Flower Men of Korea

by Lilia Yamakawa

“Beauty” and what one considers beautiful depend a lot on a person’s own culture and ethnicity. On the streets of Korea, it is not unusual to find Flower Men (FMs), called “kkotminam” (“flower handsome men”). You will know them by their pretty and “soft masculinity” and by their attention to the way they look. They are willing to spend a lot of time and money on their appearance and lifestyle. They may use make-up and other beauty products, pluck their eyebrows, manicure their nails, gel and style their hair, get facials, get massages, and even have cosmetic surgery. They are also associated with soft speech and traits such as gently caring for their families. They are seen as being pure and innocent, and they are very polite. In this report, I will examine some of the reasons to explain the Flower Man boom.

First, the boom is part of the larger global phenomenon of the “metrosexual” male, which has spread throughout both the East and the West. The metrosexual man is one who takes care of his physical appearance through means that were once considered feminine. The FM is just one example of this wide global trend. The East Asian metrosexual trend is so prominent that Time magazine did a cover story on it in 2005. Ling Liu wrote in this article:

A few years ago it may have been considered sissy for a guy to be fussy about his clothing and appearance. Real men demanded the world accept them on their own uncouth, unkempt terms. But in Asia nowadays, the definition of masculinity is undergoing a makeover – and narcissism is in, thanks to economic growth, higher disposable incomes, shifting gender roles, and fashion and cosmetics industries eager to expand their customer bases. No longer content to be the drabber sex, Asian males are preening like peacocks, perming, plucking and powering themselves to perfection in an effort to make themselves more attractive to their bosses, their peers and, of course, to women.

Although the boom is worldwide, it seems that Korean Flower Men have taken it to a further extreme than men of any other ethnic group and nationality. In 2013, South Korean men spent roughly $900 million on skincare. This was almost one-fourth of sales worldwide for men’s skin care. There are many salons and spas just for men that offer hair, facials, massages, and other procedures. Plastic surgery is also common, and there are also a number of clinics that cater solely to men. In 2013, Korean Air began training male staff to use beauty products (Fujita 2005).

The FM phenomenon itself began in the 1990s, around the time the Korean government began to allow more pop culture from Japan to come into the country (in 1998). Many manga and anime, which were previously hard to find, could now be bought and read in public. Young male actors and singers, especially in the boy bands, began to look like Japanese and Korean manga and anime characters, especially those in “girls’ comics” or “shojo manga” where the ideal image of a male is “bishonen” or “beautiful boy.” The flow of media between Korea and Japan also included tv dramas, cinema, and advertising (Sun 2010). The “yaoi” type of manga, which became very popular in Korea, is also said to be a big influence on the FM trend. The men in these manga often look like elves or fairies, and they are soft, sweet, and sensitive.

Up to the 1990’s the popular image of male beauty in Korea was a rather macho-type man. Since then, the soft male type has become much more popular. Two groups of FBs best exemplify the phenomenon today. One is the Korean boy band DBSK of idols. The other is the Korean tv drama called “Boys Over Flowers.” It was based on the Japanese manga and anime called “Hana yori dango” and was broadcast in Korea in 2009. It is a typical shojo Cinderella story of a poor high school girl who is befriended by the four richest, most handsome boys in the school, the F4. It became super popular in Korea, and later, in many other Asian countries including Japan. With “Boys Over Flowers”, the male image of the “kkotminam” became even more popular in Korea. More and more males aspired to look soft and gentle and pretty. Men’s fashion came to include pinks and floral prints, and cute “boyish” hairstyles with long bangs became the rage (Lee 2010).

Advertising has played an important role in spreading the FM image. Cosmetics companies have been very eager to sell cosmetics to this whole new group of buyers. Large areas of department stores are now devoted to men’s beauty care. Famous idols and actors, including members of both the DBSK and the F4, are used to advertise men’s beauty products. More and more men in Korea aspire to look like these idols.

The Korean economy is very strong now. This makes it possible for many Korean men to spend their money on personal beauty. With the economic power they become more confident, and more men want to look good even if it costs them.

A major reason for the “kkonminam” craze is that men want to look good to be competitive in the job market. They want to have “the right face”, which looks youthful, lively, friendly, and upper-class. Job applicants must send in photographs with their applications. Many Koreans believe that a person’s character can be read in the face, and even that their looks are more important than their skills (Jeffreys 2007).

Historically, Korean is a country ruled by strong Confucian ideals, which emphasize taking care of and making both the mind and the body strong. It is said that one reason for the “hallyu” (“hanryu” or “Korean Wave”) throughout East Asia is that the men are good-looking but show “a lack of profanity and sex, as befitting Confucian morals” (Maliangkay 2010).

