Of the approximately eight hundred thousand Koreans currently residing in Japan, the majority are descendants of people displaced to Japan as economic migrants, military servicemen, and World War II laborers during the Japanese colonization of Korea (1910–1945). With the partitioning of the Korean peninsula, diasporic Koreans in Japan were split into two camps supporting the competing regimes in the North and South. Although almost 97% of them originated from southern Korean provinces, the majority took the North Korean side, and subsequently associated themselves with pro-North Korean organizations including economic and educational institutions. This paper examines the complexity of identity among Koreans in Japan, especially those who associate themselves with North Korean national music. Focusing on the music and musicians of Tokyo-based North Korean performance troupe Kŭmgangsan Kagŭktan, I demonstrate how these diasporic Korean musicians in Japan navigate their identity by internalizing and negotiating the cultural divisions between North and South Korea, through imagining and relating themselves to a pre-modern ethnic Koreanness. The performance of North Korean music in Japan is not the mere manifestation of one's ideological, cultural, or political affiliation. Rather, it is the expression of flexible citizenship and diasporic cultural agency rooted in creative desires and practical considerations while transcending social and political boundaries as necessary.


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pp. 169-195
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