“Detain this man! His ID is too weird!”

I’m currently on a business trip in New York, nested within a personal trip to see my family in South Carolina.

I didn’t bring my driver’s license to the US because I had no plans to drive anywhere. And I left my passport at my parents’ house because I didn’t need it to travel to New York.

So when I got to the security checkpoint at the podunk airport in South Carolina, the only photo ID I had with me was… my gaijin card. (For the uninitiated, this is a Japanese alien registration card. Most of the data on it is printed in Japanese, except for name, nationality and birthplace, with really tiny English subtitles on the labels).

Here’s how it went:

ME: Hi there, how ya doin’? (hands over boarding pass and gaijin card, acting natural)
ID CHECKER LADY: (furrows brow) What is this?
ME: It’s, uh, a Japanese government issued ID.
ID CHECKER LADY: Huh? (stares at it some more) Don’t you have a driver’s license?
ME: Unfortunately no, I didn’t drive here. This is the only ID I have.
ID CHECKER LADY: Um…. (calls over to lady at neighboring checkpoint) Hey, what am I supposed to do with this?
ID CHECKER LADY 2: What is it?
(They confer.)
ID CHECKER LADY: Should I send him back to ticketing to get the S’s? (Note to the uninitiated: They print “SSSS” on your boarding pass as a signal that you require “additional screening,” which includes a pat-down search, explosives swabbing and whatever else the TSA thinks is relevant.)
ID CHECKER LADY 2: I’m not sure.
ME: (noticing that the line is about 20 deep behind him) Ma’am, it’s issued by the government of Japan. Do you see the fine print in the corner there?
ID CHECKER LADY 2: (to Lady 1) It’s up to you.
ID CHECKER LADY: Do you have any other ID?
ME: Besides credit cards and my mileage card…
ID CHECKER LADY 2: Oh, that’s fine!
ME: Um, okay. (hands over mileage card, wondering how this is supposed to make things any more secure)

For what it’s worth, I have since used my gaijin card as ID with several different doormen in New York, and none have batted an eyelash. Maybe the South just has issues with “them weird squiggly Oriental pictures.”

58 thoughts on ““Detain this man! His ID is too weird!””

  1. As a 23-year old I was unable to use my foreigner registration card to buy liquor in the state of New Jersey, where I was told it had to be a “federal or state photo ID,” and at the time NJ did not require a photo on a driver’s license.

  2. Hahaha, that’s hilarious. Though personally I would’ve carried around some form of English ID just in case.

  3. Can’t wait you coming back and experience the ongoing humanitarian crisis at Narita.Gaijin Fingerprinting.
    Let us know what it’s like to have your devine personal information snatched by the evil,nasty GoJ.

  4. One time I used my gaijin card at a video store in California–it was the only picture ID I had on me. The clerk said, “I couldn’t live over there in Japan.” I asked why not, and he said, “I couldn’t wear those Chinese clothes all the time.”

  5. I was actually refused entry into a casino (don’t ask) in Canada, despite the fact that I had a CANADIAN provincial ID card. The thugs at the door had never seen one before (you get one if you don’t have a driver’s license). They let me in pretty quickly when I suggested that it was probably illegal not to accept it and that the government appointed gaming supervisor (stationed at ever casino) would probably know.

    Are people here outraged over the fingerprinting business? I’m pretty lukewarm, but I can’t really imagine how I’m going to feel when they fingerprint me.

  6. I would be outraged about the JAPAN-VISIT thing, except I am too excited about pre-registering to go through that hermetically-sealed VIP lane. The lines at Narita have always been ridiculous so I don’t mind giving up my soul to the Man in exchange for the executive treatment.

    It’s just completely retarded that they don’t exempt permanent residents when not even the US version forces green card holders to give it up.

  7. I am pretty annoyed, not just for the printing, which has been a small but significant reason I haven’t been to the US lately, but especially for the length of time. I use Kansai most, and going through with the Japanese is easily faster than the tourist line, even off a plane 90% of Japanese.

    I gather than pre-registering doesn’t help much, but maybe Narita is different. Maybe.

    Never been refused entry into a casino, or any other such place, but then I look older than I am and was often the one to buy booze when we were still under age.

