- Zainichi Korean Identity and Ethnicity
The thought-provoking panel “Almost Korean? (Re)membering Differences and Inequalities in South Korea” was held at the 106th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association in December 2007. Ten anthropologists convincingly illuminated the ever-diversifying Korean community. David Chapman’s book complements this important theme by focusing on zainichi in Japan. [End Page 209]
Zainichi literally means “presence in Japan” in Japanese. Migrant Brazilians and Iranians in Japan are respectively called zainichi burajirujin and zainichi iranjin (p. 148, n7). However, when the term zainichi is independently used without any other words attached, it is often assumed to mean Koreans who live in Japan. It is abbreviations of zainichi chōsenjin, zainichi kankokujin, zainichi kankoku chōsenjin, and zainichi korian [Korean] (p. 4).
According to Chapman, more than 400,000 such Koreans live in Japan. Another 250,000 Koreans were naturalized as Japanese between 1952 and 2000. Furthermore, 10,000 or so Koreans have been naturalized every year in the last decade or so due to the disadvantages of being noncitizens (p. 3). Yet naturalization has been a contested field where the naturalized still suffer prejudice in both Japanese and Korean communities (p. 54) because of the contradiction within Japan’s naturalization and (post)colonial assimilation policies (p. 62).
Chapman compares Japan’s policies with those of other countries. For example, Australia and Canada shifted to multiculturalism, and the United States took on pluralism with the idea of the “melting pot” in the 1970s after the Global Assimilationist Climate was prominent in the 1960s (pp. 32–33). Japan, however, stayed most ethnocentric based upon nihonjinron (theories on being Japanese) and tan’itsu minzokuron (homogeneous nation theory) (p. 45). Ethnocentrism partially originated from the different decolonization processes of European and Japanese colonies (p. 24). Consequently, scholarship on Japanese postcolonialism is yet scarce: “Unlike the aftermath of British colonial rule in India and Africa,” the postcolonialism zainichi face “has drawn scant and little investigation outside Japan” (p. 2).
Chapman also rightly criticizes “the dominant nation-based binary” of Korea and Japan. This binary created the “Japanese-born Korean national,” which is an oxymoron for those who are given citizenship if they are born there, such as Korean Americans in the United States ( jus soli ) (p. 69). Japan defines “citizenship through nationality and ethnicity” (p. 61), as does Korea. John Lie (Multi-Ethnic Japan, 2001, p. 144) argues this conflation as the pervasive confusion among the state, nation, ethnicity, and race. More specifically bloodline, instead of birthplace, defines who is a citizen ( jus sanguinis) (p. 69). The “nexus between Japanese bloodline, the Constitution,” and the family registration system contributes to excluding former colonial subjects from full citizenship (Kang 1993 in p. 71). Consequently, zainichi have been marginalized despite critical comments, alternative views, and zainichi ’s integral involvement in social history (p. 2). The zainichi “struggle against discrimination and [End Page 210] prejudice” in the ongoing process of decolonization (p. 12). In order to untangle these paradoxes on citizenship, Chapman analyzes a discourse (debate, social commentary, and social critique) (p. 5) created by intellectuals, activists, and policy-makers in chapter 4.
Chapman introduces the genealogy of the dominant discourses on zainichi because he believes that discourse plays an important role “through debate and discussion” to improve zainichi social standing (p. 63). According to Chapman, the political organizations representing South and North Korea respectively in Japan, such as Sōren and Mindan, generated the dominant dichotomous discourse in the 1950s and 1960s (p. 141). Chapters 1, 2, and 5 cover such historical backgrounds and theoretical orientations. By applying Foucault, Chapman attempts to illuminate “the dynamic relationship between discourse and identity” (p. 5): “Discourse transmits and produces power; it reinforces it, but also undermines and exposes it, renders it fragile and makes it possible to thwart it” (Foucault 1990 on p. 6). Chapman also uses or critiques theorists, such as Stuart Hall (pp. 8, 44–45), Judith Butler (p. 9), Jung (pp. 56–57, 134–37), Gayatri Spivak (pp. 9–10), Jean and John Camaroff (p. 10), Abu-Lughod...