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Korean residents are the largest ethnic minority in Japan, although the number of Korean residents has been decreasing since 1991. The ratio of Korean residents to all foreign residents has been also dropping from 86.4 percent in 1976 to 37.7 percent in 2000, because of influx of newcomers from other Asian countries since the 1980s (Homushō 2001). “Special permanent residency” was granted in 1991 to those people and their descendants who lost their Japanese nationality after the 1952 SF Peace Treaty. By 2003, 613,791 Korean residents registered in Japan, including 471,756 “special permanent residents” and 39,807 “general permanent residents” (Homushō 2004a).
Korean permanent residents in Japan are entering the third and fourth generations, but they retain their Korean nationality. The fourth generation of Korean residents accounted for more than 20,000 at the end of 1999 (Chung 2001:3). Especially for the older generations, the unwillingness and hatred derived from the memories of colonization and the ethnic solidarity make it harder for them to be naturalized. However, both the number of naturalized Koreans and the rate of intermarriage to Japanese people have been increasing. In each year from 1995 to 2000, approximately 10,000 Koreans became naturalized (Higuchi 2002:195). In 1998, 14,800 became naturalized Japanese, of whom two thirds are Koreans and one third are Chinese. The majority had previously held permanent resident status (OECD 2001:214). Most Korean residents reside in the Kansai area (Osaka, Kyoto and Hyōgo Prefectures) and Tokyo metropolitan areas such as Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefectures.
Korean ethnic organizations such as Chongryun (the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan), affiliated with North Korea, and Mindan (the Korean Residents Union in Japan), affiliated with South Korea have been instrumental in building ethnic networks and ethnic identity in the postwar period. Most Koreans in Japan were North Korean nationals after 1945 (14.2% had a South Korean nationality in 1950), but the ratio of South Koreans has increased to 67 percent of Koreans in Japan in 1994.
After almost fifty years, in 1994, the Mindan changed its name from “Korean overseas in Japan” to “Koreans in Japan,” and declared the settlement of Koreans in Japan. Finally, in 1994, the Mindan decided to include naturalized Koreans among their members, although they cannot become a committee of the Mindan (Zainihon 1997; Chung 2001:151).
During the economic prosperity in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, tens of thousands of Koreans came to Japan to work. After South Korea lifted international travel restrictions in 1989, it has become much easier for young workers to come to Japan on a temporary basis. Newcomers do not have a strong relation with Korean permanent residents.
Many of these newly-arrived Koreans are legal aliens, such as company employees and businessmen, foreign students, and pre-college students who attend Japanese language schools. The growth of trade between Japan and Korea promoted the exchange of company employees. By 2003, 16,951 Koreans, 13.5 percent of the 125,597 foreign students, study in colleges and graduate schools in Japan. The number of pre-college Korean students (shūgakusei) amounts to about 6,600, 13 percent of all 50,473 (Homushō 2004a). Foreign students and pre-college students can legally work four hours a day (28 hours a week) in order to pay their educational expenses, but many illegally work longer hours.
Many newly-arrived Koreans are also illegal aliens, 46,425, about 21.2 percent of all illegal aliens, consisting of the largest proportion of all illegal aliens, as of 2004 (Hōmushō 2004b). During the bubble economy (1987-1991), high priced yen and labor shortage in Japan pushed Koreans to come to Japan in search of quick money. In addition, many Korean women work in the entertainment industry.
The cultural exchanges between the Japan archipelago and the Korean peninsula date to the prehistoric period. The Yayoi people who brought rice cultivation to Japan seem to have entered Japan through the Korean Peninsula around the fourth century B.C. Around the sixth century, Korean migrants carried technology, Chinese characters and Buddhism to Japan. The 1592 and 1598 military campaigns to Korea by Toyotomi Hideyoshi failed to conquer Korea; however, they inflicted tremendous casualties and damages. The international relationship between Korea and Japan was restored in 1607 when Korean envoys visited Japan. The trade between Japan and Korea continued even during Japan’s period of isolation (1639-1854).
The Meiji government (1868-1911) forced Korea to sign the Japan-Korea Treaty of Amity in 1876 that opened Korea to the outside world. The Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1894 over the political situation in Korea, and Japan’s victory made China recognize the independence of Korea in the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki. Furthermore, the 1905 Portsmouth Treaty, negotiated after Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, made Russia recognize Japan’s right to guide, protect, and supervise Korea. In 1905, Japan concluded the Treaty for the Protection of Korea, whereby Japan controlled Korea’s foreign affairs, and established an Office of the Resident-General in Hansung (now Seoul). In 1910, Japan annexed Korea, and established a Government-General of Korea.
A Korean independent resistance movement started on March 1, 1919, and swept across Korea. By May, it was crushed by the Japanese military, at a cost of 7,500 deaths and 40,000 arrests (Oguma 1998:215). Afterwards, Japan loosened its strict militaristic control, and shifted its policy to the indirect cultural rule. Koreans were given citizenship and voting rights. Many Japanese settled in Korea; 20,000 Japanese people lived there in 1900, 500,000 in 1930, and 690,000 in 1940 (Yamawaki 1994:282).
Korea, with the population of 21 million in the mid-1930s, was controlled by nearly a quarter of a million Japanese administrators, technicians and military personnel (Weiner 1994:39). The cultural assimilation policies encouraged primary schools to teach Korean children about Japanese language and culture, and to instill loyalty to the Japanese emperor. The attendance rate increased from 3 percent in 1920, to 25 percent in 1935, and to 50 percent in 1943 (Oguma 1998:198, 421). Especially after the outbreak of Sino-Japanese war in 1937, assimilation policies were strengthened in the name of the “unity of Japan and Korea (naisen ittai),” and “becoming imperial citizens (kōminka).” Since 1938, Korean schools used the same curriculum taught in the schools in Japan. The students visited Japanese shrines, and declared loyalty to the Japanese emperor in Korea. In 1943, the number of Japanese teachers amounted to 12,559, almost half of teachers (43.9%) and almost all Japanese principals and vice-principals in National People’s Schools, elementary schools in Korea (Inaba 2001:i).
In 1939, the change of Korean names into Japanese was highly recommended, and almost 80 percent of Koreans followed suit (Lee 1997:109). As the war in China intensified in 1939, the “voluntary” recruitment of Korean laborers started. The mobilization of laborers by the government initiatives took place of “voluntary” recruitment since February 1942 to August 1944 when the National Conscription Law was enforced in Korea. According to official records, about 720,000 Koreans and 380,000 Chinese were conscripted as laborers from 1939 to 1944 (Otani 2000:116).
