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Japan Moves to Scrap Fingerprinting of Koreans Born in Japan

May 30, 1990

TOKYO (AP) _ The government on Tuesday moved to end its fingerprinting requirement for Koreans born in Japan, who had complained that the process was demeaning and discriminatory.

The government also told public schools nationwide to start teaching students about Japan’s colonial rule of Korea, and agreed to a Korean request to search for records of Koreans brought to Japan before World War II as forced laborers.

The actions were the latest in a series of steps aimed at settling some sore points between the Asian neighbors.

Last week, during a visit to Japan by South Korean President Roh Tae-woo, Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu apologized for Japan’s conduct during the 1910-1945 colonial period.

Emperor Akihito also expressed regrets about Korean suffering at Japan’s hands.

Roh told Koreans on his return that while no apology could suffice for the brutal colonial rule, the two countries should try to put the past behind them.

″The visit by President Roh Tae-woo marked a great success in building a new era between the two countries,″ Chief Cabinet Secretary Misoji Sakamoto told reporters Tuesday.

The fingerprinting issue has been a source of particularly bitter controversy.

Japan requires foreign residents to be fingerprinted by authorities, and ethnic Koreans were considered foreigners - even if they were born in Japan. Many of the Koreans are descendants of forced laborers brought to the country against their will.

Japan agreed shortly before Roh’s visit to exempt third-generation Koreans from the requirement.

On Tuesday, Justice Minister Shin Hasegawa said the government plans to exempt first- and second-generation Korean residents as well, which would effectively end the fingerprinting requirement for Japan-born Koreans.

″We have to continue our dialogue in order to realize the goal,″ Hasegawa said. ″And the dialogue must be promoted in a friendly atmosphere.″

It was not known when the measure would take effect.

Many Koreans, especially older people, still have hard feelings about Japan. For much of the colonial period, Koreans were forced to speak Japanese, take Korean names, and worship then-Emperor Hirohito.

On Tuesday, the Education Ministry said it was directing public schools to incorporate lessons on Japan’s colonial rule on South Korea in history courses. ″It is hard to teach everything in one year, but we cannot afford skipping the part (on Japan’s colonial rule on Korea),″ Education Minister Kousuke Hori told reporters.

The Korean government had complained that Japanese children were not taught about Japan’s militaristic actions during the colonial era.

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