Transnational Migration and Limitations

by Miho Tanaka

The activities of transnational migration are expanding every day and the immigrants’ social interactions and their relationship with their host countries is changing.

Since many African American’s diaspora started around seventeenth century, immigration to the U.S. and transnational migration accompanied with it has continued. Irish, Jews, Armenians and Greeks have settled in the U.S. as well as African Americans. Nowadays more and more immigrants arrive in the U.S. from mainly Asia and Latin America and seek job opportunity there. Each government of their host lands are trying to making ties with them in order to benefit from their immigration activity beyond borders. Levitt considers this phenomenon as long-distance nationalism that emerged from this current mainstream of globalization, whose processes tend to be de-linked from specific national territories (Levitt, 2001, p.202). On the basis of the changes of immigration in the U.S., Levitt addresses how policymakers should challenge these changes (Levitt, 2004).

I consider that the U.S. is one of the epitomes of immigrant issue in the world. A lot of people and ethnic groups have migrated to the country but the country also has many problems. Though Mexicans, Dominicans, El Salvadorans and the other immigrants can have strong ties with their host countries but non-immigrants do not have any connection with the other countries and they are losing jobs. Low-skilled people in the country may have their jobs taken by immigrants. However immigrants have some issues as well; for example some of them gradually lose relationships with their home countries, and if they assimilate to U.S. society culturally, economically and socially they willing to live and settle to the U.S. In addition the second generation often find itself as American citizens; therefore long-distance nationalism would be meaningless for them.

And most importantly the issue of racism is still large in U.S. society, and the U.S. society still allows domination by European Americans and sustains racism toward minority ethnic groups. At Western Michigan University, I took an Africana studies class and a social work class, which dealt with cultural and racial issues in the U.S. Through both classes I mainly learned how African American is racially discriminated in the society.

I suppose my way of thinking is similar to colorism but those whose skin color is dark tend to be targeted as an object of discrimination. Even if they transmigrated for such a long time they still cannot assimilate into their societies and their social status is threatened by newcomer of immigrants. From the perspective I found out a limitation of transnationalism, since the U.S. itself also has a lot of unemployed people. The problem would not be solved unless people change their racial tensions based on the skin color or appearance.


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

Levitt, P. (2004). Transnational migrants: When “home” means more than one country. Retrieved on June 6, 2013, from

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.


Choson Ilbo. (2009). Zaigaigaikokujinnimo senkyoken 2012 sousenkyokara (Koreans in overseas’ general election voting rights starting from 2012). Retrieved from

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

Welcoming Immigrants, Not Just Accepting Them

by Ryo Tanaka

American society is one successful nation that has accepted transnational migrants. They have strong ties with their home countries and help strengthen political and economic relationships between both countries. Transnational migration is a worldwide phenomenon in the way that it involves rich countries and many other countries looking up to rich ones. Thus, Japan which is one of the biggest economic countries in the world is not an exception. However, it is also important to look at the unsuccessful aspect of transnational migration.

Japanese society has accepted immigrants for a long time. They come to Japan for a variety of reasons, but they commonly expect the host Japanese society to give them some benefits or compensate for some lack in their life. Immigrants recently coming to Japan as represented by the newcomers are typically seeking job opportunities. The majority of them are in blue-collar occupations. Some of them are looking for jobs in Japan to economically support their family in their home country; others come to Japan to seek refuge from discrimination, violation, or natural disaster in their home country. No matter what reasons they have, they come to Japan to seek better quality of life.

Thus, Japanese society has the responsibility to live up to immigrants’ expectations or needs as long as it officially accepts them. However, Japanese society does not fully live up to its responsibility. In some cases, it does not even fulfill their basic needs. For example, many blue-collar immigrant workers are not receiving fair treatment at workplace. They are mostly employed as irregular-workers, and thus, not given opportunities to get promotion. Moreover, due to recent unstable economy, employers cut the salaries of or even dismiss irregular workers including migrant workers. Thus, many migrant workers find it difficult to attain the purpose of their migration and even get disadvantaged from the environment around them.

The question linked to the reality above is how to establish equal relationships between them and other Japanese citizens. The reality is that migrant workers are “used as wood for fire” as discussed in class. They are concentrated in the bottom level of labor market. In this sense, migrant workers in Japan are assimilated into Japanese society in negative ways. First, as discussed so far, they have fewer opportunities to succeed in Japanese society due to its social structure. Second, more importantly, they are forced to follow Japanese value systems such as language and customs. In many cases, they are required to understand Japanese language at workplace to cooperate with Japanese workers. Thus, there is a big power structure that deprives migrant workers of opportunities to get the average or higher standard of living. Also, Japanese attitudes towards migrant workers negatively affect migrant workers’ lives. Some Japanese are denial or ignorant about foreigners. Thus, they often have trouble associating with migrant residents around them.

In conclusion, to the extent that not many migrants are socially and economically advantaged, it is hard to expect transnational migration between Japan and other countries to strengthen their political and economic relationships. This would negatively influence the relationships between the host Japan and the home countries. Therefore, Japanese society needs to guarantee equal opportunities for migrant workers to succeed and pay back to their home countries. In fact, America has established strong relationships with other countries by “welcoming” immigrants, not just “accepting”.