David Coad believes that sports figures, such as David Beckham have been important in popularizing the metrosexual and the FB trend. They stand for traditional masculinity in their sports skills, but they also take care of their personal appearance in ways that were once thought feminine. The long-haired Korean soccer player, Ahn Jung-Hwan became very popular at the 2002 World Cup. He is known not only for his soccer skills, but also for his looks and his actions that show a softer side of men. He kissed his wedding ring after winning a major game. Then, he went on to advertise men’s liquid foundation. Coad writes:

The immediately obvious hyper-masculine and generally assumed heterosexual status of most sportsmen has been vital in changing attitudes about exposing, eroticizing, and taking care of the male body. Without some of the most celebrated heterosexual athletes in the world endorsing and embodying different facets of metrosexuality it is uncertain if masculinity norms would have changed so rapidly in so many different cultures. Metrosexuality, in a way, is indebted to sportsmen for its very existence. (Coad 2008)

Some people believe the most important reason the FM phenomenon is spreading throughout Korea, but especially in urban areas, is that women like it.  Bae Yong-joon, who was so popular in the tv drama “Autumn Sonata”, is also well liked among somewhat older Korean women. His popularity is based on his character in the drama which was soft looking, passionate, sincere, and polite. James Turnbull, who writes for The Korea Times, has an interesting theory about the origins of the FM.

When focusing on men, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that it is actually women’s changing tastes in them that drive changes in their fashions and grooming jabits, and accordingly it ultimately proves to be married Korean women in the late-1990s that are responsible for flower men’s origins. (Turnbull 2009)

Turnbull goes on to explain that during the “IMF Crisis” of 1997, many more women were laid off from their companies than men were because it was assumed that their husbands could support them. They had only recently gotten the legal right to not be fired upon marriage. Then they were encouraged by society to support “Korean’s hardworking men” to help get through the crisis. He says that many women, at this time, started to reject “the ideals of men as strong, provider types, and it is no coincidence that a sudden glut of movies appeared featuring romances between older women and younger men, and that this was when the first, identifiable, flower men began appearing in advertising too.” Korean women wanted men who were more interested in satisfying them than their companies (Turnbull 2009).

It is obvious that many females from mid-teens to their 30s also like the FM. They fill social media sites with comments about popular singers and actors. They use various interesting words to describe the men: pretty, sweet looking, a hootie, cute, looks like a pretty girl, etc. One blogger on Korean pop culture expresses what seem to be the views of many young women:

So why do flower boys act like women? There is only one answer to this. Because their fans love it. I guess there is something about a handsome man trying to act like a woman which makes them even more endearing. Somehow, there is an inexplicable and irresistible urge that makes women want to pinch flower boys’ cheeks every time they do their “cute acts”…flower boys are pretty to look at and they are cute and entertaining. But, why are they so popular? The ultimate reason, I believe, is that flower boys represent certain qualities of a man women look for – a man unafraid to explore his soft side…his emotional side and admit that he is vain after all. (Deen 2011)

About those pretty cheeks the women want to pinch, many times they might be pretty as a result of plastic surgery. The Korean Association for Plastic Surgeons estimated that in 2010 approximately 15% of Korean men had plastic surgery. The Korean Herald reported that 44% of male college students were considering plastic surgery (“Think plastic surgery” 2013).

In an excellent article on cosmetic surgery in Korea, Ruth Holliday and Jo Hwang point out that plastic surgery is popular and accepted in Korean society. The former president of Korea, among many other famous people have had work done on their faces. They write that “the body emerges as a site for negotiating and reinforcing national identity.” After1945, Koreans wanted to look more western in order to look very different from the Japanese colonizers. Later, they wanted to embrace their Koreanness by consulting with fortune tellers of physiognomy to find out what is their particular auspicious face. Surgeons and physiognomists often work together in the clinics. A survey found that 7 of 10 Koreans approve of plastic surgery, and even more say they would do it if they had the money. The government supports plastic surgery tourism, does not control the industry strictly, and even approves of it through the insurance program in many cases. With plastic surgery accepted so widely in Korea, it is not surprising that men are commonly having surgery on their eyelids to make them look bigger, on their noses to make them more pointed, and on their jaws to make them look less angular. Liposuction to suck out fat is also popular among men. (Holliday & Hwang n.d.)