    I think this case here is as much one of CYA as trusting the GOJ. If the terrorist does hit the fan, then the people there might get in trouble if they said “well, he said it was a Japanese government card”, whereas they would not if you had a more standard one. I remember reading about the author Bill Bryson having to try and use one of his books as ID (with a large photo on the back). Why is it that a place that values freedom as much as the US can be so amazingly anal? People love to say Japan and the US are so different, but they seem united in a love of by-the-book bureaucracy to me….

  8. wow, sounds like you had a really rough time getting through the airport check! so the lady was confused by the japanese ID, and then talked to another person about it? jeez, that’s crazy. you must have been pissed! i can’t believe something like that would happen! and they wasted a good 5 minutes of yours! you should sue.

  9. I think it’s silly to use a Japanese ID in the US. Would you use your US driver’s license as ID in Japan? Kind of a no-brainer to me.

    Then again, if Miss Universe can use her sash at the airport without using her passport, I guess it’s okay. 🙂

  10. I’ve used my Gaijin card to get into bars in the US a few times, which is always a fun time when I forget to bring something else. One time, in Columbus Ohio, the doorman very nearly didn’t let me in, until he remembered that a girl he knew inside the place used to live in Japan, so he took my card to show to her and get verification that it at least kind of looks like a real one.

    As for the Japan fingerprinting thing, while I do not like the trend very much even for visitors (including the US-VISIT program) the part that really bugs me is how it applies equally to people with residence visas, and even permanent residence. The only “foreigners” who are exempted from being fingerprinted every single time they enter are the “special permanent residents” who were born and raised in Japan. I fail to see even the slightest bit of security to be gained by repeatedly fingerprinting someone who actually lives in the country.

  11. I wouldn’t have used my gaijin card if I had any other form of ID on me. It was just really unfortunate timing and rushed planning that led to this particular situation.

    Now I’ll have to see what happens when I fly home… perhaps the Yankees manning the checkpoints on this end will be less charitable? I don’t think it really matters too much though–even if you have no ID you can still fly with secondary screening, from what I understand.

  12. My Japanese husband and I (American) moved to Louisiana 5 years ago. We got married in Japan, so our marriage license is in Japanese, accompanied by an attached English translation. When I went to the social security office in Louisiana to have my records changed to my married name, the clerk looked at the marriage licence, looked at us, discussed what to do with a coworker, and decided that, since I obviously had my Japanese husband there, the marriage license MUST be authentic. Of course, no one could read it and the English translation had been done in Japan and notarized by a Japanese. They simply trusted the document, having never seen one before. So, please don’t judge your experience as being unique to the South. I brought a Kamakura Buddha statue back from Japan through the Dallas airport a year ago and two men at the gate wouldn’t let me through with it saying they couldn’t see through it with their xray equipment. We walked one gate down and two women let me pass through easily with the same statue, saying how gorgeous it was. I think these TSA people are flying by the seat of their pants and have no clue what to do most of the time.

  13. I brought a Kamakura Buddha statue back from Japan through the Dallas airport a year ago and two men at the gate wouldn’t let me through with it saying they couldn’t see through it with their xray equipment. We walked one gate down and two women let me pass through easily with the same statue, saying how gorgeous it was. I think these TSA people are flying by the seat of their pants and have no clue what to do most of the time.

    That’s pretty funny. I had some intense questioning from a security screener once over a minidisc player, which I bought in Japan when I was in high school. She had never seen such a gadget before (this was circa 2000 so Americans were still using CD and tape players) so she assumed it must be dangerous.

    I also had fun bringing a wooden staff home from Fuji-san: they wouldn’t let it into the cabin unless it was placed in the closet and (inexplicably) wrapped in newspaper.

  14. Joe, I think you’re right about being able to fly without ID if you undergo additional security checks. Are you familiar with the Gilmore vs. Gonzales case?

  15. The REAL ID act changes federal law to require recognized ID on all domestic flights, but it is also contingent on said ID being issued by the states, which has yet to happen. I’m not entirely sure if the law actually requires ID or not as it stands, but it’s sure a far cry from the old days, when family could see you off at the gate as you board a plane with a ticket you bought in cash without showing any identification whatsoever.

  16. All this fingerprinting fiasco among Ardou camp,I sense of Deja-vu. Perhaps because of that interview I read of Doshinsya Prof.Otis Cary who died last year.

