Abstract

Abstract:

This article introduces Korean gay space, place, and identity in Japan, as revealed in Tokyo's Korean gay bars that emerged at the start of Japan's Korean Wave in the 2000s. It focuses on the intersections of race and sexuality in interactions among the actors that produce and consume these establishments, exposing racialized spaces of desire besides those limited to white Westernness. It presents an overview of Korean gay identity against the backdrop of Koreaphobia in Japan and homophobia among zainichi, along with an examination of the Korean Wave, its impact on the queer diaspora, and the gay commodification of Koreanness. The study comparatively analyzes racial groupings in the bar, seeking clarity on the representations of self and other among gay Koreans and with gay Japanese. A series of conclusions are made: (1) Korean gay men's experience in Japan is shaped by having to contend with separate closets for race and sexuality, compounded by racism and homophobia from within their own communities dissociated from "Japan." (2) The Korean Wave has created a new category of desire among gay men through a middle ground or third space around a borderless, hybridized community of communities. (3) Korean gay bars simultaneously function as consumer spaces for what the author terms "proximate opposites" with Japanese, and as community centers for racially one yet ideologically divided Koreans. The study sets out to recover and preserve a history that would otherwise have been lost from memory with decades of scholarly inattention to its existence.

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