The Flower Man as a positive male image partly has its origins in the worldwide metrosexual trend and in Japanese manga and anime. It is, however, uniquely Korean. It was made popular by the “soft masculinity” of pop idols and actors in dramas. It has been promoted by advertising of cosmetic firms who want to open up and make money in the new market of male beauty aids. This happened just at a time when the Korean economy was relatively strong. The Korean job market is very competitive, and appearance is important. Nonsexual boys fit in with traditional Confucian ideals. Sportsmen have shown that a man can be traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine at the same time. Some women want men to be a mixture of male and female, more androgynous, and not masculine Rambo types. Finally, striving for ideal beauty (and the range of what is considered “beauty” seems to be quite narrow in Korea) and using means such as plastic surgery to get it has been a part of the Korean culture for a long time. Procedures such as cosmetic surgery are readily accepted by the general public.

South Korea is a country with a military draft. All men must serve in the military for at least one year. Some men said they started using face creams as soldiers because they wanted protection in the sunshine. It is even possible to buy a set of camouflage face paint, healthier for the skin than the usual, to wear during military service. (Ling 2012) This shows that the traditionally male identity and the newer Flower Man identity are blending well in Korean society.

References

  1. Coad, David. (2008). The metrosexual: Gender, sexuality and sport . (p. 196). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
  2. Deen, Catherine. (2011, November 30). Understanding the lure of ‘flower boys’. Retrieved from https://ph.omg.yahoo.com/blogs/okpop/understanding-lure-flower-boys-050944369.html
  3. Fujita, Akiko. (2005, October 28). South Korean men cosmetics-crazed. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2013/05/south-korean-men-cosmetics-crazed/
  4. Holiday, Ruth, & Jo Hwang. (n.d.). Gender, globalization and aesthetic surgery in south korea. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/726850/Gender_Globalization_and_Cosmetic_Surgey_in_South_Korea 
  5. Jeffreys, Daniel. (2007, April 28). Koreans go under the knife in a cut-throat race for jobs. Retrieved from https://www.google.co.jp/webhp?hl=en&tab ww&gws_rd=cr&ei
  6. Lee, H. (2010). Men, be beautiful for spring, summer. Retrieved from http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/…/199_39427.html
  7. Liu, Ling. (2005, October 28). Asia’s metrosexuals: Mirror, mirror…. Retrieved from http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-10/28/content_488529.html
  8. Maliangkay, Roald. (2010). The effeminacy of male beauty in korea. Retrieved from http://www.iias.nl/sites/default/files/IIAS_NL55_0607.pdf
  9. Sun, J. (2010). Pan-east asian soft masculinitity: Reading boys over flowers, coffee prince and shinhwa fan fiction. Retrieved from http://books.publishing.monash.edu/aps/bookworm/view/Complicated Currents/122/xhtml/frontmatter1.html
  10. Think plastic surgery is only popular with girls in Korea? Take a look at the guys – See more at: http://yourhealth.asiaone.com/content/think-plastic-surgery-only-popular-girls-korea-take-look-guys/page/0/1#sthash.FsaKcvCZ.dpuf
  11. Turnbull, James. (2009). Flower men: the hot topic of 2009. Retrieved from http://thegrandnarrative.com/2009.04/03/flower-men-the-hot-topic-of-2009/
  12. Williamson, Lucy. (2012, December 3). South korean men get the make-up habit. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20522028

Names in a globalized world

by Fei Long Yu

During the latest weeks, we spoke about globalization in class and about how some people taking on a new name during their life. This is a really interesting topic for me and I would want to give you readers my view point on this topic.

A given name is something that your parents usually give you and call you by; it’s rarely changed during the life time. Instead, many people can take on other names, such as nicknames or pseudonyms in their daily life when they communicate with other people or friends. The question that rises is; why is that? Why do some people (e.g. Asians) take on nicknames and not use their given names? I have noticed that many people with Asian parents often take on two names; one from their own language (e.g. Chinese name) and one English sounding name. In some cases, if the child doesn’t “receive” a second name (English one) they may very much either choose one later on during their life or receive one from friends or teacher. Why does this happen? Why do some children receive an English sounding name when they enter school or mingling with new people?

The reason behind this can be many; one reason can that the child doesn’t want to be bullied in school because of their not-English-sounding name. Another reason can be that the name is too hard to pronounce and therefore receive an English-sounding name. Another reason, which can be considered as a big main reason to why many Asian people take on English sounding name, is because English is the most spoken language around the world.  Asian people may want to be more integrated in the world of business and therefore take an English-sounding name. E.g. can the name decide if you’re called to an interview or not, and the chances is better if you have an English name (see for example what names is most frequent at the higher positions within the companies).

