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Korean Minority Activism

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 1 month ago



  • Activism is no stranger to the Korean community in Japan. Starting with student protests during the colonial period to recent campaigns by second and third generation Korean-Japanese for voting rights, activism of Koreans in Japan has almost been constant. Korean-Japanese women have participated in most of these movements, and they have taken leading roles in more recent movements such as the anti-fingerprinting movement and the comfort women issue.



Ethnic Education

Establishment of Korean Schools

  • Immediately following the fall of the Japanese Empire in August 1945, Koreans in Japan rushed to establish organizations that would promote their interests. Chief among these was the League of Koreans in Japan (Chaeil chosŏnin yŏnmaeng), which was established in October 1945. The League set up numerous local branches in Korean communities and represented the majority of Koreans in Japan. One of the primary goals of the League was to promote “Korean education”—Korean language, culture, history—which had been nonexistent during the latter stages of the colonial period.


April 24th Hanshin Education Struggle

  • The Korean school drew opposition from both the Japan government and the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers (SCAP) that oversaw the allied occupation of Japan. Under the direction of SCAP, the Japanese Ministry of Education ordered that all Korean schools not registered with the government be closed. Registering schools meant complying with curriculum guidelines that would not allow Korean-language instruction. The conflict over ethnic education culminated in the April 24th Hanshin Education Struggle. Not wanting to again send their children down the path of assimilation, Koreans vehemently resisted both the Japanese government and SCAP. In protest to the forced evacuations of Korean schools in Kobe on April 23rd, 1948, thousands of protestors gathered on April 24th to demand a meeting with the Hyōgo prefecture governor.


Women Activists

  • Another striking element of the Hanshin protests is the considerable involvement of women. Many Korean women saw it as their duty to ensure that their children received a "Korean" education. They saw this as a crucial step in eradicating the damage of the assimilationist policies they were subject to during the colonial period. Women participated in every facet of the protests. Some were on the frontlines, right in the middle of the scuffles with military police. Some took their children with them and stood all day long in front of the prefectural offices. Others guarded schools, resisting the entry of military police. Many women were arrested for their participation in the demonstrations.




  • Women took a leading role in the protests of the Alien Registration Law and its fingerprinting clause. Active participation also led to making of explicit connections between ethnic discrimination and sexist oppression. One famous example is Yang Yong-ja, a singer, who is one of the most famous “refusers” of the anti-fingerprinting movement. Her lyrics took on the issue of the double oppression—racism in Japanese society and sexism in the Korean community—that Korean-Japanese women face. This movement resulted in success with the fingerprinting requirement for permanent residents being abolished in 1992.



Comfort Women

  • The issue of comfort women and efforts to force the Japanese government to recognize responsibility for the implementation of this system of forced prostitution has received a large amount of attention on a global scale. While much of the activity is contained with in the boundaries of nation-states, South Korea being particularly active, the participation of Korean-Japanese women in these protests was also very important. The first Korean-Japanese woman to sue the Japanese government was Son Shin-do. Many have rallied to support Song, forming the Association for the Support of the Case of a Resident Korean Comfort Woman (Zainichi no ianfu saiban wo sasaeru kai), which focuses on Son’s cause.


Related Links


Books and Articles (English)

Chee, C.I. "Alien Registration Law of Japan and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights." Korea and World Affairs. 10, no. 4 (Winter 1986) 649-686.


Chung, Erin Aeran. Exercising Citizenship: Korean Identity and the Politics of Nationality in Japan. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University, 2003.


Field, Norma. “Beyond Envy, Boredom, and Suffering: Toward and Emancipatory Politics for Resident Koreans and Other Japanese.” positions 1, no. 3 (Winter 1993) 640-70.


Hicks, George. The Comfort Women. Tokyo: Yenbooks, 1995.


Iwasawa, Yuji. Legal Treatment of Koreans in Japan: The Impact of International Human-Rights Law on Japanese Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.


