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Anti-Korean Acts in Japan Rise After N. Korea Fires Rocket

Life isn't easy for Korean immigrants in Japan. Lately things have gotten tougher.

The long-range rocket that North Korea launched over Japan in August has fanned long-standing bias against Koreans in general, and prompted a slew of retaliations.

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These have ranged from physical attacks on women in Korean dress to a firebomb attack Nov. 2 on an organization here for North Korean residents in Japan. An attack on the group's branch office in October left one dead and the building in ashes.

Discrimination faced by ethnic Koreans in Japan has led the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to consider taking up the issue in an coming session. It will make recommendations on Nov. 6.

The mutual animosity - and the presence of a Korean population in Japan - is rooted in centuries of conflict. Despite thousands of years of cultural exchange, shared economic and political concerns today, and even plans to jointly host the next World Cup soccer finals, relations between Korea and Japan are chilly, largely because of Japan's 35-year rule of Korea before World War II. The 640,000 Koreans living in Japan are mostly the descendants of Koreans forcibly brought to Japan to alleviate labor shortages during the war.

They remain, in effect, stateless. Although some families have been in Japan for generations, and many speak only Japanese, ethnic Koreans are unable to vote and are discriminated against in the workplace and education system as well.

Many Koreans try changing their names to avoid detection. But employers can check nationally kept family records, making the tactic marginally effective.

Slowly discrimination has been easing. In 1982 the Japanese government gave permanent residency to all Koreans and their descendants in the country since the end of World War II. In 1993 the government waived a requirement that Korean residents carry a fingerprinted alien registration card.

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