Koreans in Japan
Koreans in Japan
ETHNONYMS: Zainichi Kankoku-Chôsenjin, Zainichi Korian
Identification and Location. Koreans in Japan generally refers to those people who came to that country during Japanese colonial rule over Korea (1910-1945) and remained after the end of World War II and their descendants. The Japanese state reckons nationality by a person's parents' nationality, and so the majority of Koreans in Japan (perhaps 90 percent) are classified as Japan-born, second-, third-, and fourth-generation Koreans of non-Japanese nationality.
The majority of these hold Republic of Korea (ROK) nationality. A large minority constitutes those who have not converted to ROK nationality since Japan established formal relations with that country in 1965. Many of these are affiliated with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), with which Japan has not established formal diplomatic relations, and its Japan-based representative organization.
In addition, there are many ethnic Koreans who have taken Japanese nationality and those who are the offspring of marriages between resident Koreans and Japanese parents. While members of these groups enjoy full legal rights as Japanese nationals, many share in the issues of ethnic identity of their foreign-national co-ethnics, and are sometimes vulnerable to informal ethnic discrimination. The term "zainichi" Korean distinguishes those who trace genealogical descent in Japan back to the colonial period from more recent, so-called "new-comer," ethnic Korean immigrants from the republic of Korea and elsewhere.
Demography. By the final days of World War II over two million Koreans, approximately 10 percent of all Koreans, lived in Japan. Most of these people were repatriated to the peninsula after Japan's surrender in August 1945, but about 600,000 remained. At the end of the year 2000 the population of Koreans with special permanent residency in Japan, a category that generally applies to former colonial subjects residing in Japan since around the end of World War II and their descendants, amounted to 507,429. Between 1952, when colonial subjects were formally divested of their Japanese nationality, and 2000 over 240,000 Koreans in Japan naturalized.
Upward of 90 percent of Koreans in Japan trace their roots to the southern portion of the peninsula, with the largest numbers coming from the provinces of South Kyongsang, North Kyongsang, Cheju, and South Cholla.
The overwhelming majority of Koreans in Japan are native speakers of Japanese, which generally is thought to be affiliated with the Altaic language family. Most first-generation Koreans in Japan are native speakers of Korean, which also is in the Altaic family, and a minority of younger Koreans have various degrees of competency in Korean as a second language.
History and Cultural Relations
Although there have been flows of people, ideas, and cultural products from the Korean peninsula to the Japanese archipelago for many centuries, the presence of Koreans in Japan is a product of modern Japanese colonization of the Korean peninsula. When the peninsula was formally annexed by Japan in 1910, Koreans were made imperial subjects and Japanese nationals. Although there was some migration to Japan before that time, the flow increased significantly in the early 1920s, when colonial government restrictions were relaxed. Koreans flowed into Japanese urban centers, particularly to the Osaka-Kobe area, where they provided labor for the burgeoning Japanese industries at wages significantly below those of their Japanese counterparts.
Beginning in the late 1930s with Japan's launching of full-scale war in China, recruitment of Koreans to provide manual labor for the Japanese economy became increasingly coercive, culminating in a labor draft organized by the Japanese government from 1943. Koreans provided wartime labor in construction, mining, and munitions production. Colonial policy toward Koreans in Japan and on the peninsula was assimilationist and became increasingly harsh in the later 1930s and 1940s. The use of the Japanese language, worship at Shinto shrines, and the adoption of Japanese-style names were made compulsory on the peninsula, and the colonial government attempted to suppress the use of the Korean language and other markers of Korean culture. Similar assimilationist measures were put in place in Japan from the mid-1930s under the aegis of the Kyôwakai (Harmony Association).
With the Allied occupation of Japan after World War II, the legal status of resident Koreans became ambiguous. As early as 1945 the Japanese government ended suffrage for Koreans and other former colonial subjects. In 1947 an imperial edict, later codified in law, was issued that required Koreans and other former colonial subjects still residing in Japan to carry alien registration documents. In 1952, with Japan's resumption of full sovereignty, former colonial subjects living in that country were formally and unilaterally stripped of Japanese nationality.