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After the colonization of Korea in 1910, many Koreans, mainly men from rural areas, came to Japan on a temporary basis because of poverty in Korea, and took low-paid manual work in small factories, construction sites, and mining industries, mainly in the western part of Japan. The number of Korean migrants in Japan mushroomed from 40,755 in 1920, 419,009 in 1930 to 1,241,315 in 1940 (Hatano et al. 2000:49), and they started to settle in Japan. In the 1930s, female Korean workers flooded into the country to work in the rapidly developing spinning industry in Osaka, which urged the settlement of Koreans in Osaka (Mori 1997:142-143). Korean workers settled in Kansai areas near Osaka and the western part of Japan. They worked in the construction and mining industries as well as in commerce, and were integrated into the lowest strata of the working class in Japan. The economic recession in the 1920s and the 1930s triggered competition and conflicts between Japanese workers and Korean workers in the lowest-paying industries. The tragedy of the Greater Kantō Earthquake of 1923 included the massacre of several thousands Koreans. It is estimated that 6,000 Koreans and 700 Chinese were killed by the panic-stricken Japanese during the turmoil (Yamawaki 1994:276).
In 1921, the Sōaikai (Mutual Care Association), the pro-Japanese association of Koreans living in Japan was established to assist Korean residents in obtaining employment, residence, medical care, and a night school education. By 1924, the Association had 40 organizations with more than 10,000 members (Weiner 1994:147). Koreans with one year or more of residency in Japan were allowed the right to vote in 1927, two years after the 1925 universal suffrage for all adult Japanese males. During 1927 to 1945, Pak Chun-gum, a Korean, was elected to the Diet in 1932 and 1937, and 96 Koreans were elected as local legislators (Oguma 1998:380; Kim 1997:140).
In 1936, the Kyōwakai was established by the Japanese government in order to promote the assimilation of Koreans, protect their social welfare, and foster cooperation between Japanese people and Koreans. By 1940, the Kyōwakai became a nationwide organization in Japan, and the Sōaikai was dissolved in 1941, and absorbed into the Kyōwakai. The police oversaw the Kyōwakai. All Koreans were obligated to belong to the Kyōwakai, and heads of household needed to carry an ID notebook of the Kyōwakai. The ID notebooks recorded war contributions, volunteer labors, and worships to shrine. The Kyōwakai promoted the assimilation of Koreans, and forced them to take Japanese names, donate money to war effort, fly the Japanese flag, and enforce Japanese customs. During the Pacific War (1941-1945), the Kyōwakai also took charge of the recruitment and retention of Korean labor, and of travel between Korea and Japan.
The 1938 National Mobilization Law was established to supplement the labor shortage. In 1939, the law was extended to Koreans in Korea. Korean workers were “voluntarily” recruited for coal and metal mining, construction, steel, chemical, general transportation, and aircraft manufacturing by Japanese companies from 1939 to 1941 and the government agencies from 1942 to 1944. The recruitment of Korean workers was frequently entrusted to Korean officials. There was tremendous pressure from local policemen and officials to farmers to “voluntarily” participate in the recruitment.
The number of Koreans in Japan increased from 1,241,315 in 1940 to 1,936,843 in December 1944 (Hatano et al. 2000:49; Morita 1996:33). Many Korean workers were deployed to the dangerous coal mining industry. More than one third (36%) of Koreans employed in the mining industry deserted in 1939–1942 (Weiner 1994:201).
In 1943, Koreans in Japan became eligible for labor conscription. A year later, Koreans in Korea were also eligible for labor conscription. In 1944 and 1945, forced draft brought 280,000 workers to Japan (Weiner 1994:194). Korean youths also applied to participate in the Army since 1938. According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, at least 242,341 Korean soldiers and civilian employees participated in the war; 22,182 died (5.3% of deaths in soldiers and 12.7% of deaths in civilian employees), while 207,183 Taiwanese participated in the war, and 30,306 died (Utsumi 2002:38).
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Koreans who returned to liberated Korea immediately after World War II were overwhelmingly those who had been sent to Japan through the labor conscription after 1939. More than half of almost two million Koreans (1,936,843) living in Japan at the end of 1944 returned to Korea, and at the end of 1945, 980,635 Koreans were living in Japan (Morita 1996:103). However, many Koreans illegally came back to Japan after they found difficulty settling in Korea. In 1946, 17,733 Koreans were arrested for illegal entry to Japan (Hatano et al. 2000:77). Furthermore, due to the Korean government’s Great Cheju Massacre in April 1948, 20,000 to 30,000 refugees from Cheju Island entered Japan illegally (Kō 1998:194). Illegal migrants from Korea, especially from Cheju Island, have joined their relatives and/or sought temporary work during the postwar period.
The General Headquarters of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ) regarded Koreans who refused to return to Korea as “Japanese nationals” in 1946. The 1947 Alien Registration Ordinance regarded Koreans in Japan as aliens, although they retained a “Japanese nationality.” In 1947, approximately 600,000 Koreans, registered as foreigners were living in Japan (Zainihon 1997:7). Koreans in Japan celebrated Korea’s independence. Many of them rioted against the Japanese, and were active in black markets after the war.
In 1945, Korean communists and nationalists formed a Korean organization, Chōren (League of Koreans in Japan), which allied with the Japan Communist Party in 1946. A year later, Mindan (Korean Residents Union in Japan), nationalist Koreans who opposed the communist-dominated Chōren, founded another Korean residents’ organization (later an affiliate to South Korea). In 1948, the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were established. In 1949, the Japanese government forcibly dissolved the two largest communist-dominated Korean associations, the Chōren and the Minsei (Korea Democratic Youth Association), under the order of GHQ. In 1950, the Korean War (1950-1953) broke out, and killed four million Koreans. Almost all Koreans in Japan (98.1%) came from southern Korea; however, only 14.2 percent of them claimed South Korea nationality in 1950 (Zainihon 1997:7). In 1951, Korean communists and nationalists in Japan organized the Democratic Front of Korea (Minjon).
Since April 1946, the Chōren has established schools that teach Korean language and history to Korean children in Japan. By October 1946, there were 525 elementary schools with 42,182 students and 1,022 teachers, four middle schools with 1,180 students and 52 teachers, and ten youth schools with 714 students and 54 teachers. In 1946, Mindan had opened its Korean ethnic schools by April 1948: 52 elementary schools with 6,297 students, two middle schools with 242 students and two vocational training schools with 289 students.
The Ministry of Education, following the order from the GHQ, sent an official notice in 1948 that Korean ethnic schools should obey the School Education Law, and teach a Korean language class as an extracurricular class. Otherwise, ethnic schools should be closed. Many Koreans protested this order. In 1949, the Japanese government forcibly dissolved the two largest communist-dominated Korean associations, the Chōren and the Minsei, under the order of the GHQ. The GHQ ordered the closure of most Korean ethnic schools. Parents, teachers, and students together fought to save their schools. As a result, about 20,000 Korean children were able to receive ethnic education in unrecognized or branch schools, and the rest of the 40,000 Korean students were transferred into Japanese schools or dropped out (Lee 1999:139-145).
