Thursday, October 21, 2010

Slightly old, but still relevant article on Zainichi Koreans and ZK Judo fighter, Yoshihiro Akiyama. Don't know about the title of this article though...

Identity Crisis of Koreans in Japan Back in Spotlight
from the Korean Times
By Bae Ji-sook
Staff Reporter

The Korean Japanese judo exponent Yoshihiro Akiyama (Chu Seong-hun) has brought the ``Dongpo'' (Koreans in foreign countries) issue back to center stage.

Those who keep their Korean nationality though they were not born in Korea are discriminated against by both their native country and their mother country, Akiyama said. It's time Korean society and the government showed more consideration toward these enthusiastic Koreans, he added.

Akiyama appeared on an MBC television talk show Wednesday and said he felt he belonged nowhere.

``I stared in the space between the Korean and Japanese flags,'' he said when asked where he was looking during the award ceremony for his gold medal at the Busan Asian Olympics. He was there as a Japanese team member who defeated a Korean.

Akiyama is a fourth generation Korean in Japan, where all of his ancestors kept their Korean nationality. But he said he experienced prejudice and discrimination in both countries.

``Being Korean, I was not able to participate in any prestigious judo matches in Japan that could guarantee a national team position. I did not regret being a Korean, because I thought I could be a Korean competitor instead,'' he said.

However, after working as a professional in judo for the Busan city government for three years in 1998, he returned to Japan, became a naturalized Japanese resident and secured a place on the country's national team.

``I came to Busan hoping that I could become a national team member. However, no matter how many times I won or how well I have done things, there was a certain obstacle. After learning the reality, I thought I cannot let that reign over my judo career,'' he said.

Still, Akiyama expressed his love for Korea. ``Korea is always in my heart,'' he said.

Akiyama is among many ethnic Koreans suffering from discrimination in their native Japan, as well as the country of their ancestors. There are thought to be one million ethnic Korean in the country. Most of them are descendants of 460,000 Koreans who did not return to Korea after liberation in 1945.

As time passed, many of them became naturalized but many maintain their ethnic ties. They speak Korean and hold Korean passports and names, staying in Japan as foreigners.

However, because they are legal Koreans, they do not get fair treatment. Constant threats against Korean schools; the selling of Utoro ― a Korean residential area ― by its owner, forcing Koreans to move out; and many other subtle forms of discrimination are faced by ``Koreans.''

However, in Korea, they are often treated as if they are just ``Japanese'' people. Not many people understand what ``Dongpo'' means. ``Some would say that the key to all our problems is acquiring Japanese nationality,'' a Korean resident in Japan said through the Korean International Network (KIN).

Lee Ji-sang, a folk singer and former professor at SungKonghoe University, said these people should be cared for. ``They chose to be Korean no matter how hard it was for them. But even I can feel the cold shoulder turned toward them'' he said.

Lee and KIN are holding campaigns to support Utoro, the Edagawa Joseon School and other organizations. ``It's not only about supporting them financially. It's about what we really think about them. Who they are? What do we call them?'' he said.

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