Why Did Japan Refuse Singer Lee Seung Chul Entry Into Japan?

D-Bo , Nov. 12, 2014, 9:08 a.m.


Veteran K poop singer Lee Seung Chul and his wife were his wife were denied entry into Japan on Sunday and had to return to Korea after being detained by Japanese immigration authorities for around four hours. 

Lee Seung Chuk is a South Korean singer. He was the main vocal of Boohwal, a South Korean rock band, until 1989 when he parted with the band and released his first solo album, Don't Say Good-Bye. In 2005 his 7th album, The Livelong Day, won him Korean Music Awards for best male singer.  He has been working for a judge in reality television series Superstar K. On August 27, 2014, Lee performed "Arirang", "Bridge over Troubled Water" and "The Day" at the opening ceremony of the 65th Annual UN DPI / NGO Conference.

His Japanese debut was in 2006, under A&M Japan. His debut Japanese album is entitled Sound of Double. In October 2010, Lee represented Korea and performed at the 7th Asia Song Festival, organized by Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange, at the Seoul Olympic Stadium.

Tokyo has provided no plausible explanation. Lee said an interpreter told him the reason was an "incident reported in the media," which brought to mind a performance he gave on Dokdo in celebration of Liberation Day in August. 

Japan lays a flimsy colonial claim to the Korean islets on East Sea, maintaining the legal fiction that they are administered by Shimane Prefecture.   But Japanese immigration officials then apparently grilled Lee about a marijuana conviction from the 1990s. When Lee asked why this had not been raised during the last 15 visits he made to Japan since the incident, he was apparently told that the Internet had not been fully developed.

Authorization to enter a country is at the discretion of the host government and should not be an issue as long as the guidelines are reasonably clear. But denying entry to an individual without a plausible explanation could trigger a diplomatic row, as the Japanese government knows full well. 

Japan probably knew that the Korean public would find it difficult to believe that a record of smoking marijuana 24 years ago is a valid reason to deny entry to a top Korean singer. If the real reason was his performance on Dokdo, the Korean public would be appalled. Each year, more than 200,000 Koreans travel to the islets for patriotic reasons. If that constitutes grounds for denying people entry, Tokyo should deny it to all Korean citizens. 

Japan previously turned back a singer who sang a song called "Dokdo is Our Land," and when an actor swam to the islets to publicize Korea’s sovereignty a couple years ago, the country's vice foreign minister warned that the actor would not be allowed into Japan in the future.  Tokyo claims it is international consular practice not to comment on such matters. But it must realize that the more it clams up, the worse the situation will become. 

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