Tuesday 18 April 2017

North Korean Missiles and Korean Residents in Japan

Picture showing the front gate of Japan's only Korean University located in Kodaira City
Korean University Entrance, Kodaira City
With tensions rising on the Korean peninsula it was rather unnerving to hear Prime-Minister Abe recently warn that North Korea could launch sarin-loaded missiles towards Japan. Tokyo would no doubt be a prime target: as well as being the seat of government, seven US military bases are located in the capital. Western Tokyo would be right on the flight-path, though I have heard it said that Kodaira-City would probably be avoided since it houses Japan's only Korean University (Chōsen Daigaku). Established in 1956, the medium of instruction is Korean and the university (pictured right) is funded by the North Korean Government. 

Koreans make up the second-largest group of foreign residents in Japan (Chinese are top) and comprised 491,711 indviduals in 2015, the majority of who were "special permanent residents" (SPR). SPR is a unique category that is almost wholly made up of Koreans and their descendants who came or were forcibly brought to Japan in the pre-war period and were either unable to or chose not to go back after the end of the war. The term "Zainichi" (在日) Korean (or simply "oldcomer") is typically used to refer to these long-term Korean residents of Japan (and their children) who trace their roots back to Korea under Japanese rule, distinguishing them from the later wave of "newcomer" Korean migrants who came mostly from the 1980s. While many have naturalised (become Japanese citizens) many have not, fearing loss of their cultural identity in a country which doesn't recognise dual-identities such as Korean-Japanese. In this respect, the Korean population in Japan is rather unique; as Erin Chung puts it, Japan is currently the only advanced industrial democracy with a fourth generation immigrant problem.

[UPDATE: Tokyo subway services stopped for 10 minutes on April 30th following reports of a ballistic missile launch - the first time ever services have been suspended for such a reason]

[UPDATE #2: North-Korea fires a ballistic missile over Hokkaido on the morning of August 29th, triggering the J-alert warnng system in Northern Japan]

Detailed pictures of various scenes in Shin-Okubo,Tokyo's Korea Town, including a Korean syupermarket, K-pop shop, food stall, and pop culture department store
Shin-Okubo, Tokyo's Korea-Town. From left to right: Korean supermarket, K(orean)-pop store, food stall, and Hanryū (Korean Wave) Department Store selling various Korean popular culture goods