan’s post-war era. He started working on the film in February 2021, but Wishma’s death in the custody of the Nagoya Immigration Office came soon after.

Ko said the case was “representative of the attitude that does not view foreigners as human beings.” He said that instead of being an issue involving individual employees of the immigration office, it was “a crime committed by the state”. He added, “The Wishma case is just one case that has surfaced. In 2019, at the Omura Immigration Center (in Nagasaki Prefecture), a Nigerian man died of hunger while on hunger strike. And there are countless cases of verbal and physical abuse. abuse.”

Ko was among those who attended Wishma’s funeral, and he also interviewed his supporters and lawyers. A woman who supported Wishma and met her on several occasions during her detention said that she looked weaker and weaker by the day. “There were times when she would come to the visitation area in a wheelchair and with a sick bucket,” she told him. Although she insisted that the immigration office provide her with the proper care, she said they did not listen to her calls.

He also spoke with many foreign nationals currently on temporary release from detention by the immigration office. Ko said, “Many of them told me that they were treated cruelty in immigration centers, and they told me, ‘I am not an animal.’ To be forced into a situation where they were forced to say that shows xenophobia here, and the cult of Europe and America. ”

The harsh post-war discrimination against Koreans in Zainichi was the starting point for Ko to hear from a wide range of foreign nationals, including refugees, people of Japanese descent who came to work in Japan, technical trainees foreigners and others. Through these conversations, Ko felt the oppression of foreigners in Japan that has been constant since the end of World War II.

People are seen demonstrating against revisions to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act and other issues in Osaka City, in this image provided by Ko Chanyu.

“Doesn’t it seem like the Japanese government saw its discrimination against Koreans in Zainichi as a success, and used it to oppress people from other nations as well? Whether they are Korean, Chinese, Nepalese, Vietnamese. It seems they have continued to search for people they can abuse, people around the world who can be tilled into the soil. ”

Ko is also thinking about ways to get people who are not interested in foreigners’ issues in Japan to see the film. “People who commit one type of discrimination also get involved in other types. Discrimination against foreigners also results in discrimination against Japanese people. an increase in the number of Japanese becoming non-permanent workers, a reduction in social benefits and more people in distress. ”

The subjects of his criticism are the government as a system and the ruling class. Previously, Ko participated in a research trip to Canada. There, the world’s first multiculturalism policy was adopted in 1971, and many women and immigrants held positions of responsibility in society, including as national legislators, lawyers, school principals and others.

“If the government and officials say they will not tolerate discrimination and put it into action, society will change,” Ko said. He says his ongoing work is being done with a glimmer of hope that he will help. to create a world without discrimination.

Filming is drawing to a close, and now Ko is calling for help. Crowdfunding for the film, ending October 7, can be found by searching online for “A-port eiga” (eiga in kanji characters). Money can also be transferred directly to Ko Chanyu’s Postal Savings Account at 00980-8-115342.

(Japanese original by Ken Uzuka, Osaka Photo Department)

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