    Cary was born in Japan before the war and one of the staffs at GHQ during occupation days. He resided in Kyoto after he retired until one day the last straw broke the camel’s back. He said in the interview “I’ve had it with Japan. It is a defacto police-state. I’ve had hopes of people changing it in the past,but they are still living in comtempt with that 戸籍 and all”. So he went home to spend the last of his days in California. Sad ending for life long Japan hand coming from two generation of permanent resident.
    While he was pissed with Koseki,I guess he didn’t mind with carrying an American ID card though.

    James Fallows is now in the country.How he feels about recent fingerprinting is quite interesting.

  17. Ditto to Joe. Adamu, once you’re a reentry permit you can breeze through the lines in Narita, which are way better than anything in JFK, LAX, O’hare, or any major airport in the US. Problem for you Adamu is that you keep entering with all the other unshaved foreigners, whether it be as an “illegal” high school student or coming in from Thailand as an almost spouse.

    Complaints about US-Visit and Yokoso! Japan, gimme your fingerprints are valid, but its nothing like what the EU has on the drawing board.

  18. Curzon, you are incorrect. Under the new rules, even foreigners with reentry permits must be fingerprinted. The only exceptions are “special permanent residents” and people who pre-register through some special expedited entry system, which I believe is being piloted only in Narita, and has yet to be phased in.

    Also, the US-Visit system is actually less strict than the new Japanese one. In the US system, green card holders and other long time residents do NOT need to be fingerprinted, and in Japan they currently do.

    I agree the EU database in the article you linked to is plenty creepy, but it’s not much worse than what we have in the US, between our federal and 50+ state and locality databases.

  19. Thank you Roy, I was naturally speaking of pre 11/20, having not left Japan in the past few days. Regardless, there are still seperate lines for re-entry permit holders and foreigners entering for the first time, which the US does not do, and wait time for reentry permit holders hsa apparently not changed. I look forward to Joe’s comments on this in a week or so. I will be entering Japan on 1/1 and will get to see it myself then.

  20. Oh, the old system was nice- reentry permit holding foreigners such as myself (note: I have never been to Japan as a tourist, only a visa holder) actually had the rare luxury of picking either the visitor or citizen line. I’m glad to hear you’ve heard that entry time for permit holders has not changed, although it does contradict the predictions. Hopefully the pessimism is overrated. I do look forward to some on the ground reports- although after Joe’s experience with immigration last year I’m surprised he isn’t already on the watch list…

    I may be entering Japan again in March some time, but I expect that would be through Kansai again. The only time I’ve ever flown to Narita was my very first landing in Japan.

  21. I dislike the new fingerprinting on a point of principle. I especially dislike the fact that the Japanese government has indicated it is willing to share the data it collects with the US government.

    There isn’t much opposition to the new measures on the part of Japanese citizens since most believe that it will help with the foreign crime boom they believe is taking place – they really don’t feel as threatened by terrorism. Even with this aim in mind, why residents with valid working visas and permanent residents are regarded as legitimate targets for this data collection is beyond me.

    Britain now often requires visa applicants – not tourists – to supply fingerprints with their application which recalls Japan’s old fingerprint policy so it’s difficult to get up on a high horse. I do think a policy of fingerprinting visitors would find opposition in Britain, though. Tourism and finance are big industries for one but there are also increasing concerns about privacy and data protection: the government just lost bank details and addresses of 9.5 million parents and the names, dates of birth and National Insurance numbers of 15.5 million children.

    I do know some Europeans who claimed they would never visit the US after they introduced fingerprinting but more than a few have broken that resolution in order to take advantage of the weak dollar for Christmas shopping. It is a lot easier for them to avoid Japan but I can’t think their numbers will be significant even if it might cause a couple of symposiums to be relocated. I have no sense about how this new policy has played in Korea, Taiwan and China. If citizens from those countries don’t change their behaviour – more Koreans will visit Japan this year than vice versa – then it’s difficult to see Japan going back on the new procedures.

