Diaspora without Homeland: Being Korean in Japan

Diaspora without Homeland: Being Korean in Japan

Diaspora without Homeland: Being Korean in Japan

Diaspora without Homeland: Being Korean in Japan

Synopsis

More than one-half million people of Korean descent reside in Japan today--the largest ethnic minority in a country often assumed to be homogeneous. This timely, interdisciplinary volume blends original empirical research with the vibrant field of diaspora studies to understand the complicated history, identity, and status of the Korean minority in Japan. An international group of scholars explores commonalities and contradictions in the Korean diasporic experience, touching on such issues as citizenship and belonging, the personal and the political, and homeland and hostland.

Excerpt

Sonia Ryang

How many Koreans are there in the world today? Answering this question would appear to be a relatively simple endeavor, considering that Korea is a small nation. Yet it quickly becomes complicated, involving the calculus not only of demography but of political allegiance, social affiliation, and cultural identity. Divided among North and South, the population of the Koreas today amounts to seventy-two million, or so the readily available statistics say. However, millions more Koreans live outside the Korean peninsula. According to one set of data, as of 1995 there were 4,938,345 Koreans residing permanently overseas, with 1,661,034 in the United States and 659,323 in Japan; other significant areas of concentration were China (two million) and the former Soviet Union, notably Kazakhstan (about 490,000). the 2004 U.S. census recorded 1,251,092 Koreans, while the 2004 statistics from Japan’s Ministry of Justice documented 607,419 Koreans registered as aliens (Yau 2004, United States Bureau of the Census 2007, Japan Ministry of Justice 2004). Such figures shift fast, reflecting temporary or permanent repatriation, migration, immigration, naturalization, acquisition of residence, and other residential arrangements. Depending on the legal practices and demographic methods of the host nation, “Korean” in this context could mean either Korean ethnicity (while claiming citizenship of the host country) or actual Korean nationality (while being denationalized and stateless in one’s country of birth).

The demographic map of Koreans residing outside of their homeland reveals the cartographic traces of colonialism, World War II, the Korean War, and the Cold War. Koreans in Japan in particular are marked as reminders of Japan’s colonial rule of Korea and the ensuing wars that shaped the global Korean diaspora. Despite its global extent and visibility, however, the Korean diaspora in general (and in Japan in particular) is . . .

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