But, one thing I have noticed is that Asian children outside Asia are more likely to be given two names: one Asian name and one English name (or names that are common the host country, like in my family). The Asian name is often reserved to the family and relatives, which means it’s only used by the family when they speak to the children, while the English name is used by friends and colleagues. This may, as argued earlier, be because it’s usually much easier to pronounce English sounding names than Asian name. Or that the parents feels like the child should inherit two names, one from their home country and one from the country they’re living in.

The name can also be used to describe the identity, which also means that if one person has English name can be considered as more international person than a person with Asian name. For example, it’s easier to introduce yourself with an English name, since the listener may have it much more easily to pronounce the name than an Asian sounding name.

Another interesting thought is that this mainly applies to Asian people. While most foreigners use their given name, Asian people do the opposite when they enter a new country. This is also very visible in school or among new friends that doesn’t speak an Asian language.

The question is if this is a sign that the world is getting more international? Well, the world language is English, it’s the most widespread and spoken language around the world. And therefore many people have it easier to pronounce an English sounding name. But what would happen (or when it happens) if another language would surpass English? For example, Chinese, would the names in Europe and America be changed to the Chinese language when they’re studying or working abroad?

Skin Tone and Achievement in Education

by Sten Alvarsson

There is a clear relationship between skin tone and levels of achievement in education. Lighter skin tones achieve higher levels of education and employment on both a personal and family basis (Keith, 2009). Advantages and disadvantages of skin tone relative to a particular group or individual within a society are based on perceived ideas of beauty and status and their associated connotations. The advantages of having lighter skin can be passed down through family networks, as children receive the privileges of the structure they are born into.

Educational advantages of a lighter skin tone relative to others in their environment can be present from an early stage. Teachers can judge students with greater attractiveness to also have greater levels of intelligence (Keith, 2009). Since skin tone often plays an important role in perceived attractiveness, teachers may have higher expectations, give out more encouragement and give higher marks, amongst other preferential treatment, to lighter skinned students resulting in superior academic performance.

Children are highly perceptive to these socialised messages regarding skin tones. When darker skin tones are devalued the affect can be equally as damaging as the extolment of lighter skin tones are advantageous (Elmore, 2009). Adolescents in particular have a heightened sense of self-consciousness in relation to their physical appearance and the socialised messages they receive in the classroom can have a great impact on their academic performance and opportunities for socio-economic mobility later in life.

Research shows that lighter skin tones are often linked to higher socio-economic status to the extent that, “Complexion operates as a form of social capital that can be converted to human capital assets” (Keith, 2009, p. 29). This is supported in research by Joni Hersch which shows that, “On average, being one shade lighter has about the same effect as having an additional year of education” in relation to employment earnings (as cited in Nair, 2010, p. 25). In fact, Keith (2009) highlights a direct relationship between lighter skin tones and increased levels of education. Such research has been questioned by academics like Gullickson (2004) who state that, “Colorism itself might still remain, but structural changes in larger race relations have reduced the advantage it previously gave to lighter skinned individuals” (p. 22). However, Keith (2009) argues that both media images and academic research do not show a decrease in the importance of skin complexion as a marker for achievement.

As has been demonstrated, skin tone is an important marker for achievement in education. Skin tone based social messages, behavioral norms and patterns of thought within the classroom are a powerful force in children’s development. Subsequently, skin tones also play a prominent role in later outcomes in areas such as mate selection, economic opportunities, occupational status and health conditions (Keith, 2009). Therefore, there needs to be a focus on education at a young age working towards combatting skin tone bias in order to lessen its prevalence with each new generation. Ultimately, we are all embodiments of living experiences and an end to skin tone bias would be an important step forward toward an existence without discrimination.

References

Elmore, T. G. (2009). Colorism in the classroom: An exploration of adolescents’ skin tone, skin tone preferences, perceptions of skin tone stigma and identity. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from UMI Dissertation Publishing. (3395695)

Gullickson, A. (2004). The significance of color declines: A re-analysis of skin tone differentials in post civil rights America. Retrieved from http://www.demog.berkeley.edu/~aarong/PAPERS/gullick_asa2003_skintone.pdf

Keith, V. M. (2009). A colorstruck world: Skin tone, achievement, and self-esteem among African American women. In E. N. Glenn (Ed.), Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters (pp. 25-39). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Nair, M. (2010). Social awareness in selected films. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Aveiro, Portugal.