  22. Perhaps some Aussies coming to Hokkaido for skiing may take a second step..

    Talk about UK,when I tried to re-enter the country from Channel Islands(Jersey) by a boat from San Malo,France. The immigration stopped me for 40 minuites for inspection.
    Perhaps because I was the only non EU citizen on the boat.But I have no hard feeling to UK in anyways.It’s just price like 1000 yen a ride on underground nowadays gives me the second idea…

    My family went to Palau in 2005 and at first we were to get discount flight by Continental from Narita to Palau via Guam. After everything was booked and all,HIS staff called us that Mongolians are required to have visas even in the transit at the airport in Guam. So my wife called the American embassy and asked how to apply visas in the phone. While it is free online,these information by phone require you 1500 yen! and they demand credit card number in advance. She also learned she and my son(who is a Mongolian citizen)must have interview with the consul beforehand. All this seemed too rediculous for an hour at the airport in Guam,so we chosed JAL’s direct flight to Koror instead.

    BTW our office did covered fingerprinting at Narita in a bit sckeptic way.

  23. Jersey is a tax haven so money laundering rules mean visitors to and from the island are tightly screened. I get my photograph taken every time I leave the UK to go to one of the Channel Islands. If you were on your own then that would make you a prime target. They might have had you marked down as a yakuza bagman.

    It’s interesting how Special Permanent residents have managed to separate their interests from other foreign residents in Japan. Not only in this issue; during the recent rallies calling for suffrage for non-Japanese, several speakers suggested that, as a first step, it should only be extended to Special Permanent residents.

  24. I seem to recall having to hand in my Gaijin card at immigration. Maybe that was when I left Japan for the last time on my work visa. I remember it vividly because it was one of the old ones with the fingerprints on the cards (They don’t do that again, do they?) and I claimed I had lost it so I could show it to my friends to prove that all the stories were true.

    In any case, similar story. I waltzed into the Ronald Reagan centre in Washington D.C. a few years back (I thought a building so extravagantly named must’ve been worth looking at – turned out it was a snooty mall or something) and was asked for photo I.D. at the metal detector (which raised my expectations even further). I didn’t have anything on me except my Japanese driver licence, which of course is completely – COMPLETELY – incomprehensible to anyone who doesn’t read Japanese – as far as I can remember there is no English on it at all. The guard chick scanned it, asked me what it was and I replied. She then handed it back and let me through. This was just after 9/11. Brilliant security.

  25. I’m totally baffled at the idea of giving suffrage to non-citizens. Isn’t that pretty much the main difference between a citizen and a permanent resident?

  26. My recent media Diet (Asahi Shimbun and Mainichi’s English service) has been sufficiently critical of the lame fingerprinting program. Asahi devoted a full page 2 to it on the day of enactment and noted the massive protest from permanent residents and the bumbleheaded nature of the original US program.

    The sad part is how unnecessary it all seems for everyone except security firms (and maybe their trading company brethren who import fingerprinting technology), which is a motif I see again and again here (just as I am sure Secom is the unofficial sponsor of the Foreign Crime Wave and Coca Cola has something to do with why no one *ever* uses the drinking fountains in subway stations).

    What immigration should have done was open the sweet EZ-Pass window and charge like $50 a head for people to have shorter waiting times. That way they can screen people sufficiently and people in a hurry won’t have to wait, and it’s actually a revenue gain.

  27. As I understand it re-entry permit holders only get to use the short line if they have the “E-Z pass” thing, which I am not getting because (a) it requires you to be fingerprinted on departure, (b) you still get fingerprinted on re-entry and (c) you then have to make a separate request for a passport stamp.

    I entered Japan as a tourist in 2005 and 2007, both times at Narita, and the line has never been particularly long. I’ll see how bad the tourist line is next week but I’m not concerned about it.

  28. I for one plan to enter Japan by North Korean mini-submarine from now on to avoid this insult to my dignity. Can anyone recommend a secluded Niigata beach?

  29. “I’m totally baffled at the idea of giving suffrage to non-citizens. Isn’t that pretty much the main difference between a citizen and a permanent resident?”

    I for one am not agitating for electoral status. Though there might be a difference between national elections for national government, citizenship being a national status, and local elections.

    Any Nihonkai beach outside of summer should be fine, Durf. Try one of the remoter islands like Tobishima or the ones off the Noto Peninsula, and then catch a ferry to the mainland. I recommend using Sneek-U-Inn Sublines, run by a nice man named Kim Jong Il.

    Bryce: Yes, Alien Cards now have your signature where the fingerprint used to be (and that was always covered by the MOJ sticker on the plastic slipcase anyway). And yes, there is no English at all, or even Romaji, on the licence save for your name. Despite that I have used it at a copstop overseas when I didn’t have an international licence (it was in a country where you can drive for a year with a “valid licence” and nothing in the law says it needs to be in English). It doesn’t even have flash holograms on it so could easily be faked.