Japanese government policy toward Koreans in Japan since has combined assimilationist and exclusionary elements. Naturalization was made difficult and was predicated on an applicant's assimilation to the Japanese lifestyle and social norms. Until the 1980s, when Japan acceded to international agreements on human rights and refugees, Koreans were systematically denied social security benefits because of their nationality. Discrimination in housing, employment, and marriage, though less harsh than in previous decades, remained in force at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Koreans live throughout Japan but are overwhelmingly an urban population. Over 40 percent reside in the western prefectures of Osaka, Hyogo, and Kyoto, with other concentrations in Tokyo, Aichi, and Fukuoka. Although many are dispersed among their Japanese neighbors, others live in more segregated or clustered settlements that reflect the historical circumstances of their settlement in Japan, such as within or near communities of Burakumin (Japan's former outcastes) and in areas near industrial sites where Koreans were employed as workers.
Subsistence. During the colonial era the vast majority of Koreans in Japan were engaged in manual labor, especially mining, construction, and factory work. Most Koreans were poor and occupied substandard housing. A dynamic Japanese economy has left the Korean population more diverse in terms of employment and more class-stratified. However, the colonial legacy, employment discrimination, and their foreign nationality have resulted in Koreans' concentration in less stable and lower-prestige smaller firms and in self-employment and family employment. Although Koreans are overrepresented among the poorer levels of society, the Korean community has produced a number of successful entrepreneurs and professionals.
Commercial Activities. Barred for most of their history in Japan from stable salaried employment, Koreans have a legacy of commercial enterprises. Overwhelmingly small and often dependent on family labor, Korean business activities are largely in manufacturing and in the restaurant business and other service areas. An ethnic economy centered on foods such as kimchi exists in areas of Korean concentration. The market for those products has been expanding since the mid-1980s as elements of Korean cuisine have become more widely appreciated among Japanese.
Industrial Arts. Korean-owned manufacturing in Japan is concentrated in metals and plastics. Most Korean manufacturing firms are small independent subcontractors that produce for larger Japanese firms. They are particularly vulnerable to business cycle fluctuations, and working conditions are often difficult or dangerous.
Trade. Taking advantage of language skills, cultural knowledge, or social contacts, some Koreans, ranging from small-scale peddlers to well-capitalized entrepreneurs, are involved in international trade between Japan and the Republic of Korea. Some Chongryun-affiliated Koreans serve as middlemen in the much smaller trade between Japan and the DPRK.
Division of Labor. Men in the role of breadwinners or managers of household enterprises is the norm among Koreans in Japan. Women are expected to perform household chores. Many women also contribute labor to family enterprises or take part-time positions. Among families in the Korean restaurant trade a grandmother may lend her skills, knowledge, and labor in preparing food or making kimchi. Although educational opportunities have become nearly equalized for most Koreans (graduates of Chongryun-affiliated high schools face barriers to admission to national universities), employment discrimination often hinders Koreans' efforts to translate educational attainment into employment and social status.
Land Tenure. Data from Osaka suggest that Koreans have a higher rate of home ownership than do Japanese. This probably is due to the housing discrimination Koreans have faced, with landlords refusing to rent to them, as well as Koreans' frequent use of housing as dual residential-work space for small-scale manufacturing. Land tenure is governed by Japanese real property law, which is informed by capitalist principles of private property.
Kin Groups and Descent.
The Confucian-influenced kinship system of Korea is characterized by corporate descent groups, patrilineality, and primogeniture. Age, generational rank, and patriarchal privilege order relations within these groups. Written genealogies (chokpo) support patrilineal kinship reckoning of great genealogical depth.
Kinship links were central to the chain migration that characterized Koreans' movement to Japan until the late 1930s. Kinship is still important in social relations, particularly as an avenue for employment and labor recruitment. However, many Koreans in Japan have lost the ties to land, community, and communal ritual practice that form the backbone of corporate kinship groups. Language and, increasingly, cultural barriers, along with distance and in some cases, DPRK affiliation, also hinder the involvement of Koreans in Japan in homeland-based kin groups. Active involvement with kin among Koreans in Japan thus is for the most part limited to the three or so generations residing in Japan.
Kinship Terminology. Although the majority of Koreans in Japan are not fluent speakers of Korean, the Korean terms they are most likely to know and use are the basic terms of family relationships. Korean kinship terminology can express various distinctions of generational depth and collateral breadth, but those terms have lost their relevance in the social relational environment of most Koreans in Japan.
