Boss Cannot Force Zainichi Man To Use Korean Name, Rules Judge


Today a judge from the Shizuoka District court ruled that a zainichi Korean man could not be forced to use his real name at work, after his boss had repeatedly prompted him to. The judge ruled that to do so would be to go against the man’s rights as an individual, and ordered the man’s boss to pay compensation.

The question of Koreans resident in Japan, or zainichi Koreans, using Japanese tsumei, or “aliases” instead of their Korean birth names remains a contentious one. Many zainichi Koreans feel more Japanese than Korean, and would rather use Japanese names as a means of being fully accepted in society, while others prefer to keep their Korean names as part of their ethnic identity. But those who do adopt Japanese aliases are often accused of “hiding” their “true identity” as a Korean.

This article quickly gained over 5,000 comments on Yahoo! Japan, with many of the comments being upvoted tens of thousands of times.

From Yahoo! Japan:

Forcing Zainichi Man To Use Real Name At Work Is Ruled Illegal, CEO Of Company Ordered To Pay Compensation – Shizuoka District Court

On April 24, the Shizuoka District court handed down a judgment in a case where a zainichi Korean man in his forties, from Shizuoka Prefecture, sued the CEO of his company for 3,300,000 yen [approx. $27,751] in compensation, claiming that it was a violation of his rights as an individual to be forced by the CEO to use his Korean name at work. Judge Ogikubo Masamichi ruled that the CEO pay 550,000 yen in compensation [approx. $4,625].

Summing up, Judge Ogikubo said: “Names are a symbol of an individual. To force zainichi Koreans to use a particular name is an illegal invasion of their right to self-determination”. Since the man had consistently been using his Japanese name since entering the company, Judge Ogikubo deemed that he was able to recognize that the man had never had any intention of using his Korean name.

According to the judgement, the man has Korean citizenship, but was born and raised in Japan, and uses a Japanese name in his daily life. Since entering the company in 2001, the man had been living under his Japanese name, but between November 2012 and May 2013, the CEO had continually remarked in front of other employees, “How about using your Chosen name?” [NB: “Chosen” is the old Japanese term for Korea, and its use is sometimes perceived as derogatory].

Comments from Yahoo! Japan:

古谷経衡 [Commentator]:

・In the 1970s, some activist and left wing groups that had zainichi Korean issues at their heart frequently advocated that “Using Japanese names makes us think about the soshikaimei policy under Japanese colonialism, which forced Japanese names on Koreans, and is something that damages our pride as a people. We will use our ethnic Korean names without adopting Japanese ones”. This was the so-called “Call me by my real name” movement.
・Following this, the movement weakened due to people saying “Actually, if I use my ethnic Korean name I get discriminated against”, and “It’s more convenient in society to use my Japanese name”, as well as an increase in people returning to Korea.
・The CEO who was ordered to pay compensation in this case seems to have been insisting on exactly the same thing as the left-wing activist forces in the 1970s, as far as we can tell from this article, but putting this together with reports of the original case from 2013, somehow the CEO didn’t know the context of the issue. I’m guessing it would have been absurd if the CEO had said “Use your real name”without knowing the historical background of the issue.
・Just goes to show that as times change, so does our position on things.

前田恒彦 [Former Police Prosecutor]:

In this case, what is being made an example of is not just that the CEO remarked repeatedly that the man use his “Chosen” name, but also because the CEO revealed the man’s ethnicity to colleagues who were unaware that the man was Korean, despite the man himself concealing this fact. This is a problem that arises precisely because we have a system of using tsumei, or Japanese aliases.


The boss was in the right.
Please don’t give up.
Still, it’s probably better if you don’t employ suspicious people who refuse to use their real names.

hoon makes me job:

Do your best, Mr. CEO


Umm, shouldn’t this be the other way around?
What’s so wrong with making people use their real names?
But it would be pretty awful to be forced to use a Japanese alias.
Me, I’m Japanese, but would it be OK for me to just call myself Brad Pitt with clients at work?


I just do not understand how it’s a violation of an individual’s rights to be told to use your real name.
What do they intend to do after July 9 [A new “residency management system” will come into effect for all mid/long term foreign residents in Japan]


No matter how you think about it, it’s the boss who’s in the right, I reckon. I wonder why the man wanted to use an alias in the first place.


Ah, Judge Ogikubo Masamichi.
I’ll remember you well.


I wish the CEO would fight this all the way to the Supreme Court.
It’s crazy that he is ordered to pay compensation when he has done nothing wrong.


I firmly support the CEO.


I don’t get what is…..?
What the….?


I also feel that this should have been the other way around.
If he’d forced someone to use a Japanese alias, then that would be a problem, but to have a trial because you told someone to use their real name…
Why wasn’t he using his real name in the first place?
Why would he hide his real name when he had given up the choice of going back to Korea?
Everything about this is just weird.


Having aliases is a crazy system.


Is it humiliating to use your real name? Why would that be?


What must that guy be thinking if he thinks that his Korean name is something to be ashamed of?


On the contrary, it is illegal to use a false name. I hope the CEO fights this right the way through and counter-sues.


Is it bad to tell someone to use their real name?


Why does he want to use an alias so much…


? I just don’t get why it’s more of a problem to be told to use your real name.


The standard for suing someone is crazy.


It’s always difficult when you get involved with that lot from over there. Do your best.

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