Monday, January 29, 2018

Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) Endorses the "Comfort Women" Resolution!

A Historic Win: AAAS has become the nation's first national academic association to officially take a stand in solidarity with Comfort Women for their demand for justice!

We are extremely proud to announce that the Association for Asian American Studies Board of Directors unanimously voted to endorse the "Comfort Women" Resolution! This is a win for women’s rights, human rights, and most especially a measure of justice for our grandmothers, both those who have passed on and those who are still here with us. This victory is an attribution to the decades-long movement, led by the brave women who came out to tell their stories over 20 years ago. Community members, activists, and academics have followed suit, telling and memorializing our grandmother’s stories and rightly pointing out the unimaginably twisted atrocity inflicted and institutionalized by the Japanese imperial army, and forcefully denied as "official position" by the current Japanese government. Politicization of the issue, away from the human rights issue that it is, and Tokyo's active whitewashing of its militaristic past have put tremendous pressure on the scholars working on the issue of wartime sexual slavery and threatened our academic freedom.

In light of the recent news that Japan is threatening to boycott the South Korean Olympics due to President Moon publically rejecting the so-called 2015 “agreement” between South Korea and Japan, which did nothing to “resolve” the “Comfort Women” issue and instead completely silenced the demands by surviving grandmothers, the AAAS endorsement of the “Comfort Women” resolution is an important step in acknowledging and denouncing institutionalized sex slavery and 
resisting historical denialism. 

We will follow up with another email with an exciting list of presentations, panels, and our annual “Comfort Women” section meeting at the 2018 gathering in San Francisco, but for now, please see the statement below. The original resolution submitted for endorsement included over 100 signatories.

AAAS Board of Directors Statement on Supporting the Comfort Women Resolution

2018 Association for Asian American Studies Conference
March 29-31, 2018
Westin St. Francis, San Francisco, California

Regarding the campaign to “Support Remembrance of ‘Comfort Women’ and Their Endangered History,” the Association for Asian American Studies Board of Directors supports the following statement:

That the call to stand with the survivors of Japanese Imperial Army’s heinous atrocity of sexual enslavement system euphemistically known as the “Comfort Women” system as resistance to the current administration of Japan to whitewash its militaristic past is an important point. Mainstream Japanese institutions are complicit with Japanese government’s active denial and denigration of the truths and truth-bearers of this mass human rights violation the world cannot afford to banish into oblivion, as the world grapples with contemporary threats of colonial sexual violence again.

There was a careful distinction made between the Japanese government and its complicit institutions, and individual academics of Japanese ancestry. It is the former – the government and complicit institutions – that are the target of concern, and not individual scholars per se. The similarity of the “Comfort Women” denialism to the Holocaust denialism is also a matter to think about.

Because the US government does not oppose or protest the reprehensible actions of the Japanese government with respect to our right to historical truths, justice, education and academic freedom, it falls to civil society organizations like the AAAS to take up the call by the former Comfort Women grandmothers and their supporters to stand in solidarity with them as they make a principled demand for unequivocal acceptance of WWII era Japanese military sexual slavery, and justice. Academics in Japan who speak out against the Japanese government’s policies are subject to intimidation and retribution, and so it is crucial that the AAAS stand in solidarity with Japanese academics who protest the denialist actions of the state of Japan.

Specifically, the Endorsement “Supporting Remembrance of ‘Comfort Women’ and their Endangered History calls upon members of AAAS to educate, through courses, forums, and other means, the students, faculty, and staff on their campuses of the realities and truths of arguably the largest-scale mass human trafficking system of the 21st century, and the survivors of this horrific system whose stories are systematically derided and discredited by the Japanese government; to encourage further integration of this often-hidden history into relevant teaching curricula; and to forge alliances with academics and students conducting research on this subject.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Shame on Shinzo Abe, Taking the Olympics Hostage as Global Calls for Justice Pierce the 2015 “Comfort Women” Agreement

[repost from the "Comfort Women" Justice Coalition website / 「慰安婦」正義連盟ウェブサイトより再掲]

Shame on Shinzo Abe, Taking the Olympics Hostage as Global Calls for Justice Pierce the 2015 “Comfort Women” Agreement

