"Forced evictions" ordered by the court -2001.6.1- [English/Japanese]
On the Imminent Forced Eviction of Utoro in Japan -2000.5.2- [English/Japanese]
What's UTORO -1997.3- [English/Japanese]
NEW YORK TIMES -1993.3.1- [English/Japanese]

On the Imminent Forced Eviction of Utoro in Japan

2 May 2000,Utoro in Japan



    Japan's colonial rule over Korea during World War II brought many Koreansto Japan as conscripted laborers, and postwar Japan has not compensated themfor their wartime labor but has decided to treat them as aliens deprived of many of their human rights as well as job opportunities, which has resulted in the emergence of many Korean communities, one of which is Utoro, a small Korean enclave located in the city of Uji in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan and whose dwellers are under perpetual threat of forcible eviction from their homes.

II. The vicissitudes of the area of Utoro during and after World War II

    In 1938 wartime Japan planned to build an airport and an airplane factory to the south of Kyoto city and in 1940 started the construction, recruiting many Korean laborers from all over Japan and resettling them in bunkhouses on the construction site. The plan was doomed to failure because Japan lost the War in 1945. Postwar Japan, however, left them out of job and in utter destitution. As a result, many of them managed to return to Korea whereas some could not afford to go home but chose to remain on the site for the aborted construction. Hence the emergence of the Korean enclave of Utoro, where now about 230 Korean nationals live, some of whom have resided for more than five decades.

III. A developer's lawsuits to forcibly evacuate the area of Utoro

    The property including the land of Utoro belonged to the ex-airplane manufacturer in charge of the aborted construction, which was to be Nissan Shatai, a subsidiary of the Nissan Motor Company. Nissan Shatai wanted to evacuate the area of Utoro, thus denying them the right to watersuppy. In 1986, Nissan Shatai suffered from a serious recession, which enticed them to try in vain to sell the land to the dwellers. In March 1987, whereas granting the residents'request for the watersupply, Nissan Shatai sold the land in secret for three hundred million yen to a dweller and alleged head of the Utoro self-governing body, who, in August 1987, sold it for four hundred fortyfive million yen to a developer, who started the lawsuits to forcibly evict the residents from their homes at Kyoto Local Court in February 1989.

IV. Both Kyoto Local Court's and Osaka High Court's rulings on the Utoro cases

    In 1998, Kyoto Local Court gave the rulings on the Utoro cases to the effect that the Utoro dwellers should evacuate the area demolishing all their houses and buildings on it, thus denying them the ownership of as well as the surface rights to the land by positive prescription, the interruption of which has been made, according to the rulings, since in 1970 the residents petitioned Nissan Shatai to sell them the land, whose action the rulings regard as inconsistent with their alleged ownership. Immediately, the defendants appealed to Osaka High Court. In December 1998, however, Osaka High Court gave almost the same ruling on one of the cases as the ones given by Kyoto Local Court. In 1999, about half of the defendants were denied leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. As a result, they are in imminent danger of forced eviction from their homes.

V. The court rulings inconsistent with the dwellers' right to adequate housing

    Both Kyoto Local Court's and Osaka High Court's rulings on the Utoro cases are apparently inconsistent with their human "right to adequate housing and the concomitant right not to be arbitrarily forcibly evicted from" their homes and "the right to be protected from the deprivation of" their homes , all of which the residents have been denied by the rulings, though those rights are "recognized in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which is legally binding on all public authorities in Japan" ( Leckie, Letter of Concern ). In fact, not only Osake High Court but the Supreme Court dismissed the dwellers' right to adequate housing as not pertinent to the cases, invoking Article 2, 1 of the Covenant, which, according to the rulings, should not be applied to any lawsuits for property but prescribes the general and abstract human rights which are to be achieved "progressively" ( the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 2, 1 ). Yet, the invocation of the article do not justify the rulings but are apparently inconsistent with "article 27 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which states that 'a party may not invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty'" ( Fact Sheet No.16 Rev.1 "The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights," Chapter5, "Applicability of the Covenant within Domestic Law" ). Hence the apparent inconsistency of the rulings on the Utoro cases with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which is not only "binding on all public authorities in Japan" but also urging them to find "a solution which is entirely consistent with" the residents' "recognized human rights and which totally precludes the removal of any dweller in Utoro from their homes" (Leckie, Letter of Concern).


e-mail aohyon@ka2.so-net.ne.jp

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