After the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty, Koreans in Japan lost their Japanese nationality. Koreans who had lived in Japan since before September 2, 1945, and their children born before April 28, 1952, could stay in Japan as aliens. In 1953, the Japanese government issued an official notice that Korean children who were no longer Japanese nationals and became resident aliens had the option of attending Japanese schools. In 1953, the Governor of Kyoto Prefecture recognized the Kyoto Korean school as a special school, and other prefectures followed suit (Kim 1997:179-188). By 1955, many Korean ethnic schools operated as private miscellaneous schools (Kang 1994:84).
In 1955, the Chongryun (the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan), affiliated with North Korea, was established. The Chongryun sought self-governance and peaceful approaches at a remove from the Japanese government. The overwhelming majority of Koreans belonged to North Korea (e.g., 85.8% in 1950 and 79.9% in 1960) (Zainihon 1997:7), and had been very enthusiastic about North Korea and the late Kim Il Sung, even though most Koreans in Japan originally came from the southern part of the peninsula. In 1958, Kim Il Sung of North Korea welcomed Koreans from Japan, and since 1959, a large scale repatriation of Koreans in Japan, about 82,000 Koreans and 6,000 Japanese (2,942 in 1959, 49,036 in 1960, 22,801 in 1961, and 3,497 in 1962) took place until 1967 (Ryang 1997:113; Zainihon 1997:39). The repatriation was interrupted from 1967 to 1971, and since 1971, only a small number returned to North Korea because the Chongryun discovered that North Korea was not a “paradise on earth” (Ryang 1997:115).
The Chongryun operates North Korean ethnic schools as “miscellaneous schools” in order to develop Korean identity and pride among Korean students as “overseas nationals” of North Korea, in accordance with guidance from North Korea. The number of Korean students in ethnic schools under the Chongryun increased until the 1960s. In April 1966, there were more than 140 schools with 14 branch schools, 30 ethnic classes, 208 afternoon and night classes, with a total of 40,000 students (Lee 1999:150). Since then, the number of students in these schools has been decreasing, from 46,000 in 1960 to 17,400 in 1993 (Zainihon 1997:67) to 11,000 in 2003 (AS February 21, 2003). Many Koreans opted to register as South Koreans after the 1965 Japan-South Korea Normalization Treaty. Also, by the 1970s, many Koreans lost their enthusiasm for North Korea. The decreasing number of students has caused financial crises among the ethnic schools whose budgets rely on tuitions and donations from parents. For the past ten years, the number of North Korean ethnic schools decreased by more than 30 and 6,000 students (AS February 18, 2004). In contrast, the Mindan, an affiliate of South Korea, operates four Korean ethnic schools: two are accredited private schools and the other two are miscellaneous schools. The overwhelming majority of Koreans who are affiliated with the Mindan have sent their children to Japanese schools.
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After the 1965 Japan-South Korea Normalization Treaty, the Japanese government granted a special permanent residency for Korean residents with South Korean nationality. They stayed in Japan since before the end of war, as did their children and grandchildren who were born in Japan. On the other hand, those who became legal residents because of the SF Peace Treaty, including North Koreans and Taiwanese, kept their legal residency. In order to comply with the 1981 ratification of the U.N. Refugee Convention, the Japanese government granted the same special permanent residency to North Korean residents and South Korean residents.
After the 1991 memoranda between Japan and South Korea, all Koreans with permanent residency, including their children and descendents (will) have “special permanent residency.” They would be deported for committing serious crimes. In fact, there have been no deportations yet (AS May 31, 1999). The duration of overseas stay is a maximum of five years, compared to two years for other foreign residents.
The fingerprinting on the alien registration cards was required of all Korean residents from 1952 to the 1993. The fingerprinting was initially required because there were many fraud registrations in order to receive food rations. All Korean residents had to register at the age of 14 (16 since 1982), and then had to renew their card every three years (every five years since 1982).
In 1980, Han Jeong Sok, a Korean resident, refused to put a fingerprint on his registration card, though he eventually obtained a renewed registration card. The grassroots movement to refuse fingerprinting rapidly spread to Koreans, especially those with a South Korean nationality, in the 1980s. They claimed that the obligation of fingerprinting would remind them of criminal acts, and violate their human rights. In 1985, more than 10,000 people, including those who had not renewed their registration cards, refused fingerprinting (Kanai 1997:180). The government claimed that fingerprinting guaranteed the accuracy of alien registration and that it was a security issue. Japan has not concluded a normalization treaty with North Korea, and about half of the Korean residents are affiliated with North Korea. Under the pressure of the movement, the Japanese government ruled in 1987 that permanent residents need to be fingerprinted only once.
In the late 1980s, the third generation of Korean residents were becoming 16 years old and registering for the first time. They were born and raised in Japan, and most spoke only Japanese. They believed that the obligation of fingerprinting violated their human rights, and demanded the abolition of fingerprinting. After the pressure of the 1991 memoranda with South Korea and international human rights communities, the fingerprinting obligation was abolished for all permanent residents in 1993, and for all foreigners in 2000. Instead, the identification of permanent residents and foreigners was confirmed through photographs, signatures, and family information. The decade-long movement for the abolition of fingerprinting obligation succeeded in abolishing fingerprinting, and even expunging the records of permanent residents who had already been fingerprinted.
All foreigners are obliged to register, and to carry the Certificate of Alien Registration. The failure to carry the Certificate of Alien Registration was liable to a penalty (a fine of 200,000 yen or less), and became a minor fine in 1999. During 1992-1994, the police sent fewer than 20 persons to the public prosecutors each year (U.N. Human 1997). The Human Rights Committee in the 1998 conclusion for Japan suggests that the Japanese government should abolish the obligation of holding the Certificate of Alien Registration because it is against Article 26 of the Human Rights Treaty B (U.N. Human 1998a). The Japanese government amended the Alien Registration Law in 1999 (effective in April, 2000) that the punishment for the failure of carrying an alien registration card for special permanent residents changed from penalty for 200,000 yen to administrative fees for 100,000 yen.
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After the ratification of the 1979 Human Rights Covenants and the 1981 Refugee Treaty, Korean residents have enjoyed almost the same legal rights as Japanese nationals, except for the employment in the civil service and voting rights. From 1952 to 1999, 230,000 Koreans became naturalized while 520,000 Koreans keep their Korean nationality (Chung 2001:69). Today, 7,000 to 10,000 Koreans became naturalized every year (Chi 2002:176). After the naturalization, they can keep their foreign last name after the revision of the Nationality Law in 1985. Those who are already naturalized can ask the Family Court to change their last name to their original foreign name.