On January 9, 2018, the government of the Republic of Korea (ROK) announced its position, in alignment with the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, that the 2015 ROK-Japan Agreement fails to take a “victim-centered” approach and does not constitute a true resolution of the issue of the Japanese Military “Comfort Women” System. Subsequently the ROK urged Japan to make a sincere apology to the victims, whom, with hideous dehumanizing violence, the Japanese Imperial Army had sexually enslaved as “war ammunition” for Japan’s imperial wars of aggression in dozens of countries across the Asia-Pacific region. Signalling displeasure with the ROK’s demand, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will reportedly boycott the Winter Olympics in the ROK next month, while stubbornly insisting that the Agreement had already resolved the “Comfort Women” issue — “fully and irreversibly.”
This Agreement, however, not only lacks official documentation, but fulfills none of the principled demands that, during the two decades preceding it, victims had outlined, as follows:
1. Acknowledgement of Japan’s military sexual slavery
2. Comprehensive investigation into the crimes
3. Official and legally-bound apology
4. Government reparations to all victims
5. Prosecution of the criminals
6. Ongoing education in Japan’s history textbooks
7. Construction of Memorials and Museums to remember victims and to preserve history
The Government of Japan (GOJ) used the 2015 Agreement effectively as a vehicle for shielding itself from having to fulfill any of these demands rather than restoring the victims’ dignity by means of a genuine resolution. The true goal of the Agreement is to promote the illusion that Japan has indeed apologized while simultaneously insisting the crimes did not occur. In the Agreement, the GOJ even prohibits the ROK from using the term “sexual slavery” and disapproves of memorial statues, while spending half a billion dollars for allegedly “recovering the honor and dignity” of the victims.
A sense of irony is not lost on us, when Prime Minister Abe accuses the ROK of foul play by allegedly breaking “an international and universal principle” of diplomacy in demanding Japan’s sincere apology. Isn’t it Japan that is engaging in foul play, to deceive the victims and the conscientious people of the world about the true intent of the Agreement? In complicity with the GOJ, all major Japanese press outlets, including Asahi, Yomiuri, and Mainichi, normalize the GOJ’s deception. With hateful language against Korean and Chinese communities, they recently mischaracterized our “Comfort Women” Memorial in San Francisco as a symbol of Japan bashing, while attacking our multi-ethnic and transnational solidarity for upholding the fundamental principles of justice and human rights. Instead of showing any hint of remorse, the Japanese media escalates the GOJ’s hateful anti-ROK propaganda.
By taking the Winter Olympics hostage, in a desperate measure to punish the ROK, Mr. Abe has hit a new low. What Japan needs in a leader today is integrity and commitment to humanity for a peaceful tomorrow. We call on the peace-loving people in Japan to join the international “Comfort Women” justice movement in denouncing the GOJ’s deception, demanding a full investigation of the Abe administration’s faulty diplomacy in the name of the Agreement, and leading a nationwide act of atonement for Japan’s past crime. By refusing to confront its imperial aggression, Japan has not only failed to end its racism and nationalism but is already turning back onto a path of full-blown fascism under the Abe administration. While the GOJ and the United States consider the “Comfort Women” issue as a mere stumbling block in their re-militarization agenda, it is the victims’ principled demands to the GOJ that will guide us on an alternative path to a peaceful and prosperous world free from fear of sexual violence, where all women, girls, and all people can live a life with respect and dignity.
January 18th, 2018
“Comfort Women” Justice Coalition


2015年の「合意」は初めから、当事者の意向を無視し、犠牲者の尊厳の回復と「慰安婦」問題の真の解決を目指しておらず、むしろ「合意」の主たる目的は日本政府がこれらの責任から逃れることにあった。「合意」の中で日本政府は被害者の「名誉と尊厳の回復」のために10億円の拠出を約束する一方、韓国政府に「性奴隷」という名称そのものの使用を禁じ、世界的な「慰安婦」記念像建設阻止を図っている。つまり一方で日本軍「慰安婦」制度という犯罪そのものを否定しながら、同時に日本はすでに犠牲者に謝罪したという幻想を作り出そうとしたのだ。 韓国政府が日本の自主的な、心からの謝罪を示唆したのに対し、安倍首相は韓国は「合意」を履行せず日本の裏をかき「国際的で普遍的」な外交の基本を逸脱したとして、韓国政府を責めたてている。しかし法的にも外交的にも一切拘束力のない「合意」を盾にして、その真の目的を隠し、犠牲者と良心的な世界の市民を姑息にも騙そうとした安倍政権こそが責められるべきではないだろうか?国際人権法の違反者である日本政府が、韓国政府を国際的外交の原則の違反者として責めたてるのは、皮肉以外の何物でもない。しかし残念なことに、朝日、読売、毎日など、日本の大手マスコミ各社も日本政府の欺瞞を批判するどころか、日本政府に追従し日本政府の異常な主張をあたかも正常であるかのように報道している。我々が正義と人権の原則に則って、民族の枠を超え国際的な団結の象徴としてサンフランシスコに建てた「慰安婦」像に関しても、日本のマスコミはあたかも反日の日本叩きのシンボルであるかのように報道し、一部マスコミは韓国系・中国系のアメリカ市民に対する差別的なヘイトスピーチを 紙面上で繰り返している。今回の「合意」に関する報道でも、過去の罪に対する日本の国家としての責任に基づく後悔、反省の念のかけらも見られず、日本政府によるヘイトに満ちた反韓国のプロパガンダをただ繰り返すのみだ。

Thursday, July 6, 2017

CWJC 2017 Summer Lecture Series: "Justice for Comfort Women"

Dear friends,

As you may know, as cofounders of Comfort Women Justice Coalition (CWJC) in San Francisco, our member has been working hard to organize this very rare and special opportunity.

As Prime Minister Abe and the government of Japan has been employing various strategies to undermine the volumes of backbreaking research and documentation to support the undeniable facts of the Japanese Military Sexual Slavery as part of its militaristic past during WWII (for which we Zainichi Koreans in Japan continue to suffer its legacies of colonial racism in postwar Japan), we believe that it is of utmost importance to help reveal more new studies coming out to render the hidden voices of hudnreds of thousands of victims of this horrific system of colonial sexist violence visible, and validated, once and for all. Only then, will justice be won, to pave the way for a future where the fundamental human rights of all girls and women are protected in the world. 

Thanks for your interest, and we hope you can join us!