    And in the “take things back to show your friends and family,” my own have got a kick out of the US immigration forms where they ask you if you’re a Nazi….

  30. That MoJ sticker wasn’t always there. I have a vague memory that the plastic wallet was introduced along with the sticker as a measure to appease the fingerprint refusers sometime in the eighties.

  31. It’s very likely – I hear the alien card in fact used to be a booklet, and was thus an even greater hassle to carry around (ie you couldn’t shove it in your wallet and forget about it). I got my first alien card in 1989, but cannot remember if it had a sticker thing or not actually. I don’t think it did, from memory, but I’m pretty sure my second (1991) did.

    This page may be of slight interest. The first alien card there expires in 1994, which implies it was issued in 1989 (five year validity) and was this zainichi’s first card-type one:: prior to that they were booklets. Doesn’t show a slipcase, though.

  32. ”Try one of the remoter islands like Tobishima or the ones off the Noto Peninsula,”

    Don’t try Tobishima or Hegura-jima near Noto Peninsula during birding seasons of September and April.There are hundreds of bird watchers with binoculars on the island and there’s no way you wouldn’t be found..

    Suffrage to Special Permanent resident(read Koreans)will be on the agenda of the next diet and will probably pass both houses.Since Komeito and DPJ are both willing and Fukuda wants to have good relation with Seoul.

  33. Sorry, why is it strange that Podunk USA screeners would not instantaneously recognize your foreign ID and send you on your way? Yes I have one, but I wouldn’t try to use one in the US. I usually like your commentary, but this one I cannot understand.

  34. Back to the topic, I wasn’t allowed to pass the normal screening for a US domestic flight using my Employment Authorization Card issued by the US government. It seems it’s up to an individual judgement of TSA person because what they often see are passports and driver’s licenses. According to an airline company’s website, what travelers should bring is a government issued photo ID, and an airline personnel, who gave me an ‘SSSS’ boarding pass, looked surprised.

  35. That’s interesting, Una. I’m not surprised that happened.

    For the record, I didn’t expect my gaijin card to work. It was the only photo ID I had on me, thanks to a string of accidents over the past few days, and so I really had no choice but to try using it to get through security. Fortunately, it worked. I’m pretty amused by this fact, although my post would probably be far more interesting if it actually read like its title (I can just visualize the situation now… a hard-ass FBI interrogator ties me to a chair and demands to know my connections to the Red Army…)

  36. And when they saw the blog, with Aceface’s expert posts on the history of the Red Army, they’d start unpacking the jumper cables…

  37. “I’m totally baffled at the idea of giving suffrage to non-citizens. Isn’t that pretty much the main difference between a citizen and a permanent resident?”

    Many enlightened, liberal and sexy nations (plug for NZ here) allow non-citizens to vote. NZ actually takes away citizens’ voting rights if they have been abroad longer than three years – although you only need to have been back for a brief visit during that time to start the clock over. The idea is that being a “stakeholder” who is directly affected by government action should allow you to have more of a say in who sits in parliament than those who are merely granted official documents by accident of birth. My wife is an American citizen and can/does vote in U.S. elections, yet she has never lived there, and has no more stake in U.S. society than any other New Zealander. To me that’s a bit silly.

  38. Now even South Korea is allowing non-citizens to vote.Although this has been done to make Japan to do the same to Zainichis.(so far zainichis are not allowed to vote for Korean election.weird)There are less than 100 Japanese who can vote in Korean election and half a million Korean in Japan.So I can’t say the Korean measure is the product of liberal and progressive ideas.But the fact remains that now Korea is ahead of Japan in the suffarage to non-citizens.

    But this week we had few issues coming out.National Police Agency had decided to investigate and interrogate the suspect of abducting Kim Dae Jung in 1974 who are now residing in Korea and demanding to have them prosecuted in Japanese court based on extradition treaty.Secondly this week’s issue of Weekly POST has a special report with long title of 在日「住民税極秘半減」の密約を撃つ!三重県伊賀市幹部の詐欺事件で分かった、民潭・総連と行政との闇を全国自治体で追う. I believe there are leaks behind all of this from security community who don’t want just sit through.