Not American Enough?

 by Dina Akylbekova

One month ago tabloids headlines were dedicated to the Miss America 2014 winner Nina Davuluri. Davuluri became the first Indian-American, who won Miss America. The next few hours there were thousands of racist and xenophobic comments like “If you’re #Miss America you should have to be American”” or “Even Miss America has been outsourced to India. #NinaDavuluri!” (Syracuse, 2013). People posting comments like this do think that winner of Miss America 2014 represents American culture and values. The important point here is that the girl was born and has lived all her life in the USA. Is she still not American enough? Despite this, Nina said “I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.” Why spending her whole life in the US, with American citizenship, American education and self-perception as American are not enough for her to be considered a “real” American? Or is the problem that Davuluri does not look “American”. Do Asian and African descents have a right to view himself/herself as a “true” American, even if they do not look “American”?

The described situation confirms the fail of multiculturalism in America. Today Asian Americans comprise almost 6% of the US population (Pew Research Center, 2010). Almost quarter of all Asian American children were born in the US (Pew Research Center, 2010). Unfortunately, the racist backlash shows that even integrated Asian Americans are not considered “Americans”.

If the reader thinks that this happens only in America, there is a proof that this happens on the other side of the world as well. The next destination is Russia. Elmira Abdrazakova became Miss Russia 2013, the fact that the girl is half-Russian and half-Tatar (ethnic minority in Russia) was a starting point for the racist and nationalist backlash against the winner (The Atlantic, 2013). An additional fact against Abdrazakova was that the she was born in Kazakhstan. Elmira thinks that she fully represents a multiethnic and multicultural Russia (There are 180 ethnicities in Russian federation). However, nationalists probably do not know that Russia is a multiethnic country and continue to resist by saying that Abdrazakova is not Slavic enough.

Both Miss America 2014 and Miss Russia received a huge amount of racist comments concerning their ethnicities. Both the USA and Russia are officially claiming to be multicultural and multiethnic countries, where every ethnicity is respected. The reality shows the fail of tolerance, multiculturalism and multiethnicity in these societies. One can argue that racism in beauty contests is a routine part of these events. But in the reality, beauty contests show whether society is ready to accept other ethnicities beauty on the equal level as the native one. Will the situation change or ethnical minority titleholders would be blamed for being not American or Slavic enough?

How black Americans have been distanced from other black people

by Miho Tanaka

From two articles, “Not black, but Habasha: Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrants in American society” by Habecker and “Ethnic and racial identities of second-generation black immigrants in New York City” by Waters, I found how black Americans were distanced from each other because of tension with other ethnic groups. Though second generation immigrants sometimes fit into black American culture if they interact with black American friends, many black immigrants de-emphasize their ascribed black racial identification and try not to be categorized as black Americans in the US (Habecker, 2011, p.1206). However many other ethnic groups cannot distinguish them from black Americans since their appearance is very similar to black Americans; therefore they tend to be treated just like black Americans even if they have strong identity of not being like them. In addition it is impossible for black immigrants to reform the “apparently immobile structures of America’s racial hierarchy” even though they make efforts on maintaining social distance from black American (ibid, p.1215).

I suppose how much they experience discrimination, and how much less opportunity they have are deeply connected to the darkness of their skin of color. In the Black community, the tradition of lighter skin and straighter hair are often considered to be in ‘better’ status (Williams, 2013). In this sense I can see colorism pretty much prevails in US society and the world, and their social or economic levels are often determined by how dark they are. I feel Japan is not an exception. For example Okinawan or Ainu people in Japan have been discriminated from the dominant group. Okinawan have darker skin compared with Japanese living in Honshu island and I saw Ainu people when I was in a junior high school and went to school trip, they had darker skin, too. Okinawan people are often suffering from noisy airplane of U.S. military and sometimes Okinawan girls or women are raped, and Ainu people had been segregated and now they are disappearing. I can see that Japanese society also adopts colorism.

On a large scale, we should notice how colorism forms the structure or hierarchy of this world. I feel the darker skin people have, the more poor area they live in. When we think of black immigrants who rarely assimilate into the other culture which white or lighter skin colored-people control we should think about how colorism effects on their lives and their opportunity and how it is sustained in the world.

References

Habecker, S. (2011). “Not black, but Habasha : Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrants in American society” (pp.1200-1219). In Ethnic and racial studies. London : Routledge.

Waters, C. M. (1994). “Ethnic and racial identities of second-generation black immigrants in New York city” in International Migration Review. Vol.28, No.4, pp.795-820

Williams, C. (2013). Colorism : The war at home. Retrieved on June 13th 2013 from http://www.ebony.com/news-views/colorism-the-war-at-home-405#axzz2W6aYYoEN

Invisible Immigrants

by Ayano Tsukada

New York City is a city of minorities and immigrants. Unlike other cities like Los Angeles or Miami where one ethnic group makes up majority of the immigrant population, New York receives immigrants from all over the world. Their identities vary among the ethnic groups as well as within the groups. Here I would like to focus on second-generation Black Immigrants in New York City because they become invisible in two ways:

  1. The government does not track the second-generation of immigrants (They become Americans officially);
  2. The second-generation immigrants lack their parents’ distinctive accents and they look very similar to native-born Black American.