Please join us for the CWJC 2017 Summer Lecture Series "Justice for Comfort Women" on July 7th (at SFSU) and July 19th (at Cathay House Restaurant, SF). 
We are delighted to sponsor two lectures by Prof Peipei Qiu (co-sponsored by SFSU Asian American Studies Department) and Prof Su Zhiliang (co-sponsored by Global Alliances), the esteemed authors of the critically acclaimed book, Chinese Comfort Women: Testimonies from Imperial Japan's Sex Slaves (Oxford University Press, 2014). The book has been named Best Book of the Year by the Chinese American Librarians Association and received numerous raving reviews. Publishers Weekly, for example, stated that "This vital work, combining exemplary scholarship and humanitarian activism, should prove valuable to a wide audience and indispensable to specialists."
Professor Qiu's topic is "Comfort Women"-Imperial Japan's Sex Slaves During the Asian Pacific War.  Profesor Su's topic is Road to UNESCO Recognition of Nanjing Massacre and the "Comfort Women" in the Memory of World Register.  
This is a rare opportunity that allows us to learn directly from those scholars on their decades of scholarship that has significantly expanded and revised our understanding of the so-called Japanese Military "Comfort Women" system.  
Professor Peipei Qiu's talk
Fri, July 7, 2017
1:30pm - 3:00pm
San Francisco State University, Library 121
1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco
Professor Su Zhiliang's talk
Wed, July 19, 2017
4:30pm - 5:30pm
Cathay House Restaurant
718 California Street, San Francisco 
Banquet with Professor Su Zhilian
at Cathay House Restaurant (after the public lecture)
$25 per person.
Must RSVP at 

More information at:

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Upcoming Event: Zainichi-themed Film Screening in Berkeley


Film screening of The Sky Blue Symphonya documentary by the Zainichi filmmaker Yeongi Park from Japan about Zainichi Korean youths in "Chosen Gakko" (Korean Schools) in Japan. 

The Director will join us from Osaka in person to show and discuss the film, and share first-hand account of what's going on in our communities on the ground in Japan!

Date: Thursday, March 2, 2017  
Time: 6:00-8:30pm
Location: Room 141, Giannini Hall, UC Berkeley -- off Hearst Street (10 minutes from Downtown Berkeley BART); map link:

*FREE! Light refreshments will be served
*Language: Japanese and Korean, with English subtitles

6:00pm Reception with the Director
6:30pm Film Screening
8:00pm Q&A, Discussion with the Director
Join us!! See you there!!
Sponsored by: Eclipse Rising, Zainichi Corean Social Justice Organization
EclipseRising [at]


Born in Japan in 1975, as a third generation Korean in Japan. Graduated from Kanagawa Korean Middle and High School, and from Korea University in Japan (majored in philosophy). Studied film and movie at the Vantan Academy. His short film “Wearing,” made for the graduation work was shown at film festivals in Japan, North and South Korea. He has participated in motion picture production of many genres since. “Sky Blue Symphony” is a master compilation of his diligent efforts capturing the Korean schools, their students and activities all over Japan for the past decade.

Director Statement

The Korean Schools in Japan, where Koreans born and raised in Japan attend, have a long history of discrimination and persecution. They have been exposed to violence because they have a relationship with North Korea. However, nobody has dealt with the relationship in detail. Though their roots are in South Korea, why do they call North Korea their homeland? Why do they look full of hope and tell their dreams with confidence in spite of so much hardship? I made this film to seek the answer to these questions.


This documentary mainly filmed the 2 week-long trip of the Zainichi Korean students who attend one of Japan's 60 Korean schools to North Korea (DPRK). As third and fourth generation Koreans born and raised in Japan, students' visit to their ancestral home country is profound, as captured in film through their talks, singings, and other interactions with their Korean brethren there. At Panmunjom, which is a symbolic place of the tragic division of our one Korea, looking over to the South, the land of their ancestors’ birthplaces, they are overcome by the realization of the tragedy of the war -- and the deep, indelible mark left upon their own lives and struggle with identity and belonging. What does "homeland" mean to these students, born as "alien" in the former colonial metropole, in a country that refuses to accept them as members of the only society they know to be home, and seek to reclaim their cultural and ancestral heritage through a most vilified country in the world?

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Please endorse the 2017 AAAS Resolution Proposal to Support "Comfort Women"

Dear Eclipse Rising supporters,
We have an urgent, time-sensitive request, to endorse the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) resolution proposal, “Supporting Remembrance of ‘Comfort Women’ and their Endangered History” before the Feb 10 deadline.
Step 1, Sign up for 2017 membership: Sponsors must be current, 2017 AAAS members or lifetime members. Anyone can become a paid member! If you haven't already renewed your membership, see link below, as we push together to get this resolution approved by the board at the 2017 AAAS conference in Portland! Membership ($40-130):
Step 2: To endorse, simply fill out this short endorsement form by Feb 10 or sooner:…/1FAIpQLSd0UE_lePJQdfXRZ…/viewform…
In order for the resolution to qualify for a board vote in Portland this year, we need a total of 10 co-sponsors and 100 endorsers, all of whom must be AAAS members for 2017 by the time of the submission (Feb 10)
So please endorse today, and please help us spread the word by forwarding this message widely to fellow AAAS members (and would-be members)! For your information, an updated letter and resolution proposal to the board are below.
Thank you and we’ll be in touch again soon. In the meantime, please contact us at:
Thank you,
“Comfort Women” Section Chairs,
Grace J. Yoo, San Francisco State University
Kay Fischer, Chabot College
And “Comfort Women” Section Members