Kim Pu-ja. "Looking at Sexual Slavery from a Zainichi Perspective." in Voices from the Japanese Women's Movement Armonk, AMPO: Japan-Asia Quarterly Review, Ed. NY and London: M.E. Sharpe, 1996, pp. 157-160.


Lee, Changsoo and George De Vos. Koreans in Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981.


Ryang, Sonia ed. Koreans in Japan: critical voices from the margin. London: Routledge, 2000.


Ryu Sanghee. “Why Koreans Oppose the Fingerprint Law.” Japan Quarterly 32, no. 3 (July-September 1985) 308-311.


Tanaka, Yuki. Japan's comfort women: sexual slavery and prostitution during World War II and the US occupation. London: Routledge, 2002.


Utsumi, Aiko. "Korean Women Refuse Fingerprinting." AMPO: Japan-Asia Quarterly Review 18, no 2-3 (1986) 88-93.


Yang, Hyunah. “Revisiting the Issue of Korean “Military Comfort Women’: The Question of Truth and Positionality.” positions 5, no. 1 (Spring 1997) 51-72.


Yoshimi Yoshiaki. Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery in the Japanese Military During World War II. Trans. Suzanne O’brien. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.



Books and Articles (Japanese)


Femirōgu no kai. Femirōgu 2: jinken hansabetsu radikarizumu. Kyoto: Genbunsha, 1991.


Fujime, Yuki. Sei no rekishigaku : kōshō seido, dataizai taisei kara baishun bōshihō, yūsei hogohō taisei e. Tokyo: Fuji Shuppan, 1997.


Hitosashiyubi no jiyū henshū iinkai. Hitosashiyubi no jiyū. Tokyo: Shakai Hyōrōnsha, 1984.


Jugun Ianfu Mondai O Kangaeru Zainichi Doho Josei No Kai Kasho. Watakushitachi wa wasurenai chosenjin jugun ianfu: zainichi doho josei kara mita jugun ianfu mondai. Tokyo: Jugun ianfu mondai wo kangaeru zainichi doho josei no kai kasho, 1991.


Kanagawa Shinbunsha. Nihon no naka no gaikokujin: hitosashiyubi no jiyū wo motomete. Yokohama-shi: Kanagawa Shinbunsha Shuppankyoku, 1985.


Kim Hun-a. Zainichi Chōsenjin josei bungakuron.Tokyo: Sakuhinsha, 2004.


Kim Kyŏnghae. Zainichi Chōsenjin minzoku kyōiku no genten. Tokyo: Tabata Shoten, 1979.


Kin Pu-ja, Son Yonoku. “Ianfu” senji seibōryoku no jittai: Nihon Taiwan Chōsen hen. Tokyo: Ryokufu Shuppan, 2000.


Kim Pu-ja and Yang Chung-ja. Motto shiritai ianfu mondai: sei to minzoku no shiten kara. Tokyo: Akashi Shoten, 1995.


Kim T’ae-gi. Sengo Nihon seiji to zainichi Chōsenjin mondai: SCAP no tai zainichi Chōsenjin seisaku 1945-1952 nen. Tokyo: Keisō shobō, 1997.


Nikkan "Josei" Kyodo Rekishi Kyozai Hensan Iinkai. Jendā no shiten kara miru kingendaishi. Tokyo: Nashinokisha, 2005.


Pak Hwa-mi. “Ianfu hyakutōban.” Arurim 1 (February 29, 1992) 2.


Son Yonku. “Shokuminchi shugi to feminizumu: mondai teiki ni kaete.” Zen’ya 1 (Fall 2004): 152-155.


Suzuki, Yūko. “Jūgun ianfu” mondai to seibōryoku. Tokyo: Miraisha, 1993.


Yi, Sun-ae. Nisei no kigen to “sengo shisō”: zainichi, josei, minzoku. Tokyo: Heibonsha, 2000.

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