During this weekend's Yakuza press conference, actor Susumu Terajima made remarks that might get Yakuza Kiwami 2 cancelled in South Korea.
With credits ranging from Sonatine to When Marine Was There, Terajima is a well-known character actor who typically plays yakuza types. During the Yakuza Kiwami 2 press conference, Yakuza designer Toshihiro Nagoshi asked Terajima for the last word.
Terajima said, "Today, there are...several of the people up on this stage are Koreans, truly... I only hope no missiles come flying from Korea."
There are many things to unpack here. First, the word Terajima used is "Chousenjin" (朝鮮人), which literally means "Korean person." The problem is that the word doesn't make any difference between North and South Koreans, with the word for North Koreans being "Kita-Chousenjin" ("Kita" means "North") and the word for South Koreans being "Kankokujin" ("Kankoku" means "South Korea").
Koreans make up a large ethnic group in Japan. Those with permanent residency are either "zainichi Kankokujin" if they are South Korean or "zainichi Chousenjin." The term "zainichi" (在日) means "Japanese resident." For example, North Korean schools in Japan are called "Chousenjin Gakkou" (Korean Schools), which are sponsored by North Korea and teach the students pro-North Korean ideology.
So although the word "Chousenjin" is used in an official context, the word "Chousenjin" can be considered a slur, especially if it's directed all all Koreans. For North Koreans in Japan, "zainchi Chousenjin" is the proper term and for North Koreans "Kita-Chousenjin" is correct. Because the word "Chousenjin" is, on its own, loaded and seen as offensive.
But, the comment is more than that. This weekend, North Korea once again fired test missiles. Now might not be the best time for bad missile jokes.
As soon as Terajima made his remark, one of the other actors on stage, Hakuryu, laughed and said, "The hell are you saying." Born Jun Jung-Il, Hakuryu is a second-generation Korean Japanese. He's made a career out of playing yakuza characters and has known and worked with Terajima for years.
Also, as Terajima was making his remark, Nagoshi was saying, "Waiii...Sto..."
As soon as Terajima finished, the audience was awkwardly silent, not sure to make of what he had said, especially because like Hakuryu, several of the Japanese-born actors on stage are rumoured to be of Korean descent.
Comedian Yuichi Kimura, who also appears in Yakuza Kiwami 2, then said and gestured to Terajima, "There's going to be a public apology after this."
Online in South Korea, however, the reaction to Terajima's remark has been so bad that there's even concern that the backlash could cause the game to be cancelled in South Korea, where the games have a diehard following. Note that not everyone online in South Korea was attacking the actor, especially those Yakuza fans who didn't want the game banned.
On popular Korean bulletin board Ruliweb (via tipster Sang), some comments include:
"Some who are defending this are saying the word Chousenjin is talking about North Korea and this is a misunderstanding and what not, but it's not just the word. This is an official formal event to announce the game where Korean Japanese are present, and the situation where they are being mentioned and saying don't shoot missiles is ridiculous. Even if it was a domestic [South Korean] game, they will still be blasted regardless of what word was used. If you said, 'I am saying this because there are Japanese people here. Please solve the Comfort Women and Dokdo issue', it will have major backlash."
"To the people who are trying to defend this, I'll give you this example:
At the The Howling premier event (Korean movie with a Japanese actor in it)
Korean actor: There is a Japanese person in the cast and I hope nuclear fallout doesn't blow over here lol"
A top comment on website Inven:
"Right, so some of the people on stage are jjokbari [Korean slur for Japanese] so I'd like to ask nuclear fallout to not blow here from fuckin' Japan. Thank you."
A top comment on Naver Sports:
"I can understand how some people want to defend the situation because they think the game might get cancelled but don't defend his comment. What's not is not. I am not going to pressure you to not buy it but you have to be able to say what's not right is not right.
Anyway, I am surprised that such an uneducated person is a voice actor."
According to Gamemeca (via tipster Sang), a Sega Korea rep is quoted as saying, "We've noted the severity of the situation and relayed the domestic public opinion to the HQ. It seems like there will be a response from the HQ to ensure that the said comment won't affect the domestic release."
Gametoca reports that Sega Korea said, "We've relayed Korean players' feedback regarding the comment and their demand for an apology to HQ."
Update: Sega Korea has since issued an apology for the comments:
Apology for the comment made by a speaker at the Sega sponsored event
There was an inappropriate comment from the speaker at the Yakuza Studio’s new title announcement event, which took place on 8/26.
We sincerely apologize for the anger it has caused everyone due to the incident.
Sega group is working hard to deliver emotional experience to the players worldwide and deeply regretting about this incident.
We will assure that such incident will not happen in the future.
Once again, we truly apologise.
Thanks to reader Sang for translating the apology.