Monday, October 31, 2016

ハンセン病隔離政策を生き延びる在日朝鮮人の金泰九さん:An Ode to Zainichi Heroes

Note to readers: We apologize that this post is only available in the original language (Japanese) of the author at the moment. The life of Mr. Tegu Kim, to whom the tribute below, offers a glimpse into other faceless, nameless Zainichi victims of Japan's legacy of forced permanent quarantine/isolation (akin to lifelong imprisonment without parole) of those affected by Hansen's Disease since early 1900s through as recently as the '90s (inspired by the Eugenics ideology that prevailed even following WWII and defeat of Imperial Japan). If you are interested to learn more, we are happy to share our resources on this matter or the life of Mr. Tegu Kim.
























岸本眞奈美 (きしもと・まなみ)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

On becoming a Queer Zainichi Korean

Happy Pride!! Eclipse Rising member Haruki Eda reflects on his experience as a Queer Korean navigating boundaries of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and nationality as he relocated from Japan to the U.S. in search of knowledge and community. 

June 25, 2016

When I arrived in the United States from Japan 10 years ago with a student visa, in San Francisco, on August 18, 2006, I was a 19-year-old gay Japanese. Or at least that’s who I thought I was at that time. Filled with hope and anxiety, I started my college at San Francisco State University, where I was determined to study the politics, history, and culture of LGBT social movements. I had no concrete plans but vaguely thought I’d go back to Japan after learning as much as I could, so that I could start contributing to the LGBT movements in Japan. By the time I graduated, however, I’d realized I had so much more to learn, about myself and my own history as a descendant of Korean postcolonial exiles in Japan, commonly known as Zainichi Koreans. It was the knowledge shared by radical queer and trans people of color (QTPoC) that inspired and challenged me to cultivate a sense of authentic self, however fleeting it may be, by uncovering hidden stories and building meaningful relationships. 

I always knew I was “half” Korean because my parents would tell me occasionally that my father is a zainichi kankoku-jin (South Korean resident of Japan). I remember telling my 1st-grade classmates that my dad is a kankoku-jin (South Korean) and bragging how I can say annyonhaseyo and kamusasamunida. My classmates in this half-rural, half-suburban town didn’t even know what Korea meant until much later. I didn’t really know either. You can’t reject or accept something you don’t understand, and young kids always know that. So my Korean heritage was neither rejected nor accepted by my peers or myself, though it was vaguely acknowledged. We just didn’t know why and how it was supposed to matter.

Inheriting from my mother all the privileges that come with a Japanese name and citizenship, however, I never really thought of myself as Zainichi; I was just “half” kankoku-jin and full Japanese. I would enjoy my grandmother’s Korean food at the family reunion on every New Year’s Day, and I would enjoy not having to even think about what it meant to be in this family for the rest of the year. It was just a family I was born into, a network that existed, and somehow I hesitated to inquire too much because I felt like I was supposed to know all about it already. It wasn’t community to me. My father uses his Korean name, so I didn’t have to think about how to hide, and because I only have a Japanese name, I didn’t have to think about how to disclose. My Koreanness was just a fact, a piece of information, with no real meanings or stories behind it. It wasn’t knowledge to me. 

Meanwhile, though, I had much bigger concerns as I realized I was sexually attracted to boys. The realization was timely, sudden, and swift, when I found a gay porn magazine at a local bookstore when I was eleven. I already knew the concept of homosexuality, but I didn’t know the word gei as a non-derogatory term to refer to it. It was fortunate that I encountered this magazine, this word, almost as soon as it became clear that I liked dicks better than boobs. I realized there’s a community out there, and I realized there’s knowledge out there. And I must get there. And there was San Francisco, the United States of America, the Western world, the real modernity, beyond the horizon of small gay enclaves of global Osaka or cosmopolitan Tokyo. At least I knew I was “half” Korean and fully gay, and I was not going to live like a normal straight Japanese people all around me. I might as well try something different. So I studied English and applied to SF State because it seemed like the best place for studying queer theory. (My favorite band Third Eye Blind was from the Bay Area, so that alone would have convinced me to move there.) 

With my freshly and so smoothly issued F-1 visa on my Japanese passport, with my parents’ full financial support, and with little trace of my Koreanness on any of my documents, I landed at SFO as a gay Japanese international student. I assumed I would fly out from the same airport four years later as a gay Japanese college graduate. That never happened. It never happened because I went to SF State, the home of Ethnic Studies and other legacies of the longest student strike in U.S. history. I met so many committed activists and dedicated scholars creating knowledge and community together, on and off campus, as students and as teachers to each other. I jumped right in as soon as I felt confident enough in my English: I founded an organization for Queer Asian students on campus; I volunteered at a local HIV service organization for Asian and Pacific Islander communities, and I worked as an RA in university housing to be in charge of the International Learning Community. I learned that a community is something I build. 

