Education for immigrant students: A reflection of society

by Jicheol Yang

Education for international students takes a role to reflect what society wants (Cage, N., 2008). Kanno (2006) analyzes four different kinds of educational institutions focusing on bilingual education in Japan. Kanno assumes that school vision and its education construct identity of students through bringing the idea of imagined communities. The idea of ‘imagined communities’ here takes the role that learners of second language have expectations or images of the communities where they will participate later.

Kanno reveals how visions of different four bilingual schools have decided their students’ paths after graduation. The schools concentrating on Japanese obviously follow what Japanese society wants and the other focuses on other languages. These results, at least for me, make the idea that the education supports immigrant students to realize their imagined communities with proper curricula for the imagined communities of the students. Thus, bilingual students are forced to be suitable to meet what society requires.

If you see the author’s work, schools makes their program become more adaptable for Japanese society to embrace their students. One school only operates its curriculum in English, but that school is actually based on western society, not Japanese base. Students attending that school mostly go back to western countries for their education and job. In that sense, students who imagine their future in Japan tend to have greater Japanese proficiency than in their original language, and others who expect their lives in their passport countries or other countries without Japan have a tendency to learn curricula with their mother tongue. This shows how international students and schools shape themselves to fit the society’s requirements, the imagined communities. Namely, imagined communities reflecting what society asks have influence to build students’ identification for their future.

The Korean case is more obvious to show that what society needs has serious influence on school programs, even governmental policies. The increasing number of multicultural children from international marriages, mostly between Korean and Southeast Asians, and the inflow of international students are dramatically increasing in Korea. There are several movements to make multicultural schools, but those schools are not for multicultural students and immigrant students to be comfortable with their multicultural background when they grow up in Korea (Lee, B., n.d). It is for them to have Korean proficiency and Korean value through education to reflect what Korean society wants.

For example, students of Chosun ethnicity that come from China have tried to learn Korean to have Korean nationality and work in Korean companies. It is because they have to prepare for their imagined community that is mostly Korean society. Multicultural schools that those student attend, thus, make their students become fluent in Korean. Therefore those schools focus on how to make bilingual students suitable for Korean society. Imagined communities happen in different way by status of students.

As in the previous cases, relatively poor students attend the multicultural schools to assimilate into Korean society, but the rich attend international schools that reflect the high level that Korean society requires. This means that richer immigrant students attend higher level  international schools. For example, Korea has fewer bilingual schools, but the most famous school for bilingual students is the Seoul international School. It is fully operated in English rather than Korean.

It is because of the tendency that Korean society requires students to have English proficiency even more than Korean. Although it was built for international students and some Korean returnees, there are also many Koreans attending the school who are born in Korea. The reason is that having better English proficiency certainly grants high-position jobs in Korean society. Also, Korean society evaluates that English is worth worth than Korean forces Koreans to enter those sorts of schools even through illegal ways (Lee, H., 2013). So, Korean society gives international students different imagined communities.

In short, schools make their curricula for immigrant students to assimilate into the imagined communities that the students dream. The curricula have changed by following what society needs and the situation of students. Namely, education plays a role that makes immigrant students assimilate to be suitable in certain positions in which the positions meet the situation of students rightly.


Cage, N. (2008, November 4). Education: A reflection of society. Retrieved June 24, 2014, from

Kanno, Y. Imagined Communities, School Visions, and the Education of Bilingual Students in Japan. Journal of Language, Identity & Education, 2, 285-300.

Lee, B. (n.d.). Multicultural international school. . Retrieved June 25, 2014, from

Lee, H. (2013, April 10). 168 students did Illegal admission to foreign school [외국인학교 부정입학 163명 “출교”… 하비에르국제학교 절반가량 ‘무자격’]. The Kyunghyang.


Yasukuni Shrine and Korean Identity

English: Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

English: Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Lilia Yamakawa

In his research on nationalism, Craig Calhoun talks about when and how nations were formed. Some people say nations are primordial, that they have been around forever, that they are “natural” phenomena. Others, including Calhoun, believe that nations and nationalism are modern and constructed. By 1815, the world was full of nations. He calls nationalism the most momentous phenomenon of modern history. He writes:

In East Asia, nationalism has throughout the twentieth century been the rhetoric not only of anti-imperialist struggles but of calls for strengthening and democratizing states from within. (p213-214) 

Calhoun cites references on China, relating how anti-Japanese imperial protest, the May Fourth Movement in 1919, was both anti-imperialist and served to strengthen and democratize China. This was later to have led to the revolution.

It seems as Korean nationalism has beeb strengthened through protest against Japanese policies. Recently, the Korean president refused to negotiate with the Japanese because Japan refuses to apologize for its wartime actions. One of my Korean friends told me that he cannot talk about the history of his country without talking about what Japan did when it controlled Korea from 1910 to 1945.