  39. “so far zainichis are not allowed to vote for Korean election.weird”

    Not so weird – I’m no expert on such issues, but in order to get to Korea so as to vote, they would need to naturalise as Japanese citizens, right? In order to vote in an absentee ballot, I imagine they would have to take up Korean citizenship. In either case they would, by definition, no longer be Zainichi – or tokubetsu juumin, or whatever they are officially called by the Jgovt.

  40. ” I imagine they would have to take up Korean citizenship. In either case they would, by definition, no longer be Zainichi – or tokubetsu juumin, or whatever they are officially called by the Jgovt.”

    No.All zainichi Koreans has either ROK nor DPRK citizenship.ROK has been rejecting Zainichi Koreans with ROK citizenship for not serving military draft.
    The point I’ve made is ROK government has made judgement of allowing suffrage to foreign national ahead of their own citizens living in Japan. (and also Zainichi and Seoul demanding the right of vote in Japanese election ahead of that of their own).

    In Japan,all the oversea resident Japanese national can vote at either embassy nor consulate from 2000.

  41. “The point I’ve made is ROK government has made judgement of allowing suffrage to foreign national ahead of their own citizens living in Japan.”

    That would be analogous to states (like NZ) who deny the vote to their citizens once they have stayed away for a long enough period of time. As I said before, I don’t see anything wrong with it, as long as it is applied equally to Korean living abroad elsewhere too (this may not be the case, but please feel free to enlighten me).

    I was under the impression that you had to prove an ancestral link to the ROK to claim citizenship, which may be difficult for the many Zainichi who don’t speak or read Korean too well.

  42. “No.All zainichi Koreans has either ROK nor DPRK citizenship.ROK has been rejecting Zainichi Koreans with ROK citizenship for not serving military draft.”

    It’s not that simple as all Zainichi having one or the other. Plenty of states refuse citizenship to overseas descendents of citizens who never live in the country. For example, in the US, you must live in the US for two years after the age of 16 to pass on citizenship to your children. And in the UK, you must live in Britain for one year as an adult to pass on citizenship to descendents. It’s pretty easy to become a stateless person after just two generations.

  43. “I was under the impression that you had to prove an ancestral link to the ROK to claim citizenship, which may be difficult for the many Zainichi who don’t speak or read Korean too well.”

    That just not the case.All of the zainichi has either ROK or DPRK citizenship due to the GoJ decision in 1952 when ex-colonial subjects wouldn’t automatically gaining Japanese nationality.
    The sleptics in Japan believes this matter is revolving around nationalism and Korea’s desire to expand political influence within Japanese society.ROK government actually tried to apply suffrage to ethnic Korean Chinese who are working in Korea and had diplomatic friction with Beijing.Seoul eventually turned down.

  44. “That just not the case.All of the zainichi has either ROK or DPRK citizenship due to the GoJ decision in 1952 when ex-colonial subjects wouldn’t automatically gaining Japanese nationality.”

    Ace, that’s simply wrong — GoJ decisions simply do not bind the laws of other countries. There are stateless “zainichi” Korean nationals in Japan who have no citizenship, only “special permanent residence” to live in Japan.

    You can read a similar discussion on this topic from a year about between Roy and myself here:

  45. Curzon:

    OK but your argument is” 朝鮮籍is not exactly DPRK citizenship”,correct? I don’t want to get into legal talk with the specialist here,but I thought that was because Tokyo haven’t recognized DPRK as a country.Thus not recognize DPRK nationality.

    As I understand majority of Chosen-seki are somehow related with Chousen Souren.And Pyongyang and Chosen Souren had repeatedly proclaimed Chousen-seki Koreans are 朝鮮民主主義人民共和国の海外公民.And some of Zainichi are chosen as the memeber of Supreme People’s Assembly.So technically they may not be “DPRK national” in Japan,but they are defacto DPRK citizen.No?

    ROK backed Mindan requires you to get ROK nationality for membership for quite sometime and the suffrage to non-citizen in Japan is an issue proclaimed by Mindan.Chousen-Souren is clearly against that.

  46. Ace, my argument is as it reads. State recognition does not affect the recognition of citizenship or passports by Japan. North Korea nationals visit Japan without problems, if they have proper visas, hence the Mangyongbong.