It is very rare for fourth and fifth generations of immigrants to keep their original nationality. There has been strong resistance to nationalization among members of the older generation because of strong Korean nationalism caused by bitter memories of Japan’s colonization of Korea. As time passes, more Koreans, especially younger ones have less resistance to accepting Japanese citizenship. There is also a new trend to keep Korean identity and names after naturalization. Furthermore, almost half of Korean residents have married Japanese in recent years.
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The movement for voting rights for permanent residents started in 1975 when a citizens’ group appealed for the voting rights to the city of Kita Kyūshū. Professor Suh Yong Dal, a Korean resident, proposed the voting rights of Korean residents and “permanent/long-term foreign residents” (teijū gaikokujin) for the local government in 1976. He regards the “permanent/long-term residents” as those who had lived in Japan for three years or more and paid taxes, including special permanent residents like Korean residents. He includes not only those who have permanent resident status but also those who have held temporary work visas, because after three years, they can apply for Japanese citizenship (Suh 1995). Kajita proposed that those who have five years or more of residency in Japan will be eligible and that they have the right to refuse placing their name on the voting rolls (Kajita 1996:111).
The voting rights for foreign residents, called “denizens,” who have lived in the community for a long time (Hammar 1990), have been granted for local elections in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, and some parts of the United States. Since 1993, the Europe Union has recognized the voting rights of other EU members for the local elections. New Zealand and Chili recognize the voting right for foreigners in national elections. However, the voting rate of foreigners in Europe is not high because many foreign workers came from the developing countries that do not have a tradition of voting, and do not understand politics because of language difficulties. Others are not interested in the politics of the countries in which they temporarily stay, and do not join a political party (Kajita 1996).
The movement to enfranchise foreign residents spread nationwide after the late 1980s. The Mintōhren (the National Council for Combating Discrimination Against Ethnic Peoples in Japan), formed in 1987, which became the Korean Residents’ Association for Human Rights (Zainichi Kōrian Jinken Kyōkai) in 1995, has sought voting rights for foreign residents. Several Koreans and a British resident filed several suits. A British permanent resident, Alan Higgs, sued the government because he was declared ineligible to vote in the national Upper House election in 1989. The 1993 Supreme Court decision ruled that the election law, which limits the right of vote to Japanese nationals for Diet members, is not unconstitutional. In 1990, eleven Korean residents sued that the exclusion of foreigners in the voting registry in Osaka was illegal. They argued that permanent residents who pay taxes, and who had been Japanese nationals before the 1952 SF Treaty should have the right to vote in local elections. However, the taxation and the length of stay in Japan are not related with the eligibility for voting rights. Japanese citizens who do not pay taxes or who have not stayed in Japan long enough can vote. The revised 1998 Voting Rights Law allows Japanese citizens abroad to vote in the national election of the Diet from proportional representation districts.
In 1992, a group of Korean residents created a “Residents’ Party” (Zainichitō), and requested to have several candidates for the Upper House election, but they were refused. In 1993, Zainichitō sued the Japanese government for the right to be elected. In the constitution, “governor of the local government, and the representatives of its assembly, and other public servants designated by the laws are directly elected by the residents of the local community” (Article 93-2). Most legal scholars think that these residents include permanent alien residents. In 1995, the Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision. The Supreme Court rejected the voting rights for Korean residents for the local office because Japan has no legislation concerning the voting right of foreign residents. However, the Court added that the constitution does not forbid the establishment of the law granting foreign nationals the right to vote in local elections.
Since 1993, some local governments that have many Korean residents voted for a resolution supporting the voting right for the local office for permanent residents. In 1993, the municipal assembly of Kishiwada in Osaka passed a resolution that the central government should protect the rights of foreign permanent residents, including the right to vote in local elections. According to the 1994 opinion polls, the Japanese people split on the issue: 47 percent approved and 41 percent disapproved (AS March 9, 1994). Residents of metropolitan areas and younger respondents tended to approve the extension of voting rights more than those in the rural areas and older people did. By 1996, 1,275 of all 3,302 local governments adopted similar resolution extending the right to vote to permanent residents (Zainihon 1997:138-139).
In 1996, the Kawasaki municipal administration established a Foreign Citizens’ Representative Council with 35 members from 20 countries. The Council investigated and deliberated issues concerning foreign residents, and reported their comments, which were not legally binding but respected by the municipal administration, to the mayor. In 1996, the Kawasaki municipal administration abolished the nationality requirement from the employment of public workers of the Kawasaki municipal administration as the first among prefectural or ordinance-designated cities.
In 1997, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government established a Foreign Citizens’ Advisory Council of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government with 25 members of 16 nationalities, a private consultative body to the governor of Tokyo. Furthermore, the Osaka Metropolitan Government, Osaka City and Kanagawa Prefecture established a council, half of whose members were foreigners, to discuss the issues of foreign residents. Maihara Town in Shiga Prefecture established a local ordinance for residential voting to decide how to merge with neighboring towns, and recognized the voting right for foreigners with permanent residency, for the first time in the nation’s history. The town has 30 foreigners who are eligible to vote, compared to about 10,000 Japanese; 13 foreigners voted (AS January 27, 2002; AS April 1, 2002).
In 1994, for the first time in Japan, the Shimane prefectural branch of the Harbinger Party, Sakigake, permitted any foreigners who had lived in Shimane for at least five years, or were married to a Japanese and had lived in Shimane for at least two years can join in the political party, if they obtain a recommendation from two party members.
Since 1994, the Mindan joined the movement for granting the right to vote to longtime residents. On the other hand, the Chongryun is critical of the voting right of Korean residents because it might promote the assimilation of Koreans and the loss of their ethnic identity (Suh 1995:38-42; Araki 1997:12-13). Korean residents with North Korean nationality have voting rights in North Korea, and can be elected every five years. Since 1967, seven Korean residents in Japan have been elected. On the other hand, Korean residents with a South Korea nationality have a right to stand for election, but do not have voting rights while in Japan. Several Koreans in Japan have been elected in South Korea. If they return to South Korea permanently, they will be eligible to vote in South Korea (Park 1999:92-93; Araki 1997:11-12).
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Before Korean residents in Japan lost their Japanese nationality in 1952, they had worked in the public administration as “Japanese citizens.” In 1953, the Chief of the Human Resource Committee stated that foreigners should not be employed in the civil service in charge of public authority and public works projects. Korean activists have lobbied local governments to abolish the nationality clauses for civil service jobs, and have asked the courts to recognize the illegality of the national clause prohibition against foreigners.