Marriage. Strong sanctions for both men and women encourage marriage for Koreans in Japan. Among first-generation Koreans in Japan as well as among those educated in the DPRK-affiliated schools in Japan, there has been a marked preference for ethnic endogamy. For the latter group there are ready opportunities to find a Korean mate. In recent years, however, the vast majority of marriages involving Koreans in Japan have been to a Japanese partner (82 percent in 1994). Opportunity plays a great role, as most Koreans go to school, work, and live in a largely Japanese social environment. Although these "international marriages" often take place in the face of opposition from one or both families, the strength of social sanctions has declined in recent years.
Domestic Unit. Early in their settlement in Japan, Koreans were a largely male population. Family formation accelerated in the 1930s and 1940s. Koreans have come to live largely in nuclear or, less commonly, three-generation households. The Korean population, like the Japanese, is an aging one. The number of single elderly persons and elderly couples living on their own is increasing, with many not receiving adequate social service support.
Inheritance. Korean inheritance practices traditionally involve oldest sons receiving the greatest share of property from the natal household in exchange for greater responsibility for the care of elderly parents. Inheritance laws in the Republic of Korea were revised in 1990 to eliminate this exceptional treatment of the household head-heir as well as to equalize rights across genders. These are the laws that apply when a Korean national of the ROK who is resident in Japan passes away, leaving property. Japanese inheritance law prevails when the deceased passing on an inheritance is DPRK-affiliated.
Socialization. Korean parents in Japan have several options for their children's formal schooling. Since 1955 the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (abbreviated in Korean as Chongryun), which was founded as an organization with political allegiance to the DPRK has operated a Korean school system that runs from preschool through university. Chongryun-operated schools furnish an education aimed at what they refer to as "overseas nationals" of the DPRK. They teach a full curriculum of Korean language and history and a range of other academic courses. As they do not meet Ministry of Education and Science curriculum requirements in Japan-related fields such as history and language, they are not accredited as academic institutions but are placed in the category of "miscellaneous schools." They do, however, leave their graduates with a firm Korean identity. Figures from Osaka suggest that in the mid-1990s about 12 percent of Korean children attended Chongryun-operated schools.
There are also four ROK-oriented or unaffiliated schools that offer the basic Japanese school curriculum with Korean-oriented electives. In both the Chongryun and the ROK-affiliated schools students are recognized and acknowledge one another as Koreans and use their ethnic Korean names.
The vast majority of Korean children—well over 80 percent—are educated in Japanese schools, where they learn Japanese history, geography, and language along with their Japanese classmates. Native Japanese speakers, most use a Japanese-style name, rendering their Korean heritage invisible to their classmates. For the most part treated as Japanese and raised in an overwhelmingly Japanese environment, most develop at most a weak identity as Koreans. For most Korean children well into the 1980s discrimination and pressures to assimilate created an environment in which opportunities to be exposed to Korean culture were restricted.
An ethnic education movement launched in the mid-1970s is responsible for the establishment of extracurricular ethnic classes for Korean children in over a hundred public primary schools in Osaka Prefecture. Similar classes or clubs have been founded in primary and middle schools in other cities with large Korean populations. These classes focus on instilling in Korean children a positive Korean identity and an appreciative understanding of their Korean heritage.
Social Organization. Kinship continues to play a role in the social organization of Koreans in Japan. Ethnically based political organizations for Koreans in Japan also work to structure social interaction among some Koreans in Japan. Chongryun in particular, with its nationwide school system, provides a framework for bonding and network formation that may come into play in business dealings, labor recruitment, and marital introductions. For many other Koreans the Japanese school, the workplace, and the local community provide frameworks for social interaction within the majority Japanese society.
Political Organization. Immediately after Japan's defeat in World War II, Koreans formed mutual assistance organizations that soon became politicized and polarized into left- and right-leaning groups. The division of the Korean peninsula into two separate and opposed regimes in 1948, followed in 1950 by the Korean War, deepened the split within Japan's Korean community. Although it moderated in the 1990s, this split continues to structure the political organization of Koreans in Japan. At the same time, many people in the younger generations are not involved in political issues concerning the north-south divide.