    Just because Pyongyang has said all Zainichi of Korean descent are citizens doesn’t make it true, and plenty of these people don’t want to be citizens of DPRK — go figure. Put another way, Nigeria can declare all African Americans in the US are citizens of its country, but that doesn’t mean every black person in America is suddenly a Nigerian national — although perhaps they could claim citizenship of Nigeria if they wanted.

    My point here is that your assertion that, “All zainichi Koreans has either ROK nor DPRK citizenship” is wrong. More than 100,000 Zainichi in Japan are designated as resident foreign nationals of Korean citizenship, but they in fact hold no passport of ROK or DPRK are in fact stateless persons with no passports or travel documents except those issued by Japan.

  47. And that was my point. The question it raised was whether Zainichi could travel without citizenship and hence passports. I’ve noticed that there is a special exemption from the fingerprinting at airports for 特別永住民, so who does this apply to? Are Korean citizens still allowed to hold this status after receiving ROK citizenship, or do they just get normal permanent residency rights? Are 特別永住民 (I’ve heard the term 在日 is now officially considered discriminatory, by the way) allowed to travel to Korea without passports? Who are these 特別永住民 that don’t get fingerprinted?

  48. Well, the vast majority of Zainichi have official ROK, DPRK or ROC (don’t forget there are Taiwanese Zainichi as well) citizenship, and those who only have so-called “Chousen-citizenship,” i.e. citizens of a defunct state which is only on the books in Japan due to a historical and legal quirk, may only travel with Japan-issued travel documents for stateless residents. I actually have no idea whatsoever whether either South or North Korea accepts such visitors, although I would assume that they don’t, since as I understand it these particular people are only stateless out of refusal to accept citizenship in one of the two currently existing Koreas.

    As for travel to other countries, I believe such travel documents give you the right to apply for a visa to visit any country, which will likely require far more documentation and interviews than required for a visitor with an actual passport, and is probably also far more likely to be refused. As stateless, they are naturally not eligible for any of the many convenient visa waiver programs which exist worldwide between pairs of countries.

    I’m willing to accept Zainichi as discriminatory (here’s a question: does being discriminatory in Japanese also make it so in English?) but I think we need a generally agreed term to replace it before I can stop using it. Should it be SPR, short for “Special Permanent Residents?” How about TES, short for “Tokubetsu Eijuu Sha,” the Japanese version of the above term? I’m not sure such a generic sounding would work particularly well in English as a replacement for extremely particular and unique “Zainichi” though.

  49. “I’ve heard the term 在日 is now officially considered discriminatory, by the way”

    No.That’s not true. See what the title of recent autobiography(of a sort)from Crown Prince of Zainichi Korean and Todai Prof.Kang Sang Joon says.

    What turned into an official discriminatory category is Sangokujin
    三国人,a term used by Korean and Taiwanese themselves during the occupation days according to historian,Hata Ikuhiko.Hata秦,BTW is a name of those with Korean ancestral background in Japan.

  50. Back to the original subject, a quick update:

    I was departing Boston this morning, returning from the business trip where this all started, and again used my gaijin card as ID. Here’s what happened:

    ME: Hi, how ya doin’? (hands over papers)
    TSA GUY: (scrutinizes the card for about 10 seconds) Does this have an expiration date?
    ME: Yeah, see where it says “renew by 2011?”
    TSA GUY: Oh yeah. OK, cool. Here you go. Haven’t seen one of these before.

    A slightly related thing I noticed yesterday: The Financial Times said that Continental is adopting mobile phone boarding passes using QR codes. The article was kind of in awe of this idea without noting that it has been employed in a bazillion Japanese contexts (including airlines) for a while now.

    Has anyone else read the 16-page Economist special on the Japanese economy this week? I love the “model 20-something Japanese guy” they have on the first page, complete with funky tie and glasses.

  51. I’ve never seen the QR codes used on a Japanese airline, but then I’ve also never flown domestically within Japan.

    The first time I had a QR code on my phone was for that giant 12 story entertainment center arcade place in downtown Kyoto, with the weird jungle-themed exterior face, back in 2002 or 2003.

  52. Great posts Joe! Really enjoying them.

    “Continental is adopting mobile phone boarding passes using QR codes.”

    Really interested in hunting down that article. Do you have an URL it?

  53. Sadly, the article was in the print edition so there’s no URL for me to share (and Ms. Joe kept my copy at her apartment so I can’t even give you the page number…)

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