Some local administrations that include many Korean residents started to abolish the nationality clause for civil servants and to employ Korean residents in their municipal administration. In 1973, six cities and one town in Hyōgo Prefecture abolished the citizenship requirement for clerical and technical municipal jobs, and in 1974, five Korean residents were employed by those administrations. One of the largest semi-public organizations, Nihon Telephone and Telegram Corporation (NTT) abolished the citizenship requirement in 1978. In 1984, the post office abolished the citizenship requirement for jobs. In 1996, the Kawasaki municipal administration abolished the nationality requirement for civil servants, except for firemen, and managerial positions such as section managers.
As of April 1997, there were 776 foreign civil servants in 152 local administrations, a 47 percent increase from 1992. The municipal administrations in Shiga, Osaka and Hyōgo prefectures, except for the cities of Osaka and Kōbe, in the Kansai area where many Korean residents live, abolished the nationality clause, while many municipal administrations in the Tōhoku and Kyūshū areas do not allow the employment of foreigners at all (AS March 8, 1998). According to a 1996 survey, 45 percent of respondents agreed with the abolition of citizenship requirement for civil service, while 20 percent disagreed, and 33 percent did not decided (Mainichi Newspaper May 2, 1996).
A Korean public health nurse in the Tokyo administration sued the Tokyo government that refused to let her take an examination for promotion to a management position because she was a foreigner. The Tokyo Regional Court in 1996 rejected her request; however, in 1997, the Tokyo High Court accepted her argument. The High Court decided that the public servants who directly enforce the will of the Japanese government, such as representatives and judges, should be Japanese citizens. However, public servants who indirectly administer on behalf of the Japanese government and participate in the decision-making structure can be foreigners, depending on the responsibilities of the jobs. Public servants who hold assistant clerical positions or who are in professional and technical clerical positions can be foreigners. However, in 2004, the Supreme Court reversed this ruling and declared that foreign public servants can be rejected for managerial positions that have decision-making authority (AS January 27, 2005).
The Ministry of Education (MOE) abolished the nationality clauses for public school teachers in 1991, and started to employ permanent residents as permanent teachers with some conditions. Since 1974, when Osaka prefectural and municipal administration employed five foreign teachers and 14 foreign teachers respectively, by 1991, only 33 foreign teachers (including 29 Koreans) and two regular lecturers were employed by public schools (Nakahara 1993:40; Mainichi Newspaper March 23, 1991). In 1982, the Aichi prefecture abolished the requirement of citizenship for public school teachers, and hired a foreign teacher in 1983. In 1982, the MOE declared that foreigners should be employed as permanent lecturers, and not as faculty teachers; moreover, they were not permitted to attend faculty meetings. Finally in 1991, the MOE sent an official notice that the requirement of Japanese citizenship be no longer applied to public teachers. Foreigners can be employed as permanent teachers until their retirement, attend teachers’ conferences, and enter school administration, but cannot participate in the board committees or be promoted to managerial or high administrative positions. By 1998, about one-third of prefectural administrations had removed the citizenship requirement for public teachers.
Suh Yong-Dal, a Korean professor of a private university, founded an association in order to promote the employment of foreign college faculty members in 1972 when none of the national universities did so. In 1975, Professor Suh Yong-dal petitioned the MOE to hire Asians at public universities. In 1977, Japanese supporters founded the “Association to Promote Foreign Residents as College Professors.” In 1982, the law to employ foreign professors was enacted, and the first college foreign employee was a Briton. Currently, foreigners can work as faculty members, and participate in the faculty meetings. Most, however, only work on short-term contracts, without tenure (Suh 1993).
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Most Korean residents live in the Kansai area (Osaka, Kyoto and Hyōgo Prefectures) and Tokyo metropolitan areas such as Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefectures. Most Korean residents in Japan use Japanese names, out of necessity and convenience. Korean last names are distinguishable from Japanese last names. Therefore, using a Korean last name proclaims an individual’s Korean identity. Most Korean residents in Japan have kept their Japanese names in order to avoid potential discrimination and prejudice.
Many Korean residents still keep their ancestral rituals and religion in Japan. These rituals and religion bind Korean residents as an ethnic group, and heighten their ethnic identity. However, 76 Korean temples that existed in 1985 had decreased to 61 in 1999, as the younger generations are not as devout as their elders. Religion, however, still binds them to the older generation and ancestors in Korea. Before the 1965 Japan-South Korea Normalization Treaty, many Koreans left ashes at the Korean temples so that they could bring them back to Korea later. But afterwards, the majority of Korean residents tended to settle in Japan, and bought permanent graves instead (Hardacre 1984; Hwang 1993; Iida 2002).
The governments of municipalities that have many Korean residents actively promote the human rights of Koreans, and supported Korean community activities. The Osaka prefectural administration, that has the largest Korean population, has pioneered the promotion of social welfare, education and human rights for Korean residents. Kawasaki City in Kanagawa Prefecture has been active in the promotion of the social life of its Korean residents. In 1989, the Mintōren petitioned for abolition of the citizenship requirement for civil servants. In 1989, Kawasaki City accepted the petition, and established a project team. Korean residents participate in making proposals for foreigners in Kawasaki. Twenty-four proposals for the improvement of human rights and social life of Korean residents include the grant of the voting rights, the abolition of fingerprinting, the elimination of obligatory alien registration, more opening positions for civil service, more subsidies for ethnic schools, international understanding education for Japanese people, and the establishment of military pensions for former Korean soldiers. These proposals are pertain to Korean residents, not to recent immigrants. In 1990, the Kawasaki Research Committee for the Policy for Foreign Residents was established. The Committee proposed multicultural programs and a counseling office for foreign students and parents, and a tutoring system for foreign students (Chiiki 1995). The Korean community center, Fureaikan in Kawasaki ward, where 5,000 Korean residents lived in 1996, was founded in 1988 to make a new town with symbiotic relations with foreigners (especially Koreans).
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Nearly 90 percent of Korean children attend Japanese schools. In most cases, Korean children use Japanese names and are barely distinguishable from their peers. The discrepancy in educational attainment has decreased in the last several decades, though the enrollment of Korean children in high schools and colleges, like other minority children, remains below the national average. Some Japanese schools that have many Korean students provide after-school ethnic clubs/extracurricular classes. Comparatively, about 10 percent of Korean children attend Korean ethnic schools, most of which are under the control of the Chongryun, affiliated with North Korea. Because of the “miscellaneous schools” status, the students receive far fewer public subsidies, while ethnic schools have greater freedom from the MOE’s Course of Study in designing their own curriculum and pedagogy.