With Koreans in Japan during the colonial and postwar periods forming an exploited working class, sympathy for the left was widespread. The League of Koreans, founded in 1945, was soon taken over by left-wing Koreans. Chongryun, its successor organization, was founded as an organization of "overseas nationals" of the DPRK. More right-wing elements formed Mindan (the Association of Korean Residents in Japan) in 1946. This group became affiliated with the ROK after its founding in 1948 and was given the responsibility for registering ROK nationals in Japan.
Chongryun, channeling substantial DPRK aid for Koreans in Japan, had overwhelming support well into the 1960s. In 1965, however, with the establishment of formal relations between Japan and the ROK, many Chongryun supporters became ROK nationals, as those nationals were guaranteed superior residency rights under the Japan-ROK normalization treaty. Conditions of residency were unified in 1991 for all Koreans holding special permanent residency.
Affiliation with Chongryun and with Mindan generally involves different kinds of commitment. Chongryun affiliation most often entails a high degree of organizational involvement. Members are expected to send their children to the separate Chongryun school system. That system provides both a DPRK-oriented Korean education and a context for cultivating ethnic solidarity based on a Korean identity. Thus, a strong normative framework comes attached to Chongryun affiliation. Mindan, on the other hand, plays a much smaller role in the socialization of most of its affiliates, and therefore does less to frame the experience of being Korean in Japan than does its DPRK-affiliated counterpart.
Social Control. Since their formation as a colonized and exploited population mobilized in large measure against their will, Koreans in Japan have been subject to a variety of forms of social control. Alien registration, immigration law, and the naturalization process have been important instruments of social control by the state. Under rules for alien registration, Koreans are required from the age of sixteen to carry an alien registration card at all times. Failure to produce the card upon demand is a punishable offense. After the highly visible antifingerprinting movement, revision of the alien registration law in 1993 ended the requirement that permanent residents supply a fingerprint for the card. Other information requirements were added, however, such as family and household composition and employment information.
In practice the Japanese naturalization process is intended to promote assimilation to Japanese cultural norms. For example, the living environment, lifestyle, and social contacts of applicants are investigated. Although there is no formal requirement for Koreans to take Japanese names, it is understood that using a Korean name can count against a person in the approval process. The criteria by which immigration officials make their judgments are not publicly disclosed.
As Koreans do not have suffrage, their political influence is restricted. Through informal means they are effectively barred from higher offices in local community organizations such as neighborhood organizations and school parent-teacher associations.
Conflict. The policies and practices of the Japanese state and discrimination and exploitation in Japanese society, and Koreans' resistance to these, have brought about frequent conflict. In the prewar period Korean participation as a vanguard element in the Japanese Communist Party brought Koreans into frequent clashes with the authorities. In the early postwar period efforts by the Occupation authorities to close down Korean schools resulted in mass Korean-led demonstrations, the largest of which took place in Kobe and Osaka.
In the historic 1974 Hitachi antiemployment discrimination case Koreans employed a legal strategy, as they also have in housing discrimination. Although such cases have resulted in victory, the judgments have been narrow and have not provided a broad legal precedent for outlawing discriminatory practices. In the antifingerprinting movement of the 1980s that sought the revision of Japan's alien registration procedures, Koreans employed both social movement strategy and legal challenges. In subsequent years Koreans have attempted to take the state and corporations to court to seek restitution for sex slaves ("comfort women") who were forced to serve Japanese soldiers during wartime and back payment of pensions or forced savings owed to former colonial subjects who were stripped of their rights to collect them when they were divested of Japanese nationality.
Organizations devoted to fighting discrimination employ direct negotiation, boycotts, and publicity to end discriminatory practices based on nationality. They also engage in educational activities to sensitize the government, corporations, and the public to issues of discrimination.
Religion and Expressive Culture
Religious Beliefs. The religious beliefs and practices of Koreans in Japan are diverse. Confucianist practice diffusely informs family interaction. There are also a number of Korean Christians in Japan. Shamanist rituals and divination as well as ancestor veneration rituals are performed at Korean temples in areas of Korean concentration. Some Koreans are followers of the so-called new religions in Japan. Some take part in community-based Shinto festivals and other calendrical rituals, although in the Japanese context these observances are not necessarily considered "religious" practices.