If they don’t tell their ethnicity, they can easily be seen as native-born Black Americans or act like native-born Black Americans.

But they don’t react to this situation in a same way. They adopt different types of racial and ethnic identities. Mary Waters, in her survey in New York City, found that there are three types of racial and ethnic identities adopted by Black immigrants: Black American identity; Ethnic or hyphenated national origin identity; and Immigrant identity. These identities are related to different perceptions and understandings of race relations and of opportunities in the United States. Second-generation immigrants with Black American Identity tend to see more racial discrimination and limits to opportunities for Blacks in the United States and disagree with parental judgements that there are strong differences between Black Americans and Immigrant Blacks. Those with Ethnic Identity tend to see more opportunities and rewards for individual effort and initiative and agree with their parents’ idea that Immigrant Blacks are better than Black Americans. Those with Immigrant Identity take a more neutral stance, but they are more like visible immigrants since they are likely to have immigrated recently and have distinctive accents and styles of clothing.

The interesting fact revealed by Water’s study is that these second-generation immigrants are aware of the generalized negative view of Blacks in the United States and yet some choose to be part of them while others try hard to differentiate themselves from Black Americans. What we can see from the fact is that they are helping to maintain the structure of racism in the United States. Second-generation immigrants with Black American identity are doing so by accepting the stereotypes of Blacks and those with ethnic identity do so by differentiating themselves from Black Americans.

So they are not challenging the current system.

They are making racism and colourism in the United States craftier and more invisible.

Reference

Waters, Mary C. 1994. “Ethnic and Racial Identities of Second-generation Black Immigrants in New York City.” International Migration Review 28(4):795-820.

Transnationalism: the case of Zainichi Koreans, support and problems

by Yuriko Otsuka

In Japanese society, there are a lot of Zainichi Koreans, Chinese, Brazilians and other ethnic minorities who have been staying in Japan for more than half a century. In the case of Zainichi Koreans, Chapman (2008) wrote that from 1910, Koreans started to come in to Japan due to  Japanese colonization in the imperial period (as cited in Shipper 2010, p.58). Inokuchi (2000) said that many Koreans left Japan after losing World War 2, however about 620,000 Koreans remained in Japan (ibid). In 2010, the Ministry of Justice estimated that 600,000 Zainichi Koreans were living in Japan (as cited in Sooim, 2012).

Peggy Levitt (2001) says that there are 3 institutional actors that help immigrants connect to their home country: states, political parties, and hometown organizations. In the case of the Zainichi Koreans, I think the states and especially the hometown organizations are playing a big role in Japanese society to help maintain its Korean identity.

The establishment and prevalence of Korean schools is one example of hometown organizations and government involvement. According to the Chosen Soren (as cited in Shipper 2010, p.61), Chongryun (an organization for Zainichi North Koreans) promoted the ties between North Korea and Zainichi by building a lot of Korean schools, also agitating Zainichi Korean parents to enroll their kids in the schools they built (ibid). Chongryun’s Central Education Institute is said to be working closely with the North Korean government through the encouragement of not only teaching Korean and history, but also “loyalty education subjects”, which the government promoted strongly under the periods of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

I also had an opportunity once to go to a Korean school in Osaka. One of the classrooms that I passed had both Japanese and Korean writings on the walls, which I thought is teaching the second and further generations of Zainichi to not forget about their homeland culture and language, and also nurturing their identities as not Japanese but Koreans. In addition, the government of South Korea started to enable Zainichi and other Koreans who live outside South Korea to vote in elections from April 2012 (Choson Ilbo, 2009). I think this is another way for Zainichi and other Koreans outside of Korea to have a sense of belonging towards their home country, and also to build an identity as Koreans by participating in the elections of their country. The examples that I wrote above are only a few of the supports that are done by the government and also the hometown organizations to give Zainichi Koreans to maintain their identity.

The problem that I thought is occurring towards not only Zainichi Koreans but also other ethnic minorities is related to ethnic plurality in Japanese society. As I wrote above, Zainichi Koreans have been staying in Japan for a long time, getting into the Japanese society so well that most people could not even tell the differences between Japanese and Zainichi Koreans. However, I think there is still discrimination against ethnic minorities such as Zainichi Koreans in Japan, which I thought that Japanese should overcome due to having lived with other ethnicities for such a long period. It might be hard for the society to change soon, but at least we have to try more to change our minds to accept people who are trying to live in a difficult society: Japan.

