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  • Divided Fates: The State, Race, and Korean Immigrants' Adaptation in Japan and the United States by Kazuko Suzuki
  • David Chapman (bio)
Divided Fates: The State, Race, and Korean Immigrants' Adaptation in Japan and the United States. By Kazuko Suzuki. Lexington Books, Lanham MD, 2016. xlvi, 267 pages. $100.00, cloth; $49.99, paper; $47.50, E-book.

Kazuko Suzuki's book compares Korean diaspora communities in Japan and the United States with an emphasis on what she considers a "vastly under-examined marginal group" (p. xxiii). The original plan for her research was also to include Korean communities in Russia. However, this third component was abandoned as a result of censorship in the post–9/11 context, which saw most of Suzuki's research material confiscated by the U.S. postal service, never to be returned (p. xiii). This is not the only difficulty Suzuki endured in completing this project: she encountered complications in identifying zainichi Koreans (a point I return to later) and in gaining the trust of individuals once they were identified as zainichi. Suzuki was also threatened with physical abuse and accused of being a Japanese spy (p. xl). The rigors and challenges of research fieldwork in the social sciences come in many forms and are well illustrated in Suzuki's introduction.

The central agenda of this book is to decipher "the combination of the contextual factors and its impact on the experience of Korean diasporic groups" (p. xxx) and to present "non-Western cases of racialization" (p. xxxv)—namely, the Japanese context of the racial construct of zainichi Koreans. "Race" has been extensively examined in the United States in the context of African American history and, to a lesser extent, the history of other communities such as Asians and Latinos under the general area of race studies. In her book, Suzuki brings the notion of "race" as a social construct into the Japanese context with zainichi Koreans as the focus. This is a welcome contribution to the discourse and debate on "race," what it means and how it is constructed in a setting outside the United States. Although there has been an increasing contribution in this area within parts of Asia, there is still much more work to be done. Suzuki is to be congratulated on her chosen research not only for the many practical difficulties she has confronted and [End Page 473] overcome, but also for addressing theoretical challenges in the problematic and slippery area of "race."

While I find some aspects of Suzuki's approach to be problematic, the direction of this project illuminates many core issues and provides insight that is important in advancing our understanding of the zainichi context and how difference is constructed in Japan. I have provided accounts similar to those of Suzuki in the past,1 but framing zainichi Koreans as an "immigrant group" (p. xxxv) is problematic for two reasons. First, the original Koreans who came to Japan before and during World War II did so as the result of both forced and voluntary "migration." This first wave were migrants because they traveled from the colonized peninsula to Japan proper and at this point they were legally Japanese subjects. Suzuki clearly understands the historical context of the zainichi, but the theoretical framework of "immigration adaptation" nevertheless sits uneasily with me.

A second problem is that the second-, third-, and fourth-generation zainichi whom Suzuki also includes in this group were born in Japan and, as she states, "speak Japanese natively; they behave like the Japanese; they dress like Japanese; and they adopt Japanese names" and "[i]t is almost impossible to distinguish between Zainichi Koreans and the Japanese" (p. xx). Grouping such individuals into the immigrant pool is less than accurate and this is where we run into the thorny problem of identification and the question of who are the zainichi? In answering this, Suzuki offers statistics and an explanation in chapter 1 (p. 13). The statistics provide a great deal of useful information and insight, but problematizing the question of who the zainichi are would have strengthened the study and mitigated any dangers of essentializing this community. Many of those who fall into the definition...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1549-4721
Print ISSN
0095-6848
Pages
pp. 473-477
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-31
Open Access
No
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