Monday, December 01, 2008

Fingerprintin' them thar furriners

Over the last few days, the government and media have been reporting that last year's law requiring all non-Japanese (including permanent residents) to be fingerprinted when entering or re-entering Japan, has been a success as it has kept 800-odd "undesirables" out of Japan.

The law was controversial when passed, as many---permanent residents in particular---were angered and offended. Too bad, said the government (and most others, including many non-Japanese) it's for safety and security and it stays.

So where did all this fingerprinting of non-Japanese begin? We all know that it was done to ethnic Koreans for decades until the law was rescinded mainly due to their protests in the 80s. While reading Mark E. Caprio's article in Japan Focus I found this interesting little tidbit: May 1947, just months prior to SCAP’s January 1948 announcement that Koreans would be treated as “Japanese nationals,” SCAP reversed course by subjecting Japan-based Koreans and Taiwanese to its Alien Registration Ordinance. Mirrored after the U.S. Alien Registration Act of 1940, it required all non-Japanese over the age of 14 to register their alien status and carry with them at all times their alien registration passbook. It further stipulated that violators would face deportation. This legislation served as the forerunner for the more comprehensive Alien Registration Act of 1952 that introduced mandatory fingerprinting of foreign residents. See Japan Focus: The Cold War explodes in Kobe---the 1948 Korean Ethnic School "Riots" and the US Occupation Authorities.

I suppose the Japanese government of the time could have objected to Dugout Doug, SCAP, and Uncle Sam, but they didn't. Just like today, when the US passes tougher laws controlling foreign visitors or residents, Japan rarely declines adopting a similar law because of moral reasons as long as it citizens (or industries) are not affected. .

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