During these years, I made sense of my gender and sexuality through my connection to the local Queer Asian communities. I learned how my gender and sexuality impact the experiences I have in this world, in this country, always already mediated by my race, ethnicity, nationality, and citizenship. And much of it is actually that I am heavily protected by my male, cisgender, and able-bodied privileges. I tried to interrogate and challenge myself in order to learn what I am here to do. I came to recognize my queerness, rather than my “homosexuality,” as I navigate and negotiate various boundaries constructed around gender and race, within the bigger narrative of modernity and coloniality. Trying to understand how history and social structure intersect with desire, I conducted research and wrote papers on racial representation in gay porn. I learned that knowledge begins with a question. I was no longer a gay Japanese, but I was a proud Queer Asian, a radical queer of color. I graduated from college with this knowledge and community. But I had more work to do.

Even though I was starting to make sense of my racialized queerness, I didn’t really know what to make of my Koreanness, especially in relation to my queerness. Each time I met another Korean person from Korea, I would tell them that my father is Korean, “but I don’t really speak Korean.” I felt the need to clarify how inauthentic I am before they did so by asking me if I spoke Korean. It might have been a habit I developed as an openly queer person, since I usually made sure to somehow indicate my queerness when I met someone new. I didn’t want people making assumptions about me or asking me rude questions, so I would put everything out on the table first. In retrospect, though, while I was never ashamed of my Koreanness or queerness, I was unconsciously ashamed of my inability to explain what they mean for myself. It was my escape to let other people decide what those things mean to them on my behalf, rather than articulating my own sense of existence through my body. 

I never had Zainichi Korean friends while growing up in Japan, and my Korean friends from Korea didn’t have any answer to my inauthenticity. Only when I started meeting Korean Americans, many of whom queer or trans, I finally had a space to let out my confusions and questions and anxieties about my Koreanness. I was able to ask real questions about what Korea means and what it means to be Korean. And soon enough, through multiple personal connections, I was invited to a report-back event of a Korean American delegation to North Korea. The event was put together by Eclipse Rising, a Bay Area-based Zainichi Korean community organization, and two Zainichi women who went on this delegation were explaining why North Korea behaves the way it does, because of the historical and geopolitical contexts of U.S. imperialist involvement in East Asia since the World War II. They mapped out so clearly how Japanese colonialism, the national division, and the ongoing Korean War have everything to do with the stories of discrimination my father used to tell me about. My journey became deeper than ever on that day when I had my first Zainichi Korean friends, my first Zainichi Korean knowledge and community.

Koreans in Japan are subject to legal discrimination based on their nationality, whether South  Korean nationality or now defunct Chosen nationality of pre-division Korea. Until 2000, all special permanent residents in Japan, most of whom are Korean, were required by the law to be fingerprinted when they turned 16: all the fingers, not only the tips but the entirety of the fingers, as if their criminality is a given. They are still required to carry the alien registration card with them at all times, and if they were unable to produce the document upon inspection by the police, they could be prosecuted under the Criminal Law. According to Japan’s immigration policy, one must have a Japanese parent to obtain citizenship at birth. Being born in Japan does not result in full legal rights, although taxation is the same as for citizens. Many Zainichi Koreans reject the option of naturalization, because nationality and ethnicity are very closely conceptualized together by Zainichi Koreans, and the legal process is just slow and long and uncertain enough to discourage them from applying. Without citizenship, they face enormous difficulties obtaining employment or legal protection, or getting approved for marriage by their Japanese partners’ families. Meanwhile, they are policed and punished for practicing or exhibiting any hint of Koreanness through language, culture, name usage, or political expression. 

The attacks on Korean schools in Japan are emblematic of these oppressive systems. Immediately after the end of colonization, Koreans who decided to remain in Japan, at least temporarily because of the political uncertainties in the Peninsula, grasped the opportunity to educate their younger generation about their history and culture in their own language, with their own Korean names--all denied under the colonial rule. The schools they built, however, became a target of repression by the Japanese police, which was desperate to regain their authority after Japan’s loss in the war. The Allied Forces, led by the U.S. military, viewed the Korean schools as a breeding ground for communist insurgencies, so it authorized violent raids of some schools as well as the community organization that established them. Korean schools have survived and thrived despite such heavy repression since then, but their curriculum is still not considered to be an equivalent to the standard Japanese education, and graduating from a Korean school does not lead to a legally meaningful diploma. 

When I started learning about Zainichi Korean history, I immediately saw the similarities between Zainichi Koreans and people of color in the U.S., particularly how both communities have valued culturally relevant education and defiantly challenged the reproduction of mainstream knowledge that only maintains the system of oppression. There is a reason why I was kept from my own history and why I did not fully identify as Korean, and it wasn’t me. Thus I came to a definition of Zainichi Korean identity that is not based on legal documents or even a set of certain cultural experiences that supposedly make someone an authentic Zainichi Korean. It is an incoherent, indeterminate identity category that is articulated most clearly when we mumble that we don’t speak Korean, that we don’t know what Koreanness means, that we’re not so sure if we’re really Korean, but we’re questioning it, we’re trying to understand it, and we’re creating knowledge about it through our bodies. 

Zainichi Koreans are connected to people of color in more ways. The U.S. military is an institution that violently exploits us all, by constructing a scapegoat figure of the Muslim terrorist, by recruiting working-class youths of color, by stealing, occupying, polluting, and radiating the land and water all across the world but especially displacing Indigenous peoples of North America and the Pacific, by raping and sexually exploiting women and children around the bases, by propagating oppressive and mediocre views of racialized masculinity and femininity among young Americans, and by murdering us, over and over again. In fact, all the violence and oppression that the Japanese nation-state has inflicted on Zainichi Koreans were encouraged by the U.S. empire in its attempt to establish economic and military control over the Asia-Pacific region. The division that Zainichi Koreans have internalized, between the pro-North Chongryun and the pro-South Mindan, wasn’t entirely their fault but deeply embedded within the competitions and collusions among Japan, the United States, North and South Koreas, China, and Russia over the past hundred years. Yet the mainstream discourse of the Korean division does not have a solid grasp of the workings of gender and sexuality in the geopolitics of the Trans-Pacific. 