Religious Practitioners. Shamanist rituals, divination, and ancestor veneration rituals are carried out by ritual specialists called bosaru, mudang, and simpang. Christian ministers also have a visible presence in Japan's Korean community and have been among the leaders in movements to support their human rights. The Confucianist practice of chesa is undertaken within families, with the oldest male leading the ritual.
Ceremonies. The most important ethnically based ritual among Koreans in Japan (though generally not practiced among Christians) is chesa. This household ritual of making an offering to ancestors (in practice, usually up to the second generation) is held on ancestors' death-day anniversaries as well as at the New Year and during the summer festival of ch'useok.
In its emphasis on ancestor memorialization and its use of Korean food offerings (even if occasionally Japanized) and ritual forms, chesa provides an opportunity for a reaffirmation of ethnic identity. In many families, the ritual has become condensed and the number of participants has been reduced.
Buddhist and Christian rituals are held among families and individuals affiliated with those creeds. Shamanist rituals such as ancestor seances (kut) are practiced in some families, usually sponsored by older Korean women.
Arts. Korean traditional ethnic performance forms such as music, dance, and drama have been central elements in movements to build positive identities among younger Koreans in Japan. P'ungmul, a combined dance and percussionbased musical form, has its roots in traditional agricultural festivals. Through madang-guk, a type of open-air theater that takes themes and characters from folktales and traditional rural society, young Koreans have expressed their points of view and critiqued the injustices of Japanese society. Both of these forms appeared in the ethnic festivals first launched in the early 1970s and now are found in a number of communities with large Korean populations.
Koreans are represented in Japan's popular and high arts, from television and popular music to film, drama, and literature. Most Koreans who work in popular entertainment use Japanese "passing names" and thus are not publicly recognized as Koreans. In literature several Koreans have won Japan's most prestigious award for "high literature," the Akutagawa Prize.
Medicine. Koreans in Japan generally use biomedicai methods of treatment when ill, but some also resort to traditional Chinese medicine, which is commonly available in Japan. Healing rites are among the services offered at some Korean temples.
Death and Afterlife. Korean-run Buddhist temples specializing in funeral services exist in several areas with a sizable Korean population. Occasionally, shamanistic death rites are performed, with the participants being mostly older women. The chesa ritual emphasizes the continuing importance of departed ancestors in the lives of those they have left behind. Offering food and filial piety for the comfort of the ancestor, the descendants maintain a periodic interaction with comportment that is consonant with that for living elders. Ancestral veneration rites at Korean temples are undertaken to relieve the suffering of an ancestor when it is divined that that suffering has caused a family calamity or a decline in fortune. Korean Christians in Japan believe in personal salvation and biblical concepts of heaven and hell.
Fukuoka, Yasunori (2001). Lives of Young Koreans in Japan. Melbourne: Trans Pacific Press.
Hardacre, Helen (1984). The Religion of Japan s Korean Minority. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California.
Lee, Changsoo, and George De Vos (1981). Koreans in Japan: Ethnic Conflict and Accommodation. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Ryang, Sonia (1997). North Koreans in Japan: Language, Ideology, and Identity. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
——, ed. (2000). Koreans in Japan: Critical Voices from the Margin. London: Routledge.
Weiner, Michael (1989). The Ongins of the Korean Community in Japan: 1910-1923. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
—— (1994). Race and Migration in Imperial Japan. New York: Routledge.
JEFFRY T. HESTER
Koreans in Japan
Koreans in Japan
ETHNONYMS: Chösenjin (North Koreans), Kankokujin (South Koreans)
At present, there are 700,000 Koreans in Japan, three-fourths of whom were born in and have grown up in Japan. Most are legally classified as "resident aliens." Koreans make up 85 percent of Japan's resident alien population. Most Koreans in Japan speak no Korean.
The historical connection between Japan and Korea is very ancient. In the seventh century, many Japanese nobles claimed Korean ancestry. Nara-period documents (a.d. 710—784) claim that the Yamato regime had control of part of Korea. Archaeological evidence, however, demonstrates an early Korean presence in Japan, but no comparable Japanese presence in Korea.
