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The Power of Names as a Marker of Identity—Zainichi Koreans in Japan

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dc.contributor.advisor Glassman, Hank Park, Soeun 2014-09-19T18:04:49Z 2014-09-19T18:04:49Z 2012
dc.description.abstract Zainichi Koreans, or Koreans in Japan have assimilated to Japanese society ever since their first mass immigration as forced laborers to Japan during World War I and during the Japanese colonization of Korea. Ever since then, they have experienced social discriminations, destitution, the division of Korea and so on. Most of these zainichi Koreans have Japanese names mostly to avoid social discrimination. It is the purpose of this thesis to explore how zainichi Koreans' decisions to go by their Japanese or Korean names serve to assert or hide their ethnic identity and ultimately benefit or harm zainichi Koreans in Japanese society, which is not highly tolerant of individual embracement of diverse ethnic identities. Those who go by their Japanese names and therefore able to pass as ordinary Japanese are seen as betrayers of their motherland. Furthermore, those with Japanese aliases face uncomfortable realization that if they choose to become visibly Korean without going by their Japanese names, the advantages that have enjoyed so far in Japanese society might be forfeited. In contrast, those who go by their Korean names gain acknowledgements from other Koreans as ethnically conscious Koreans. However, those acknowledgements also act as pressures for those zainichi Koreans without much political inclination or desires, to serve as role models for zainichi community. Japanese society is not embracing to zainichi Koreans who go by their Korean names, for Japanese society generally dislikes individual announcement of ethnic identity. Causes for the unwelcoming attitude can be traced back to Meiji Restoration (1868) and modern Japanese history that emphasized monoethnicity as a defining characteristic of Japan compared to other countries. Because of a long period of modern history that highlighted monoethnicity of Japan, Japanese public still believes in its homogeneity despite many existing minorities such as Okinawans, Burakumin, Chinese and Nikkeijin. Because of the prevalent belief and the history of instillation of such belief, zainichi Koreans and their decisions to go by their Korean names are met with apathy or hostility in Japanese society. In conclusion, their names, whether Korean or Japanese, hold power as a marker of identity of how others perceive zainichi Koreans and how zainichi Koreans perceive themselves. For those with Japanese aliases, they are labeled by others as traitors, sellouts or Japanese Koreans with thinned out Korean identity. Those with Korean names are identified by others as politically and socially active Koreans. These outside perceptions in turn affect zainichi Koreans own evaluation of themselves and their individual and ethnic identity. Moreover, their names serve as a tool of both empowerment and resistance for the survival of zainichi Koreans in a discriminatory society. For zainichi Koreans with Korean names, the decisions mark their own form of self-empowerment through asserting their ethnic identity as well as their own survival method in a society. Their Korean names are also a tool of resistance against Japanese society that attempts to enforce a false image of monoethnic Japan. Similarly, for those with Japanese names, choosing to go by their Japanese aliases is another way of self-empowerment through passing as the ethnic majority. Furthermore, Japanese names also represent a form of resistance against expectations to be visibly Korean from zainichi Korean communities or Koreans in Korea.
dc.description.sponsorship Bi-College (Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges). Department of East Asian Studies
dc.language.iso eng
dc.subject.lcsh Koreans -- Japan -- Ethnic identity
dc.subject.lcsh Koreans -- Japan -- Social conditions
dc.subject.lcsh Names, Japanese
dc.title The Power of Names as a Marker of Identity—Zainichi Koreans in Japan
dc.type Thesis
dc.rights.access Open Access

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