Media Mix, May 2, 2021

Yoshiaki Yoshida

Here’s this week’s Media Mix about bigoted comments made by Yoshiaki Yoshida, the chairman and founder of the cosmetics/health supplement company DHC, and the media reaction. Some marginal matters that didn’t make it into the column but are nevertheless relevant: Originally, I had written the anti-Korean slur in the article because it has appeared in other English-language coverage of the matter but was told by an editor that the word is considered extremely derogatory, on par with the N-word. This would seem to indicate that recognition of anti-Korean hate speech has yet to permeate the culture at large, since even the BBC used the word. Also, last year the magazine Shukan Bunshun reported that Yoshida, reacting badly to the news that his company was no longer the sales leader in the industry, urged employees to blanket fake-post on consumer bulletin boards using pseudonyms to boost the image of DHC’s products while at the same time blasting his own advertising department’s work, saying the ads were “childish.” As pointed out in the column, his beef with Suntory was prompted by his losing market share to the liquor giant, which also sells health supplements, and this brought out his bigoted side more prominently. Bunshun, which seems to have a grudge against the company, also interviewed an employee in January who was fired for having openly criticized Yoshida for his anti-Korean rants and gave Bunshun a recording of a human resources person asking him to quit, which he refused to do, thus forcing the company to dismiss him. In the recording, the human resources person said that hate speech “is not a problem” in the company. The fired employee is suing DHC, seemingly to get his job back. 

One more side note: DHC started out as a translation company that also offered lessons in translating. When Masako and I were first starting out as translators we entered a contest that DHC was running as a means of drumming up students. The winner would receive ¥50,000 and a chance to work for the company as a freelancer. The winning translations (there were two — one for Japanese to English, another for English to Japanese) would also be published. As it happens we won the J to E prize, and while we did receive the money they never asked us to do any work after that. Also they never published our translation, which was of an interview in Japanese with scholar Douglas Lummis, an American who is famous for defending the rights of native Okinawans, which seems ironic now given Yoshida’s reactionary proclivities, including his bigoted feelings toward Okinawans. Less pertinent but still interesting and slightly ironic, Masako’s late father was a Korean immigrant, though there was no way that DHC would have known this because Masako doesn’t bear his name. In any case, a company that deals in translation as a business should be expected to be more tolerant of other cultures, I would think. So maybe Yoshida’s bigotry was something that developed over time; or just became more apparent as he got older and richer.

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