Radical QTPoC community organizers have taught me how geopolitics operates on multiple scales. They have challenged me to interrogate how our everyday experiences of power and violence at the hands of the nation-state directly reflect what's going on at the planetary level of border-making, displacement, capitalist exploitation, military-police-prison-medical industrial complex, and neoliberal education. They have inspired me to think and imagine beyond what I see, and to reach deeper into myself and farther out to distant shores of history waiting to be remembered. They have taught me my duty to uncover connections I wasn’t meant to recognize I have. 

And this is why I care about the dignity and rights of the former Comfort Women, whose unspeakable trauma remains under the threat of collective amnesia. This is why I care about the lives and deaths of my Black brothers and trans sisters and Muslim friends and refugee families, who continue to be targets of state terrorism. This is why I care about La Mission as not just a figure of nostalgia but as a real community that's crumbling apart precisely because of gentrification triggered and trivialized by wealthy IT companies and their uneducated employees. This is why I care about Ferguson as much as Fukushima, Oakland as much as Okinawa, and Hawai’i as much as Hiroshima. This is what it means for me to be a Queer Zainichi Korean, to tell our stories and create community and knowledge, to care for one another and heal together, to commit to the highest standards of critical thinking and solidarity and love. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Suppressed Ethnic Diversity, and Multicultural Education as Resistance in Osaka, Japan

A Community Roundtable, featuring Special Presenter: Kwangmin Kim  Executive Director, Korea NGO Center, Osaka; Founder, Award-winning 'Minami Children's Classroom’ Program for Minority Kids

Wednesday, March 02, 2016  6-7:30pm

Chinatown Meeting Rm, SF Public Library Chinatown Branch
1135 Powell St, San Francisco, CA  
15 min. walk from Powell Street BART, OR 
Bus Line #30 & 45 (Stop: Stockton & Pacific Ave)

“Kwangmin’s perspective from the often-hidden part of Japan will surely enliven our conversation to understand what's going on now and what’s at stake for genuine peace and security in Japan and the region.” 
– Miho Kim Lee, Comfort Women Justice Coalition, Japan Multicultural Relief Fund

Japan is long known as a "homogeneous" country, but in reality, it's always been ethnically diverse. Osaka is home to the largest convergence of various ethnic minorities, including the Ainu, Ryukyuans, Buraku-min (Japan's ‘Untouchable Caste’ people) and Zainichi Korean, Chinese, and Taiwanese residents.

In recent years, Prime Minister Abe's ultraconservative, nationalist ideologies have fueled large-scale intensification of, and moral support for xenophobia, racial profiling and hate crimes against Koreans and Chinese in particular. The Abe Administration has also been re-militarizing Japan while denying Japan's atrocities during WWII, and actively demonizing North Korea and China -- the same 'enemy' against which the U.S. is creating a bulwark, with Japan and South Korea, against China's rising influence.

In the context of this harsh reality, Kwangmin and other community advocates are employing innovative intervention approaches through public education, among other venues. Kwangmin will share the stories of the growing population of Asian migrants of Japan, and their families and particularly children, as they adapt and embark on their journey to find their rightful place in the community and society at large.
Cosponsored by: Asian Americans for Peace & Justice | Comfort Women Justice Coalition | Eclipse Rising | Japan Multicultural Relief Fund | Japan Pacific Resource Network | SF Nabi Fund | NoNukes Action | SeSaMo | Veterans for Peace, SF Chapter | Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom/SF 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Commemorating Oh Deok-soo, a Director who Became a “Zainichi Director”

Jan 16, 2016
Shota T. Ogawa

Film director Oh Deok-soo passed away from lung cancer on Sunday. He was 74. Oh is known for his feature-length documentary films on Zainichi Koreans (Resident Koreans in Japan) including Against Fingerprinting (1984) and The Story of Koreans in Postwar Japan: Zainichi (1997).

I met Oh late in his life. In 2010, when I first interviewed him for my doctoral project, I was surprised to learn that he had as many questions for me as I did for him. In the years following, it became my habit to pay him a visit when I was back in Japan not only to seek advice on my dissertation, but to report on my life in the U.S., for he was always interested in hearing about the different and diverse ways in which Zainichi Koreans live today. While I cannot write a personal tribute informed by intimate familiarity, I want to offer a brief summary of his resume in the way I believe he would have liked to see it told.    

Born in 1941 in Kazuno City, Akita Prefecture, Oh first entered the film world as an assistant to Nagisa Oshima, working on Violence at Noon (1966) and Sing a Song of Sex (1967), before working for Daiei and Toei in their film divisions through the late 1960s and the 1970s. Some of the better known television productions he worked on include The Guardsman (starring Ken Utsui, Daiei/TBS, 1965-1971), A Lone Wolf (starring Shigeru Amachi, Toei/NTV, 1967-1968), and Key Hunter (starring Tetsuro Tamba and Sonny Chiba, Toei/TBS, 1968-1973).    

