Sunday, December 21, 2008

Zainichi Recognitions: Japan’s Korean Residents’ Ideology and Its Discontents


If you're local in the Bay Area, you may have heard, ER will host a quarterly film series through 2009, starting on January 30 @ the East Side Arts Alliance in Oakland - one of the films we hope to show is GO, which Prof.Lie mentions below. The below is just an excerpt - do check out the link to Japan Focus, though, he's one of the most prominent scholars on the zainichi in the US (and probably beyond, but we can't speak authoritatively to matters pertaining to the academy)...

P.S. if you want to keep posted on our film events & others hosted by ER, join our listserv, at

Zainichi Recognitions: Japan’s Korean Residents’ Ideology and Its Discontents
by John Lie

In Kaneshiro Kazuki’s Go (2000), the protagonist, Sugihara, opens the novel with a description of his communist, North Korean father, the Japanese colonization of Korea, and the family’s desire to visit Hawaiia vacation that requires switching their nationality from North Korean to South Korean (and shifting their membership from North Korea-affiliated Sōren to South Korea-affiliated Mindan). The stuff of the novel’s first five pages has been recounted countless times by Japanese and Zainichi writers, but no one would have imagined that it would make a best-selling novel. Reciting Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”though observing that Springsteen grew up in a poor family whereas his family is well-offSugihara sings his own refrain of “Born in Japan.” At once erudite and violent, he is highly individualistic and antiauthoritarian; he is the proverbial nail that should have been hammered in. In the 1960s and 1970s, Zainichi was all seriousness and suffering: as the pejorative slang would have put it, “dark” [kurai]. The unbearable burden of Zainichi being traumatized, Zainichi life-course and discourse. Instead, Kaneshiro’s prose and protagonist exemplify a striking mode of being cool [kakkoii] in contemporary Japanese culture.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Records link Japan premier's family to POW labor

One of the members of Eclipse Rising was told by her parents while growing up in Fukuoka that her grandfather was made to work under horrendous conditions in one of Aso's coal mines during WWII, after he joined the massive peasant migration efforts to Japan to get "a job" and survive. In the zainichi community, we've always known through our families' oral histories that Aso family's coalmine operations exploited countless many of our ancestors and treated them as subhumans on grounds that they were Korean. Now, after all these years, finally "evidence" has been unearthed - no one can deny the truth of what we had been saying all along - Aso family must own up to its tarnished past, and take full responsibility NOW!

Records link Japan premier's family to POW labor
TOKYO - Japan has acknowledged that Allied prisoners of war were put to work in a coal mine owned by Prime Minister Taro Aso's family, reversing previous denials, after newly found documents provided proof.

The Health and Welfare Ministry said yesterday that the wartime documents showed that 300 British, Dutch and Australian prisoners worked at the Aso family mine in Fukuoka, southern Japan, from April 1945 through Japan's surrender four months later. It was the first time the government had acknowledged the use of prisoners at an Aso mine.

Two Australian POWs died at the mine, according to a government official who verified the authenticity of the documents.

The disclosure could deal a further blow to the embattled prime minister, whose approval rating has plunged to about 20 percent in just three months since he took office. Aso has repeatedly come under fire for gaffes and for lack of leadership through the global economic crisis.

The acknowledgment of the Aso wartime legacy came in response to questions submitted last month by opposition lawmaker Yukihisa Fujita, along with a copy of the documents, which contained records from the prison camp at the mine. Fujita demanded that the government verify their authenticity and the use of Allied POWs at Aso's family mine - a practice the government has long denied.

Aso has kept mum over the latest embarrassment. Earlier this year, he distanced himself from revelations in other wartime documents that Korean forced laborers were used at his grandfather's mine.

"I was only 5 at the time, and I have no personal memory of that," Aso said at the time. Aso briefly served as president of the family company - now called the Aso Group - before becoming a lawmaker.

Health and Welfare Ministry official Katsura Oikawa confirmed Thursday that the 43 pages of documents that Fujita submitted - after they were found in the ministry storage - were genuine. Oikawa told a parliamentary committee that the documents had been overlooked for decades because the government had put little effort into examining wartime records.

Japan has acknowledged it used prisoners for forced labor in mines, shipyards and jungles during World War II.

"Many other mining companies had used such prisoners as laborers," said Hiroshi Kawahara, a political scientist at Tokyo's Waseda University. "And the latest revelation could trigger a wider probe into Japan's treatment of prisoners during the war."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An eloquent speech by a zainichi Korean high school student

Such an eloquent speech by a zainichi Korean high school student in Japan addressing her personal feelings about the hate crimes against Korean high school students. Although the translation repeatedly says "North Korean" she is in fact referring to herself as a Chosen-jin, or person of Korean nationality - a term used before the division. Zainichi Koreans with Chosen-nationality actually don't have a nationality in the sense that Americans have US citizenship. They are in total citizenship limbo. While it is true that all Korean schools in Japan are affiliated with the North, some students, including my cousins, hold South Korean nationality. They attend the Korean schools in order to retain their Korean identity and language. Sadly, because the school uniforms for the Korean schools are so easily identifiable, Korean school students are the first victims of hate crimes in Japan whenever some news comes out about North Korea.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Eclipse Rising member, Miho Kim, gets Yayori Award

Eclipse Rising member, Miho Kim, will be the first zainichi Korean woman to receive Japan's prestigious Yayori Award, this Sunday, December 7, in Tokyo, Japan.
Go Miho!
Click the title for the link to Yayori's Women's Human Rights Award website.

The Fourth Women's Human Rights Activities Award
(2008 Yayori Award)

the recipient of the Yayori Award

Miho Kim


3rd generation zainichi Corean from Fukuoka, miho grew up a forgotten daughter of a divided Corea under ongoing Japanese colonial apartheid, intimately familiar with interpersonal and institutional violence and colonization than love and respect for her identity. Denied access to education in Japan due to her nationality at age 13, she wasseparated from family―and permanently lost legal status in Japan. Miho, now based in California, works to build the capacity of Hisabetsu Nikkeicommunities, particularly women, to dismantle colonialism and militarism by holding those responsible fully accountable, and deliver collective healing, empowerment and genuine liberation for all.

Note: The term "Corea" is used intentionally by the nominee to refer to what in Japanese is known as "Chosen"―a distinct ethnicity derived from a nation of peoples sharing common language and cultural heritage etc., for 5,000 years, prior to the division of less than a century ago. And "Korea" on the other hand refers to the nation-state entities or the peninsula of geopolitical significance (such as S. Korea, N. Korea, and so on). There are also instances in which a preexisting term "Korea" is onomastically used, and simply repeated faithfully as is in this document.