References

Choson Ilbo. (2009). Zaigaigaikokujinnimo senkyoken 2012 sousenkyokara (Koreans in overseas’ general election voting rights starting from 2012). Retrieved from http://japanese.joins.com/article/451/110451.html

Lee, Soo im. (2012). Diversity of zainichi Koreans and their ties to Japan and Korea. Shiga: Japan.

Levitt, Peggy. (2001). Transnational migration: Taking stock and future directions. Global networks, 1(3), 195-216.

Shipper, Apichai W. (2010). Nationalisms of and against Zainichi Koreans in Japan. Asian politics & policy, 2(1). Retrieved from http://csii.usc.edu/documents/Nationalisms_of_and_against_Zainichi.pdf.

Japanese History: 100 Years of Solitude on Fantasy Island?

by Robert Moorehead

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” Audre Lorde

Repeatedly in the past few weeks, some of the worst parts of 20th-century Japanese history have been in the news. Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto has repeated comments he’s made over the years, including denying that women were forced into sexual servitude by the Japanese state during the war. Just yesterday, Lower House representative Nariaki Nakayama joined the party by saying “We need to raise our voices and tell the world that (females) were not forcibly taken away.”

These comments have been widely criticized for their fictional view of Japanese history, but how well do people in Japan understand that history? If there’s hope for the future, then present-day university students would show a deeper, more accurate grasp, right?

One of my classes has been discussing the experiences of refugees, including whether Japan should accept more of them. In recent years, Japan has granted refugee status to only about 0.05% of applicants, for a total of about 10-30 people per year. In contrast, other developed countries have accepted tens of thousand of refugees per year. Japan has ratified the UN Convention on Refugees, and as one of the wealthiest and most populous nations in the world, Japan could be a stronger member of the international community by lending aid to more of the world’s most needy.

However, many students disagreed, and their disagreements show a clear pattern in describing Japan as a special, unique place that cannot be compared with anywhere else. In this version of Japan, there are no foreigners, only Japanese—and all Japanese share the same ethnicity and language. (Well, some say that there are Ainu, but their existence does not refute the dominant narrative.)

How could Japan sustain this monoracial, monoethnic, homogeneous space? Geography. As a series of islands, Japan was inaccessible to the rest of the world. Precisely how the inhabitants of the Japanese islands got here is unclear, because if they used boats, then couldn’t other people have also used boats to travel here? Was there an ancient land bridge that later collapsed, standing the islands in the middle of the ocean? Were the original inhabitants amazing swimmers who made the journey from the Korean peninsula?

The Japanese people have been united through a shared “island mentality” (shimaguni konjō) that instructed them to love each other and to love being Japanese. This mentality prevents Japanese from accepting others into their club. Also, the fact that Japan has always been so homogeneous means that Japanese have no experience living near non-Japanese, and are not familiar with dealing with such people.

I’ve tried to remind my students that in the first half of the 20th century, Japan was the head of a colonial empire that spanned much of Asia and the Pacific Islands. Millions of people from throughout the empire lived on the Japanese mainland, held Japanese citizenship, and voted in Japanese elections. One student later acknowledged that his grandmother told him that as a child many of her friends were Korean.

Notions of Japanese identity in this era justified Japan’s dominance by emphasizing ties between Japan and its Asian neighbors. One government propaganda slogan professed Japanese unity with its Asian brothers and sisters as “do-so, do-shu” (Same origin, same race). The idea of Japan as a homogeneous nation is a postwar idea to reunite a defeated nation after the collapse of its empire.

These facts of Japanese history are absent from students’ narratives. Instead, they act as if nothing happened in Japan between the Meiji Restoration in the 1860s and the Tokyo Olympics in 1964—100 years of solitude on Fantasy Island. It’s as if Gabriel García Márquez and Mr. Roarke were both Japanese and had 127 million love children.

But somehow their fantastical islands have a few million non-fantastical people, and there are other people whose islands became part of the fantasy more recently—and many of whom are unhappy about this. And many people who pass as fantasy people are, in fact, of non-fantastical ancestry. And let’s not forget the hundreds of thousands of fantastical return migrants, who also brought their slightly less fantastical Latin American family members.

Students express concerns over the challenges of integrating immigrants, refugees, and other foreigners into Japanese society. Those are valid concerns, but their solution is to close the door and to isolate Japan from the rest of the world. Is that a solution? Japan does have a neighbor that is much more isolated and that is largely closed to foreigners—North Korea. But is that the model they want to follow?

