October 2007 Volume 14 Number 4
The number of foreigners living in Japan almost doubled between 1990 and 2004, from one million to two million; Japan has 128 million residents. Since 1990, Japan has allowed the descendents of emigrants from Japan to Brazil and Peru to return to Japan and work. About 30,000 residents of Hamamatsu, four percent, are foreign-born, high by Japanese standards. The so-called nikkeijin were expected to stay for a few years and return to South America, but many have settled.
Integration has proceeded unevenly. Many of the newcomers look Japanese but do not speak the language, and the city government reports frequent complaints from Japanese neighbors accusing the newcomers of not properly sorting garbage or parking in the wrong places.
Japan accepts few refugees, 313 between 1982 and 2004, when rules for asylum were liberalized. In 2006, 34 of 954 foreigners who applied for asylum were recognized as refugees. Japan requires official documents, such as arrest warrants to prove persecution, and applicants must have them translated into Japanese.
Many Japanese are reluctant to embrace immigration despite a shrinking population. Former foreign minister Taro Aso described Japan as "one culture, one race," in part to explain the fact that Japan is one of the few industrial countries without laws against racial discrimination.
Beginning November 20, 2007, foreigners arriving in Japan are to be fingerprinted and photographed. Those who refuse are not to be admitted. Holders of permanent residency certificates, those under 16 and official guests of the Japanese government are exempt.
Korea. South Korea has been signing MOUs with the major Asian countries that are home to the migrants employed in the country, including Nepal in July 2007. Since Korea began to phase out its trainee system in 2004, newly arrived migrants are considered workers entitled to the minimum wage. Nepal hopes to send 5,000 workers to Korea in 2007, and Bangladesh 4,000.
South Korea has about 48 million residents but, with fertility of only 1.5 children per woman, the population is expected to shrink. In 2006, there were about 7.3 persons 15-64 for each person 65 and older; by 2030, this ratio is expected to drop to 2.7 to one.
The United States signed free-trade agreements with four countries before the President's fast-track negotiating authority expired on June 30, 2007 -- Colombia, Panama, Peru, and South Korea. Under fast track, Congress must approve or disapprove FTAs; it cannot amend them.
South Korea is the largest and richest of these FTA partners, with an economy that is the 12th largest in the world and about a tenth the size of the US economy. The so-called KORUS FTA would free up trade between countries that had $78 billion in combined imports and exports in 2006. Under the KORUS FTA, about 95 percent of trade in industrial goods would become duty free in three years, and two-thirds of US agricultural exports could enter Korea duty free.
Americans are becoming more skeptical of the benefits of free trade. An October 2007 Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 60 percent of Republicans agree that trade has been bad for America.
"Japan to require photos, fingerprints from tourists," China News Agency, September 29, 2007. Lori Aratani, "In Traditionally Insular Japan, A Rare Experiment in Diversity," Washington Post, October 6, 2007