The educational attainment of Korean children has improved dramatically and has almost reached the national average. In the 1950s and 1960s, a higher percentage of absenteeism, dropouts and juvenile crimes were reported among Korean teenagers because of poverty at home and discrimination in schools and at work (Lee and DeVos 1981). In 1976, only one-fourth of Korean graduates from high school (26.3%) went on to higher education, compared with 45.8 percent on average in the Hyōgo Prefecture (Rohlen 1981:196-197). Furthermore, the employment rate of young Koreans is much closer to that of their Japanese counterparts. Since 1997, in order to prevent employment discrimination, all job applicants have to use a uniform application form. The uniform application forms also help eliminate employment discrimination against Korean children, because of their alien status.
After the 1991 memorandum between the governments of Japan and South Korea, the Ministry of Education (MOE) started promoting extracurricular ethnic classes for Korean children. Local governments that have a large number of Korean residents promote ethnic education for Korean children in cooperation with Korean parents and teachers. Ethnic education gives Korean children an opportunity to learn the Korean language and culture with other Korean children, and to nurture their ethnic pride and solidarity. Several studies confirm that ethnic education in schools and the community help Korean children develop high self-esteem and pride (Takenoshita 1999; Fukuoka and Kim 1997). Furthermore, it helps Japanese children better understand their Korean peers and their ethnic identity.
The ethnic schools under the Chongryun, a North Korean affiliate, emphasize ethnic education in order to develop Korean identity and pride among Korean students as “overseas nationals” of North Korea, in accordance with guidance from North Korea (Lee 1981; Ryang 1997; Kim 2002). The number of students in these schools has been decreasing from 46,000 in 1960 to 11,000 in 2003. Many Koreans opted to register as South Koreans after the 1965 Japan-South Korea Normalization Treaty granted permanent residency for South Koreans in Japan (Zainihon 1997:67; AS February 21, 2003).
Textbooks and curricula were reformed in 1993 in order to accommodate the needs of third- and fourth-generation Koreans. References to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were reduced, and “ideological education” was removed from the curriculum (Ryang 1997:51). Social science textbooks began to include more descriptions of Japanese history, geography, politics, and economics. Mathematics textbooks are almost the same as their Japanese counterparts. Japanese language arts include classics such as the Story of the Heike Clan (Lee 1999:154-155). In September 2002, the portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were removed from classrooms. History education that was previously based on Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il will be changed into more general history education (AS September 7, 2002).
However, ethnic education is still emphasized. More than one-fourth of total unit hours in elementary and middle ethnic schools are designated for Korean language arts, and in the social science curriculum, North Korean history, geography, and civics still play a significant role (Lee 1999:154-155). In reality, many students have a difficult time learning the Korean language and all their subjects in Korean because they do not speak Korean outside of school. Group awareness of Korean identity is strong among the students because they have the same ethnic background.
The overwhelming majority of Koreans who are affiliated with the Mindan have sent their children to Japanese schools. More than 85 percent of students at Tokyo Kankoku School are the children of non-resident Koreans from South Korea whose parents came to Japan temporarily for work (Lee 1999:156; Zainihon 1997:78). The other three schools in the Kansai area consist of mostly third- and fourth-generation Korean children.
Concerning the “unequal access” of Korean children to higher education, which the Human Rights Committee warned about in 1998 (U.N. Committee 1998a), the Japanese government argues that the graduates of Korean schools do not complete Japanese curriculum, and, therefore, have to take a university entrance qualification examination before taking a college entrance examination (U.N. Committee 1998b).
Since 2000, anyone 16 years old or older can take a university entrance qualification examination, and they are granted eligibility to apply for college when they reach 18. More private, prefectural, municipal colleges have begun to allow graduates from ethnic high schools to take an entrance examination in the same manner as graduates from regular Japanese high schools do. In 1994, 162 out of 406 private colleges and 17 out of 48 prefectural/municipal colleges accepted graduates from Korean ethnic high schools without a university entrance qualification examination (Lee 1999:159). Finally, the MOE started to entrust each college with the authority to examine the academic quality of applicants without high school equivalency, such as graduates of Korean ethnic schools, high school dropouts, and middle school graduates, without the requirement of the university entrance qualification examination since the 2004-5 academic year.
Furthermore, the university entrance qualification examination was revised to become the high school equivalency examination in 2005 so that those who pass the examination have the same status as high school graduates. Recently, Japanese sports associations have finally accepted the participation of ethnic schools in formal sports contests.
Since Korean girls commute to their ethnic schools wearing traditional school uniforms, the chima chogori (Korean traditional clothes), they are easily targeted and harassed by Japanese people, especially right-wingers who hate to see communist North Korea threaten Japan. Due to the Tendom incident in 1998 where North Korea launched missiles, for example, six cases of the harassment of Korean students and schools were reported to the police, including discriminatory violence against female students wearing the chima chogori (U.N. Committee 2000). Concerned for the safety of female students, the Bureau of Education in the Chongryun notified their 61 ethnic middle and high schools that schools should allow girls to wear typical school uniforms, and not the chima chogori when they commute, and that they wear the chima chogori at school (AS March 6, 1999). Discriminatory remarks, bullying, and violence against Koreans are in direct violation of their human rights. The Human Rights Bureau, under the Ministry of Justice, undertook a series of vigorous street campaigns in order to eliminate violence and harassment of Koreans. Human rights education in schools and the community helps reduce prejudice and discrimination against Korean people.
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Korean residents have difficulty obtaining employment in Japanese companies because of their foreign status. Public positions have been closed to Korean residents because Japanese citizenship is required. Nationality is not a consideration in the hiring policies of private companies; however, many private companies in fact have been reluctant to employ Korean residents.
During the post-war period, Korean residents have been self-employed or working in family businesses much more than Japanese counterparts, and in the lower strata of employees as unsecured temporary workers, because of employment difficulties. After World War II, approximately 600,000 Koreans remained in Japan. During the turmoil immediately after World War II, many Koreans took advantage of underground businesses as brokers. As Japan’s economy recovered in the 1950s, many Koreans were excluded from the regular employment at Japanese companies. In the 1950s and 1960s, many Koreans worked as scrapes collectors. They raised pigs. They have also worked as craftsmen, taxi drivers, and construction workers. They started ethnic enterprises such as pachinko and barbecue restaurants, and entertainments, such as sex industry and mahjong parlors, which are dangerous jobs with links to the yakuza (Japanese mafia). Two thirds of these businesses had ten employees or less. That indicates that many Koreans were engaged in unstable jobs like daily laborers.
Professionals, who can work independently, are popular because they can have their own business with certificates. Since 1977, Korean residents have been allowed to practice law. According to the 1985 census of Osaka prefecture, Japanese accounted for 13.7 percent of self-employed enterprises but the comparable figure for Koreans was 34.2 percent (Kim 1999:115). A 1990-1991 analysis found that the percentage of working Korean males of 65 years old or older (51.7%) was twice that of their Japanese counterparts (Kim, Sonoda and Shin 1995:180, 186).