Oh was a familiar presence in local film festivals and public symposia, particularly since completing his lifework, The Story of Koreans in Postwar Japan, in 1997 which involved working closely with grassroots groups across Japan that co-sponsored its production and realized a nation-wide tour of the film. In addition to making his own films, he was active in organizing screenings of others’ works that highlighted the historical presence of Koreans within Japanese cinema. In the screenings he organized for the History Museum of J-Koreans in Azabu, for example, he showcased the works of Zainichi Korean directors such as Sai Yoichi, Lee Sang-il, and Kim Su-gil alongside films made by Japanese directors that depicted Zainichi Koreans in interesting ways. Each screening was accompanied by a guest speaker who might be the director, a staff member, or a viewer with a special attachment to the title, and a post-screening discussion followed by a party gave the event a unique communal character.

In recent years, he had branched out into exhibiting his own photographs and probing the possibility of curating a museum exhibition of picture books and school textbooks written for Korean children in Occupied Japan. His multifaceted activity as a filmmaker, collector, curator, and cultural organizer stemmed from his work on the monumental documentary, The Story of Koreans in Postwar Japan, for which he had to condense a vast archive of music, photographs, home movies, newsreels, and material artifacts into its running time of four-and-a-half hours.

The unique ways in which Oh’s professional and artistic career developed around rather than fully within cinema were also a product of circumstances. In an interview with film scholar Takashi Monma in 2005, Oh recounts that most studios had stopped hiring assistant directors when he graduated from Waseda’s Theater Department in 1965. Even in Toei’s TV division (Toei Tokyo Production) where he received most of the training and rose to the rank of Chief Assistant Director, he was still on an irregular contract with limited benefits or job security. The second half of his time at Toei was thus spent on a prolonged strike that demanded improved labor conditions for contract employees. It was only by taking up freelance assignments to write screenplays for film, television, and manga, while collectively running a franchised noodle shop that Oh and his fellow strikers of Toei Production Company Labor Union were able to live through the 1970s.

It was paradoxically during the prolonged strike that Oh found the key to direct his own films. Through befriending the editors of the Zainichi Korean magazine Madan and later cofounding its informal successor Jansori, Oh became involved in the burgeoning movement of young Japan-born Zainichi Koreans that sought to build a public sphere that overcame the Cold War division. When the anti-fingerprinting protest broke out in 1980 and developed into a major social movement by 1985, he found himself ideally situated to document the movement from within, thanks to the significant overlap between the target audience of Jansori and the main actors of the protest movement. He founded his independent production company Oh Kikaku for the project which was completed and screened within a year while the protest was still ongoing.

On a number of occasions, Oh raised objection to the label “Zainichi Korean film director” which he found constricting. But no other director has so consistently explored the interrelation between Zainichi and film, or to rephrase in his preferred expression: what it means to be Zainichi Koreans living at a time when we have access to historical film documents. If it is apt to call him a representative Zainichi Korean film director, it is not because his interest was limited to Zainichi Korean issues, but because he took up the challenge of weaving Zainichi Koreans’ social concerns into the fabric of cinema. It is in this spirit that we can appreciate the opening scene of his maiden film, Against Fingerprinting, that shows an alien registration card set on fire. This was, he told the audience at a screening, a visual homage paid to Kei Kumai’s Nihon retto (1965) that featured a visually striking shot of ants engulfed in flame against the backdrop of the map of Japan. With Oh’s documentaries, we can learn about Chesa (a Korean ceremony of ancestor worship) to a-ha’s “Take On Me,” or make unexpected connections between Zainichi Korean history and Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters or with Yoshio Tabata’s postwar hit, Kaeribune (Repatriation Boat). He made Zainichi Korean history cinematic.

At a time when Directors Guild of Japan is chaired by Sai Yoichi and Eiren (Motion Picture Producer Association of Japan) have nominated works by Sai, Lee Sang-il, and Yang Yong-hi to compete for the Foreign Language Oscar in the Academy Awards, it appears all but certain that Zainichi Koreans have gained citizenship in the world of cinema. Oh’s legacy might be understood in the reverse term. Instead of making it in the film business, he made cinema relevant to as many Zainichi Koreans as he could.
Shota T. Ogawa is Assistant Professor of Japanese at University of North Carolina at Charlotte who is writing a book manuscript tentatively titled Visualizing Zainichi: A Cinematic Counter-History of Koreans in postwar Japan.  

Friday, January 8, 2016


Eclipse Rising
US-Based Zainichi Coreans for Decolonization, Reunification and Zainichi Community Development

On December 28, 2015, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and Japan jointly announced that they had reached a “final and irreversible” settlement agreement on the long-standing issue of the Korean “Comfort Women.” The “Comfort Women” system (1932-1945), or Japanese military sexual slavery, was a widespread and systematic racist, colonial violence against women. Its central feature was the rationalized procurement, imprisonment, rape, abuse, torture, and brutalization of an estimated 200,000 women and girls. One of the largest organized systems of exploiting and trafficking of women in the 20th century, the violence resulted in mutilation, death, or eventual suicide of victims.

This latest so-called agreement is nothing more than Japan’s attempt at permanent erasure of an extraordinary human rights atrocity that continued for over a decade with impunity. As such, it amounts to an unjust silencing of the victims and their principled demands for apology and atonement, and turns its back on the fundamental understanding of women’s rights as human rights.