In an attempt to get students to rethink the issues, I read Dr. Seuss’s classic story Green Eggs and Ham, which challenges readers to get past their dislike of the unfamiliar. Green eggs and ham are delicious, after all.

Japan’s economic success has come from being embedded in the global economy, and continued success in the 21st century requires accepting not only people’s money, but the people themselves. We’re not scary. We’re green eggs and ham. Try us, you might like us.

Hafus’ citizenship and their identities

by Ryota Ochiai

You might have looked at a situation that a lot of hafu are living in Japan, today. In this article, hafu mean the people who are half-Japanese and half-something else. They spend days while they are often bound by that stereotypes like being seen as “cool” or “cute”.

However they are faced an important choice seriously until being 22 years old. The thing is “choosing own citizenship between two countries”. Dual citizenship is not accepted in the current Japanese Nationality Act (JNA). Therefore, hafu who chose Japanese citizenship have to withdraw another citizenship. In fact, however, hafu should leave the foreign citizenship when they will be foreign public such as police and member of National Diet. If in this case, hafu may only lose Japanese citizenship. However, the foreign citizenship does not disappear only by having reported that hafu chose the Japanese citizenship. Moreover, in Japan, there are no penal regulations about not withdrawing the foreign citizenship. It is approved by the government if I declare that “I choose Japanese citizenship.” However this declaration also means “an acting as for the withdrawal of the foreign citizenship” because JNA is telling. It is not compulsory to withdraw own foreign citizenship. These mean that “dual citizenship” might be accepted legally.

Nevertheless, the problem of the citizenship of hafu is not solved easily because of relating one country and another country. The time when hafu were born and family-forms maybe include in these factor. Ms. Sandra said that “If there are 10 hafus, there are 10 different stories about citizenship.”

We just see that hafu could have dual citizenship in Japan legally. Well, how about their identity? A problem of the identity for hafu is not “a problem in adult”, but “a problem facing you since you were child”. I felt unconsciously, that the way of thinking of human relations in “my foreign blood” is different from that of Japanese. I did not understand identity when I was a child. However I can felt what’s called “sense of estrangement” somehow. What distinguishes a Japanese from a foreigner? I fell into such a problem deeply in a childhood. However, an answer for oneself was found now. The answer is “not to distinguish own”. Even if two or three kind of bloods is flowing my body, it does not matter. Recognizing the environments that imposed on myself and taking it balance is my answer. I would like to take Japanese citizenship but I don’t want to waste my experiences and environment which are bound myself. Therefore I want to help hafu who are troubled with identity and say to them “Take it easy!”

Thank you for reading my post. I’m waiting your comments or feedback.

References

http://half-sandra.com/ <Thinking of Hafus’ Problems (Hafu ni tsuite kangaeyou)> written by Sandra Heferin.

Hafu issue and Japan

by Kensuke Ikeda

There are a lot of hafu whose parents don’t have the same nationality all over the world and there are many Japanese hafu in Japan. I found though movie about hafu that hafu cannot accept adequately in Japan because some Japanese people regard hafu as foreigner and other Japanese people don’t have interest in them. Also, hafu tend not to have own identity because they have difficulties for finding their origin and nation. Hafu issue, I think, is based on the lack of identity. The lack of identity is related to some questions are “where am I from” and “who am I”. Now we (my classmate and I) have discussed the situation of hafu and some students recommend multicultural education and global political policy for improving the idea for Japanese hafu on Facebook.

Of course the multicultural thinking is important, but the thinking is not perfect because the multicultural education is taught only to younger people such as school students. Therefore I suggest another way that Japanese government should allow for hafu to get two nationalities and follow the wave of globalization.

First I explain first solutions. To begin with, you should recognize the cause of lack of identity for reconsidering the issue. The loss of identity has relationships to the citizenship of hafu. They have to choose their nationality and citizenship in some countries such as Japan and Korea compared to the USA. In other words, these governments force hafu as minority to abandon one side right of their nations without getting double nationality. In my opinion, Japanese government should make room for hafu to have double nationalities and identities.

Second I introduce another method for solving hafu issue. Japanese people still tend to keep from foreigners because Japan is said to be a racially homogeneous nation and Japanese people get used to treat foreigners. On the other hand, globalization is advancing by improving IT such as the Internet and SNS. If this globalization is increasing, naturally the number of hafu will increase and the kinds of hafu pattern are more various, and then the environment for hafu in Japan will be changing. In other words globalization makes Japan racially multination. Therefore, I suppose that Japan should be more global and Japanese people get more opportunities to treat hafu. If this solution can, hafu will not need their identity because they could have the sense of belonging. They are treated as just a “human”. They would not lose something they could rely on.