The court recognized employment discrimination against Korean residents for the first time in 1974. Park Chon-suk, who had not written his Korean name on an application form, and had been dismissed by Hitachi in 1970. He won his suit against Hitachi in the Yokohama regional court in 1974. Moreover, the uniform application form has also helped eliminate the employment discrimination against Korean children. Ethnographical study finds that teachers in vocational high schools make extra efforts to help Korean students find an appropriate job in cooperation with parents and the school referral system (Okano 1997:533).
The employment of young Koreans is much closer to the employment of Japanese counterparts. According to a 1993 survey of young Koreans between the ages of 18 and 30 years old, 60.8 percent of Korean youths in their 20s are employees, in comparison to 82.0 percent of Japanese youths in their 20s. The employment rate among the Korean youths is much higher than that of their fathers’ generation and is much closer to the Japanese average (Fukuoka and Kim 1997:24-25).
According to a 1995 SSM of Japanese men and Korean men belonging to South Korea, Korean residents are a much smaller proportion in professional and managerial positions (14.2% for Koreans; 22.4% for Japanese), clerical and sales (12.4%; 20.2%), and agriculture (0.3%; 5.9%). On the other hand, Korean residents are much more likely to be self-employed (52.1%; 23.2%). They work in construction (17.7%), restaurants (12.7%), the entertainment industry (6.7%), real estate (4.2%), manufacturing (4.1%), retail (4.0%), finance (4.0%), transportation (3.6%), and recycling (3.1%). Korean residents obtained their first job through family and relatives (35.3%), acquaintances of family and relatives (10.1%), friends and acquaintances (21.7%), or by themselves (11.0%). More than 80 percent of informal social networks are among Koreans, and many work at Korean enterprises (Kim and Inazuki 2000:189-194).
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Korean residents had been excluded from basic social welfare, such as national pension, national health insurance, and pension for disabled people until 1982, when the Japanese government revised the social welfare laws to abolish the citizenship requirement in accordance with the ratification of the 1979 Human Rights Covenants and the 1982 Refugee Recognition Treaty. Before the revision of the laws, some municipalities with many Korean residents extended social welfare to them. For example, in 1972, Nagoya city provided National Health Insurance for Korean residents for the first time, and then some other municipal administrations followed suit.
Korean permanent residents legally enjoy the same eligibility for social welfare as Japanese nationals, though the transition of eligibility left some problems to older Koreans who were deprived their social welfare rights before 1982. In 1979, Korean residents became eligible to apply for public housing and mortgages after the revision of the laws relating public housing and public subsidies for mortgages.
In 1982, the National Pension and three laws for the childcare allowances, including disabled children have applied to Korean residents. Since 1986, the National Health Insurance has covered Korean residents. Since the 1950 official notice of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Livelihood Life Law has been conditionally applied to foreigners, though foreigners do not have the right of petition. After the 1982 Refugee Recognition Treaty, poverty cannot be the ground for deportation. The number of foreign residents under the protection of the livelihood life law amounted to 28,788 (U.N. Human 2000). The number of Korean households receiving social welfare benefits in 1993 was approximately three times higher than that of Japanese households (Shōya and Nakayama 1997:279).
The National Pension Law was enacted in 1959 for all Japanese people, including self-employed, housewives and students. The National Pension Law had nationality clauses and only Japanese nationals were eligible for the national pension before 1982. When they became old, disabled, or widowed, the pension would be provided for those who had paid premiums. The eligibility for the national pension included at least 25 years of participation. In order to cover everybody, the special measure was applied to those who were already 35 years old or older, those who were already widowed, and those who were already disabled, at the time of implementation of the National Pension. On the other hand, the Employees’ Pension and Mutual Aid Pension have never had the nationality clause, so foreigners could contribute to and receive employees’ pensions. However, most Koreans had been self-employed or had been engaged in family businesses, therefore, most did not have any pension at all.
The nationality clause of the National Pension was abolished in 1982. The eligibility of the National Pension was extended to foreigners. However, the special measures to cover those who are not able to join for 25 years or more did not yet apply this time. Therefore, those who were from 35 to 59 years old in 1982 cannot pay for 25 years, and were ineligible to receive a senior pension. Also, those who were already 20 years or older and already disabled, could not receive disability welfare pension. Those who were already widows, they could not receive mother and child welfare pension.
In 1986, the revision to the National Pension created an empty period of no payment for housewives who used to have an option to participate, but who now have to participate. Then, the empty period can be applied to naturalized Japanese and to permanent residents. They can add the period from April 1, 1961 to January 1, 1982 when they did/could not join. However, those who were already 60 years old or older in April 1, 1986 and those who were already disabled at the age of 20 in 1982 could not receive the National Pension. Japanese people who were already 50 years old on April 1, 1961, were able to receive pension through senior welfare pension at the age of 70. Those who were already 70 years old in Nov. 1, 1959 could receive senior welfare pension. This remedy was applied to those Japanese on the Ogasawara islands in 1968 and Okinawa in 1972, but not to foreigners. It is not fair to elderly Koreans who could not participate in the National Pension and most of whom had lived in Japan for a long time.
Since April 1, 1992, the municipal administration of Osaka has subsidized some pension to seriously disabled foreigners who do not receive any public pension, those who were already 20 years old in 1982 and have been living in Osaka city. After April 1, 1993, all municipal administrations in Osaka followed suit. According to a 2003 survey, 606 municipal administrations subsidize a monthly allowance, 20,000 to 30,000 yen to disabled people (41 years old or older) without the pensions with disability (Mainichi Shinbun June 23, 2003).
In 1996, all municipal administrations in Osaka, except Higashi Osaka City issued the “system of special subsidies for the foreign elderly” and provided poor foreign elderly with 10,000 yen a month, one-third of the Senior Welfare Pension (Shōya and Nakayama 1997:305). According to a 2003 survey, 740 municipal administrations, about 20 percent of all municipal administrations, provide a monthly payment of up to 10,000 yen for the Korean elderly without the national pensions (77 years old or older) without the national pensions (Mainichi Shinbun June 23, 2003).
Korean residents, like other foreigners, had suffered housing discrimination. They were not able to apply for public housing and public housing loans until 1980, when Japan ratified the Human Rights Covenants in 1979. The laws of public housing do not mention a citizenship requirement, but the regulation of the eligibility for applicants required Japanese citizenship. In 1975, the mayor of Kawasaki city decided to provide Korean residents with eligibility for public houses and with allowances for dependent children. After the ratification of the Human Rights Covenants of 1979, the Ministry of Construction sent an official notice that the permanent foreign residents could apply without restriction. Many Koreans still experienced discrimination when they tried to rent an apartment or a house. In 1989, Pae Kon-il sued a landowner who refused to sell the land to him because of his Korean ethnicity. He won $267,000 in damages (Hicks 1997:113-114).