Eclipse Rising stands in solidarity with the victims in rejecting the “agreement” for its failure to restore their dignity and human rights. While this “agreement” was ostensibly hailed as settling the “Comfort Women” issue, none of the victims were consulted. In fact, it leaves out other “Comfort Women” from other parts of Asia: 11 countries in all. It also prohibits South Korea from ever raising the issue in any other international body, including the United Nations, leaving Korean victims without a governmental advocate.

Despite the gravity of the offenses, no actual written agreement was ever produced; rather, the two governments issued separate national statements summarizing the negotiations. Furthermore, in this “agreement,” Japan refused to accept the term “coercion” to describe the “Comfort Women” system, constituting a dubious regression from the 1993 Kono Statement (made by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono that acknowledged Japan’s role in the coercion of girls in the “Comfort Women” system).

Despite the fact that the Allied Forces had full knowledge about the existence of this heinous institution, the United States, Japan, and South Korea colluded to silence and erase this history for over forty years since World War II. Under escalating militarization and wars in post-WWII Asia, US military presence and bases grew. Doubly victimized, many former “Comfort Women” continued to suffer sexual exploitation in camp town prostitution long after they were “freed” from Japanese sexual slavery.

Indeed, survivors had been forgotten and abandoned by local, national, and international communities for too long. This is the backdrop to the impassioned indignation displayed by a former “Comfort Woman” Lee Yongsoo halmoni, as she learned of the news and confronted the Korean Vice Foreign Minister: “Why are you trying to kill us twice?”

We deny the assertion by the governments of the United States, South Korea, and Japan that this so-called agreement is a step in the “right direction.” To the contrary, we assert that it takes us several steps backwards. The settlement cannot be said to be official government action, as it lacks either cabinet approval or parliamentary endorsement in either the Korean or Japanese legislatures.

We note, also, that to date, the Japanese legislature has never passed a resolution of acknowledging state responsibility for the “Comfort Women” system or other atrocities committed by the Japanese military during WWII. Thus, this and all prior statements remain subject to equivocation.

Japan’s payment of $8.3 million into a settlement fund is widely recognized as compensation to the victims. Is it not then peculiar that Foreign Minister Kishida has repeatedly claimed this payment does not at all constitute “reparation,” but rather, a part of “a Korea-Japan joint venture”? Thus, he rejects any suggestion that Japan admits culpability. Billed as “humanitarian support,” this payment constitutes mere charity and hush money from the Japanese government.

The “final and irrevocable” nature of this settlement also leaves out any requirement on the part of Japan for ongoing documentation and education of Japan’s responsibility for the “Comfort Women” system. In fact, Prime Minister Abe has led the way towards denial and erasure of not only the victims but the facts of history inconvenient for its PR objective to “improve Japan’s image.”

In 2015, Japan tripled its public relations budget to $500 million, part of which is dedicated to an elaborate global campaign to deny or dilute its role in WWII, most aggressively with regard to the “Comfort Women” system, and other atrocities, such as the Nanjing Massacre. In fact, the latest history textbook omits such facts, while glorifying its militaristic past. Such history education renders a whole post-WWII generation of Japanese citizens vulnerable to national amnesia, if not denial, about Japan’s own history. The Japanese government’s demand to remove the “Comfort Women” memorial erected near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul undermines any belief that Japan has engaged earnestly and in good faith, as is expected in diplomatic negotiations.

Furthermore, this “agreement” runs counter to the 2014 Recommendations to the United Nations Human Rights Bodies on the Issue of Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery (Comfort Women). Various UN treaty bodies, including the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), as well as the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, have repeatedly urged Japan to make reparations to the victims, officially acknowledge legal liability, conduct investigations and prosecutions of those responsible, and educate the public about the atrocities — so that it is not repeated again. And yet, this “final and irrevocable” settlement does absolutely none of these things. Rather, it permanently banishes the very existence of the victims and their principled demands into an irrelevant past where they are forgotten and abandoned — again. 

The UN Special Rapporteur on Systematic Rape, Sexual Slavery and Slavery-like Practices During Armed Conflict has established that in totality, the “Comfort Women” system constitutes crime against humanity, to which statutory limitations do not apply, and that Japan does indeed bear legal liability. Navi Pillay, former High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations has stated that this “is a current issue, as human rights violations against these women continue to occur as long as their rights to justice and reparation are not realized.”

Thus, we must urgently take collective action to resist and condemn this historical erasure and denialism masquerading as a just, permanent, solution. As the first city in the country to ratify CEDAW, and as people of conscience, we call upon all San Franciscans to stand with the grandmothers, and build upon the unanimously passed Comfort Women Memorial Resolution here in San Francisco — and urgently support the building of the Comfort Women Memorial.

Eclipse Rising will not relent in seeking justice for all “Comfort Women” through education and memorialization so that we can one day create a world in which the fundamental rights of all girls and women take primacy over political expediency, national interests and regional “security” —  and eliminate the use of rape and violence against women as a central strategy of war.

We honor the grandmothers for galvanizing a global movement against military sexual violence, and making a tremendous contribution to the establishment of this violence as a crime against humanity. Their efforts have helped overturn one of the most widely-accepted, unjust “norms” of humankind, and leave all women and girls a legacy of hope.

January 08, 2016