Later history reversed the trend. From the tenth through the sixteenth centuries, Japanese pirates attacked Korea extensively. In 1592 Toyotomi Hideyoshi began a seven-year war with Korea as a prelude to taking China; he failed, but managed to destroy large regions of Korea. Japan overran Korea in 1904, annexing it in 1910. Koreans were dispossessed of land so that emigrant Japanese could farm it. Koreans were forced by the threat of starvation to go to Japan; by 1930 there were 419,009 Koreans in Japan. Between 1939 and 1945 Koreans were forcibly moved to Japan, and there were 2,400,000 in Japan by the end of World War II. During that war, Koreans worked primarily in the coal mines, but they also supplied cheap factory labor. This freed Japanese to enter the military. By 1944, the need for soldiers was so acute that even Koreans were conscripted. During their occupation of Korea, the Japanese burned Korean books and forced Korean schoolchildren to learn Japanese. Following the war, most Koreans in Japan returned to Korea; the 1950 Korean-Japanese population was 544,903. It was not until 1972 that most Koreans in Japan were granted permanent residency, ending their stateless existence.
Koreans are readily identifiable to Japanese by their monosyllabic, one-character surnames, which many Japanese treat with derision. As a result, most Koreans have adopted Japanese names in addition to their Korean names; only 20 percent of Korean high-school students in Japan are registered under Korean names. Many Koreans attempt to pass as Japanese to gain better employment or to enter private schools. When discovered, however, they are quickly fired or expelled under the pretext that they are not citizens.
It is possible for those Korean Japanese whose parents were born in Japan to become naturalized citizens of Japan. To be successful, the applicant must be of "good behavior," and this precludes anyone with even the most minor of police records. On the other hand, most Koreans do not wish to become naturalized. The older Koreans still harbor hatred of the Japanese for their past actions. Many younger Koreans do not wish to be naturalized because they realize that doing so will cost them the acceptance of the Korean community but will not gain them the acceptance of the Japanese. Naturalization also requires one to "Japanize" his or her name, an emotionally difficult step for many. Intermarriage, a large step toward full assimilation, is very popular; in 1972 48 percent of Koreans marrying in Japan married Japanese. Some of these marriages were to Burakumin, who often live near Korean communities and do not discriminate against Koreans.
Although there are Korean ghettos in Osaka and Tokyo, most Koreans are spread out in many places in Japan, and this has served to make their political organizations less effective. Political organization is further divided among Koreans themselves; some 350,000 belong or are sympathetic to the Mindan (Korean Resident Association in Japan) organization and support South Korea; another 300,000 belong or are sympathetic to the Chongnyon (General Federation of Koreans in Japan) organization and support the North Korean government. Members of Chongnyon are seen by the Japanese government as citizens of North Korea, with which they have no diplomatic relations. This means that Chongnyon members have no right to the free national health insurance, to child benefits, to welfare or pensions, or to free education. Because they live in Japan, however, they pay the same taxes that Japanese citizens pay.
The Japanese government closed several Korean ethnic schools in 1949. Now, only 20 percent of Korean schoolchildren attend Korean ethnic schools, nearly all of which are operated by Chongnyon and supported financially by the North Korean government as a propaganda effort; a major part of the curriculum of these schools is "Kim Il Sung Thought." Those who attend the Chongnyon schools may complete an all-Korean education at Chōsen University, also supported by Chongnyon. Those who graduate from Chongnyon schools and who wish to attend a Japanese university have a difficult time gaining entrance. In a country in which educational achievement is an important basis for assessing personal status, this fact has tremendous consequences. Koreans in Japan rarely have good jobs; most work as manufacturers of handicrafts, as day laborers, as restaurant, bar, mine, or factory workers, or in family-operated businesses. Further, the option of working for the government is open only to Japanese citizens.
See also Burakumin; Japanese; Korean
De Vos, George A., William O. Wetherall, and Kaye Stearman (1983). Japan's Minorities: Burakumin, Koreans, Ainu, and Okinawans. London: Minority Rights Group.
Min, Pyong Gap (1992). "A Comparison of the Korean Minorities in China and Japan." International Migration Review 26:4-21.
Wagner, Edward W. (1951). The Korean Minority in Japan, 1904-1950. New York: Institute of Pacific Relations.