Japan 'human zoo' defamed indigenous Taiwanese

TOKYO (AFP) - A Japanese court has ordered public broadcaster NHK to pay US$10,000 (S$12,500) in damages to an indigenous Taiwanese woman for defaming her by using the term "human zoo" in a programme, officials said on Friday.

Overturning a lower court ruling, the Tokyo High Court ordered NHK on Thursday to pay US$1,000 to the woman, with Presiding Judge Noriaki Sudo reportedly saying the broadcaster used a term that had a "serious discriminatory meaning".

The programme looked at the "Japan-Britain Exhibition" held in London in 1910 to which Japan took several members of Taiwan's aboriginal population, including the father of the woman, as exotic exhibits, Jiji Press and Kyodo News reported.

Taiwan was a Japanese colony at the time, and the practice of exhibiting the little-known peoples of far-flung territories was a common one among Western imperial powers. Historians say Japan, which had emerged from self-imposed isolation just half a century earlier, joined in partly as an attempt to establish itself as an imperial power and mitigate the perceived risk of being colonised itself.

In the ruling, Judge Sudo said NHK "repeatedly used the term without giving consideration to its discriminatory meaning", which implied the people of the Paiwan - Taiwan's indigenous population - were uncivilised, the Tokyo Shimbun reported.

Some of those who took part did so earnestly, and not as mere curiosities, the judge said, according to the paper.

In a statement sent to AFP on Friday, NHK said: "We are sorry that our argument was not taken up. We will decide how to deal with the issue after studying closely the court's verdict."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.