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1905 Katsura-Taft Agreement. The Treaty for the Protection of Korea.
1910 The colonization of Korea.
1919 3.1 Independent Movement in Korea.
1945 The Liberation of Korea and Taiwan. Establishment of the Chōren (the League of Koreans in Japan).
1946 Formation of the Mindan (the Korean Residents Union in Japan).
1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty. Alien Registration Law.
1955 Establishment of Chongryun (the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, Chōsōren), affiliated with North Korea.
1965 Japan-South Korea Normalization Treaty.
1981 Elimination of the nationality requirement in the National Pension Law and the Childcare Laws.
1991 The memorandum between South Korea and Japan. “Special permanent residency” for all children and descendents of those Koreans who have lived since 1952. Abolition of the nationality clauses for public school teachers.
1993 Abolition of fingerprinting system for the permanent residents.
1998 Bans on Japanese cultures started to be lifted in South Korea.
2002 The 2002 World Cup of Soccer was sponsored by the cooperation of Japan and South Korea.
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In the early 1900s, many Chinese started to migrate and work as merchants, laborers, and self-employed such as tailors, barbers and cooks (“three Chinese professions with knives or razors”) mainly in seaport cities like Nagasaki, Yokohama, Osaka, Hakodate, and Kōbe, where they established Chinese quarters known as “Chinatowns.” In the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923, Yokohama’s Chinatown was destroyed, and one-third of the Chinese in Tokyo and Yokohama were killed. After the 1931 Manchurian Incident, Chinese students and businessmen fled Japan, reducing the Chinese population from 30,836 in 1930 to 17,043 in 1938. Toward the end of the war, a large number of Chinese people, including prisoners of war were forcibly sent to Japan to work in mines, and construction. Approximately 42,000 Chinese were sent to Japan from 1943 to 1945, and by the end of war, there were only 31,000 survivors because of malnutrition, work accidents and punishment for the uprisings against the Japanese.
After the war, almost all Chinese workers from the mainland and about a half of Taiwanese chose to be repatriated. In 1948, 34,000 Chinese residents remained in Japan. After the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, Taiwanese in Japan lost their Japanese nationality, and became resident aliens without social and welfare benefits or the ability to apply for jobs in the public sector. Many Chinese kept their traditional work such as merchants, shopkeepers and restaurateurs, and relied on their social network. When Japan recognized the People’s Republic of China in 1972, many Chinese sought naturalization. The number of naturalized Chinese, only 200 in 1971, soared to 7,338 in 1973. In 1975, there were almost 68,000 Chinese residents (Vasishth 1997:128-134). Many Chinese residents are still based in seaport cities such as Kōbe and Yokohama. There are two Chinese ethnic schools (one for the Communist Party and another for the National Party) in Yokohama, one in Kōbe, two in Osaka and one in Kyoto. Many Chinese residents are married to Japanese. In 2003, there were 83,321 Chinese general permanent residents and 3,406 Chinese special permanent residents (Hōmushō 2004a).
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Approximately 472,00 Koreans with special permanent residency, whose parents or grandparents had lived in Japan before 1952, are becoming the third and fourth generations. The number of Korean permanent residents has been decreasing due to increasing naturalization, and intermarriage to Japanese nationals. Currently, two-thirds (67% in 1994) of Korean residents belong to South Korea, though in the 1950s most Koreans claimed the North Korean nationality, despite their South Korean origins.
After the ratification of the 1979 U.N. Human Rights Covenants, and the 1981 U.N. Refugee Convention, the legal status of Korean residents has come to approximate that of Japanese nationals, except for right to vote and to work in the public sector. After 1991, all Koreans with permanent residency, including their children (will) have “special permanent residency” to stay in Japan, and will be deported only if they commit serious crimes. The maximum overseas stay is five years, compared with two years for other foreign residents. Furthermore, Korean permanent residents enjoy the same eligibility for social welfare, such as the national health insurance, national pensions, and childcare allowances as Japanese nationals, though the transition to eligibility created some problems to older Koreans because of the lack of special treatment.
The decade-long movement for the abolition of obligatory fingerprinting succeeded in abolishing fingerprinting for permanent residents in 1993 and for all foreigners in 2000, and even expunging existing fingerprint records. The movement for the voting rights of permanent residents for the local government has spread nationwide since the 1980s. After Korean residents formally lost their Japanese nationality in 1952, they have been excluded responsible positions in public authority and in public projects. In the mid-1970s, some local governments started to abolish the citizenship requirement for municipal clerical and technical jobs. The Ministry of Education (MOE) declared that foreigners could be hired as permanent lecturers in 1982. In 1991 the MOE abolished the nationality clauses for public school teachers, and started to hire permanent residents as permanent teachers with some conditions.
Nearly 90 percent of Korean children attend Japanese schools. They are hardly distinguishable from Japanese students because most use Japanese names. Schools with many Korean students have ethnic studies in after-school and extracurricular classes. On the other hand, 10 percent of Korean children attend Korean ethnic schools, “miscellaneous schools” operated by Chongryun (the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan). Ethnic schools have helped Korean students develop Korean identity and pride as “overseas nationals” of North Korea. The number of students in ethnic schools has decreased from 46,000 in 1960 to 11,000 in 2003. Recently, Japanese sports associations have invited ethnic schools to athletic competitions, and an increasing number of private, prefectural, municipal colleges have accepted graduates from ethnic high schools on an equal basis as graduates from regular Japanese high schools. Since the 2004-2005 academic year, national universities have waived the examination for college eligibility.
Korean residents have suffered difficulty in obtaining employment in Japanese companies. They are much more likely to be self-employed in family businesses than their Japanese counterparts are, and have been employed as unsecured temporary workers. According to a 1995 survey, compared with Japanese men, Korean male residents belonging to South Korea are much less represented in professional and managerial positions, clerical and sales, and agriculture, while Korean residents are much more in self-employment.
The relevance of human rights issues to Korean residents in Japan is discussed in civics textbooks and the Contemporary Society textbooks in high school. The textbooks describe the rights of Korean residents and support Korean-resident movements that promote their Korean voting rights and civil service employment. According to a popular civics textbook:
“For the elimination of discrimination against Korean residents:
Currently, there are many Korean residents living in Japan. The overwhelming majority of Koreans in Japan are people who needed to migrate to Japan as a result of the colonization of Korea by Japan, and were brought to Japan against their will for forced labor, and the descendents of these people. They preserve their ethnic pride and play an active part in various areas. But discrimination in their social lives such as employment still remains. Also, they have been restrained from acquiring voting rights and from becoming civil servants. Therefore, the movement for the elimination of discrimination still continues” (Tokyo Shoseki 2002b:39).[Back to the top]
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