Term Paper: Korean Resident in Japan

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Korean Residents in Japan

North Korean Ambassador Jong Thae Hwa enumerated the crimes Japan committed against the Korean people during the colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1942 (Kyodo 2000). He said that Japan robbed Korea of its cultural assets and afflicted its people during and after their colonization. He claimed Korea's right to demand compensation from Japan and Japan only had the duty to compensate. Japanese and North Korean negotiators engaged in a round of talks centering on a four-point demand. This consisted of an official written apology, compensation for North Koreans, repayment for damaged or stolen cultural assets, and improvement in the legal status of North Koreans who would live permanently in Japan. Chief Japanese delegate Kojiro Takano refused the grant of wartime compensation because Japan and North Korea were not at war during the colonization of Korea. These normalization talks were the resumption of negotiations, which ceased after 8 rounds of talk (Kyodo).

The Japanese people have always wanted to be a homogenous country (Suzuki 2003). But the reality they must contend with is that there are roughly 700,000 North and South Korean nationals living in Japan. A vast majority of them were born, brought up and will continue living in Japan. Japan maintains the jus sanguinis nationality principle. Based on this principle, those now living in Japan with Korean descent and the first-generation Koreans constitute the largest foreign community. They include naturalized Zainichi Koreans and children of Korean-Japanese intermarriage. They represent roughly 1% of Japan's 120 million population, according to recent statistics. Present-day Koreans in the country are the fourth-generation descendants, who have been highly assimilated into the Japanese mold and society. The recent endogamy rate among Koreans is only 16.6%.The change to Japanese monolingual language has been largely achieved and puts the Korean language to the verge of extinction (Suzuki).

Despite the high assimilation level, Koreans in Japan have remained legal "aliens (Suzuki 2003)." The naturalization rate has gone up but strong resistance still exists among Koreans who regard those who opt naturalization as traitors. As expected, institutional discrimination against them not only prevails but is also officially imposed by the Japanese state. Around 90% of Koreans resort to using Japanese names and cover their culture just to avoid harassment. They are considered outcast. Nevertheless, Koreans are Japanese subjects who share a common culture and descent with the Japanese up to the end of World War II (Suzuki).

The kokutai ideology argues that the solidarity of the Japanese derives from a "natural bonds of blood (Suzuki 2003)." Japan's nationhood is a blood association, which excludes minorities. It is viewed as the superior form of political integration as only blood association could foster order, respect and love. In opposition, proponents of People's Rights and Christians instead present Japan as a multiethnic country. They advocate the soron ideology or the common descent assumption. They hold that Japanese and Koreans share that common descent. Hoshino Wataru in the 1890s wrote a thesis that the imperial people came from the Korean peninsula. They later expanded their jurisdiction to mainland Japan. He contended that the Japanese and the Koreans evolved from the same race and spoke the same language. He thus justified the annexation of Korea as nothing more than "the reunion of two long-separated brothers (Suzuki)."

An ethnic Korean will be denied Japanese nationality legally and socially despite residency in Japan if he refuses to completely assimilate into Japanese society (Alvin 2003). A Korean Japanese status is a contradiction and cannot exist in Japan. This contradiction is grounded and perpetuated by racial exceptionalism of the Japanese people, the national identity formation and Japanese colonial policies concerning Korea. Identity formation provides the basic perceptions and standards for another race as well as the value assigned to them. The fall of the Tokugawa shogunate allowed the formation of a national identity. The assumption of the Meiji leadership and Japan's evolution into a modern state led to initial efforts at forming that national identity. It would involve and include drawing new boundaries around groups who did not have or share a sense of belonging with the community. Ideologies had to be set up to realize an imagined or idealized community. Ideologies pictured the Japanese as a separate people with an imperial house, which has stood for more than two thousand years. They saw the Japanese people as possessing unique attributes and pure blood as well as a unique mission of leading Asia. They perceived Japan's racial superiority and linked the perception to the formation of a national identity. They argued that external agents, such as Confucianism and Buddhism, corrupted the pristine purity of the land. These obscured the genuine Japanese spirit and deprived Japan of its rightful position in the world order. Ideologists contended that the ruling imperial house had remained intact through the many ages because of Japan's superiority to other countries. This was also the reason why these other countries respect and stand in awe of Japan. Becoming Japanese was equivalent to a definition of racial purity, nation and a "Family State." The Family State was a concept of nation and citizenship, which was revised according to racial mythology. Criteria for membership in the national community had to be cultural and biological. Japanese colonialism was perceived as important in that it would serve as the legal foundation for the official governmental dealings with the Koreans. The paradox of being Korean and becoming Japanese stood against the Koreans. The only escape was assimilation. This legal framework of assimilation must take into account the government side of it (Alvin).

Migrations brought the two races into regular contact (Alvin 2003). However, Social Darwinism, a major component of Japanese colonial ideology, considered the Koreans inferior. Unwholesome or negative opinions about their economic, political and social subordination to the Japanese provided further evidence of their inferiority. These concepts combined to justify their subordination and make it both necessary and unavoidable. The policy of assimilation was then formulated. It constructed a new racial order, which would entail a voluntary or involuntary abandonment of the Koreans' indigenous institutions and languages. It would require strict adherence to Japanese patterns of thought and behavior of obedience to the master race. It would center on loyalty and allegiance to the Japanese emperor. Interaction between the Japanese and ethnic Koreans would provide key indicators on how the government would deal with the Koreans and other races (Alvin).

At certain historical periods, the Japanese state officially acknowledged evolving from the same Mongolian race or sharing the same descent with the Korean people (Suzuki 2003). It also stressed that the Koreans and the Japanese were also almost culturally synonymous. But this recognition did not help or alleviate the Koreans' oppressed condition. Instead, it was exploited as a justification for coercive assimilation and imperialization in its most severe form. It only rendered the Korean minority invisible even superficially. The Japanese empire used this means to usurp the territories of its subjects. It applied the techniques of dominance built around differences in skin tones as justification of cultural superiority. But because of the similarity between the two races, that arrogated superiority rested more on cultural and religious differentiation. It was the thrust in eliciting a division and building a boundary between "then" and "us (Suzuki)."

The Korean population in Japan was a very small group, which constituted 85% of Japan's total resident foreign population (Minorities at Risk 2003). Most of them were born in Japan and speak the Japanese language as their native tongue. The first Koreans entered Japan in the early 20th century and settled in the larger Japanese cities. Many of them moved to Japan due to conscription while Korea was under Japan's rule. Many of them chose to stay. Because of their small number and assimilating into Japanese society, these Koreans did not become cohesive. They found assimilating difficult because of their inherent culture and their distinct physical appearance (Minorities at Risk).

Koreans in Japan also confronted demographic problems of slight decline in caloric intake and poor health conditions as compared to the Japanese population (Minorities at Risk 2003). The Japanese government refused them citizenship. They could not vote in local elections. They were also deprived of positions in the government, in civil service, police force and the military. The Koreans in Japan have remained an economically neglected group. They have been historically and traditionally confined to the lowest paying jobs where they were also discriminated against. They have become a marginalized minority. They have also been subjected to cultural restrictions. The Korean language is not recognized as an official language and, therefore, cannot be used to publish official information. Korean weddings and some cultural events are not acknowledged. Furthermore, there have been reports of ethnically motivated aggression against them, particularly Korean schoolgirls who wear traditional clothing. Fatalities have been reported from the aggressive attacks (Minorities at Risk).

Many of the first-generation Koreans entered Japan on their own to take advantage of economic opportunities during the first part of Japan's… [END OF PREVIEW]

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