Jukka Jouhki (2009) discusses the Japanese politicians’ visits to Yasukuni and the impact of those visits on Koreans. In the following passage he describes Yasukuni as a “wormhole”:

Symbolically, Yasukuni can be thought of as a wormhole that goes through time and space. When this wormhole crops up, the entire Korean nation seems capable of being transported backward into the era of Japanese colonial rule. 

Jouhki says that the Korean image of Japan is as she was in the colonial period, and Yasukuni represents imperial Japan just as if it were now. The image exaggerates the difference between us and them, Korea and Japan. He says that when the Koreans were colonized, it made the Koreans see themselves as “Other”, just as they saw the Japanese as “Other”, and Yasukuni represents an identity that they are trying to work through.

Japanese leaders’ nationalism, such as visits to Yasukuni Shrine and the museum and textbooks that fail to show wartime atrocities, is not only a means to form a certain Japanese identity. It seems that Japanese nationalism strengthens a certain Korean identity as well.


Calhoun, C. (1993). Nationalism and ethnicity. Annual Review of Sociology19, 211-239.

Jukka, J. (2009, May 8). The second invasion: Notes on korean reactions to the yasukuni shrine issue. Retrieved from 


The Latin Americanization of Korean race relations

by Yang Jicheol

The process of Latin Americanization is simply about keeping white supremacy from other colors. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and David Dietrich introduce an example of how the U.S. follows the way of the Latin Americanization for its white supremacy, which is challenged from increasing population of other colors. There is similar example of the Latin Americanization of U.S. race relations in Korea.

As with the United States’ race relations, Korea has also experienced a similar process in terms of racial issues. That appears from young aged population because young aged population tends to be more multiracial. Many Korean consider themselves as a single-race because of same language and skin-tone. However, that single-race nation does not exist anymore. The races are becoming more complex and wider in current Korea. Many western people, whom we regard as white, come to Korea for having job or traveling. Not only western people, but other races such as Southeast Asian also come to Korea for working or marrying with Korean. In that process, a hierarchy has been constructed, which pure Korean place at the top, other western and East Asian people are middle, and others, the Southeast Asian and black people, are at the bottom.

In current Korean society, the interracial marriage rate has dramatically increased between whites with Koreans and nonwhites with Koreans as well. So, there are many multicultural children in Korea now. The multicultural children mean that children have at least two different cultural backgrounds because of their parents’ nations. At the first appearance of multicultural children, it became a hot social issue because of Korean attitudes towards them. The Korean attitudes were harsh to typical multicultural children, who are born from Southeast Asians or blacks. Unlike that attitude, it considered other multicultural children, who are born from the white or East Asian, positively. The multicultural children, born from Southeast Asian or the black, have been considered as negative perspectives such as poor background, dirty, and non-beneficial to Korean children. Nonetheless, other multicultural children have been thought differently. This perspective made Korean society to change its preference towards typical races for equality and norm, which is “We are all Korean”. To solve this problem, schools and libraries have been built only for multicultural children, especially for children having nonwhite parents. Also, government has made public advertisements to make citizen not to discriminate against them. It seemed to work at first because those children have started to respect their identity and have self esteem. Also, the harsh discrimination seemed to disappear. However, those solutions did not work actually. Although people do not tend to show their attitudes directly, they still regard those children as not real Koreans, poor, and shunned children. When we see the surface of that problem, it seems to be solved, but under of the surface, the pure Korean supremacy becomes much stronger and discrimination remains invisibly.

The reason why similar phenomenon appears in Korea is that the world has become smaller that different races are easy to move to other nations where other races are dominant. This makes diversity of race more complex in many nations. So, phenomenon of the Latin Americanization would occur in many other nations like U.S. and Korea to keep position of their majority from influx of immigrant.


Are Zainichi Koreans “foreigners”?

Anonymous student post

There are lots of ethnicities in Japan, such as Zainichi Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Ainu, Okinawan, and more. In spite of the existence of plural cultures for a long time, Japanese government had ignored their existence until the 1980s when globalization came into Japan. The Ainu and Okinawans had maintained their culture and language since 18c or 19c though the Japanese government prohibited them from using their language and sought to assimilate them.

On the other hand, Zainichi Koreans came to Japan as a result of Japan’s colonization of Korea from 1910 to 1945. During the colonization, Koreans were referred to as Japanese subjects. However, After Japan got independent in 1952, Koreans lost their legal rights as Japanese subjects and became ‘foreigners’. Some went back to their home country, but others decided to stay in Japan because of the confused situation of Korea such as Korean Separation or Korea War. Due to this, they stayed in Japan as ‘foreigners’ with permanent residence status, so-called ‘Zainichi Koreans’.

In 1965, the central government prohibited schools from teaching Korean culture and language to the Korean children, and the government policy was that teachers were to treat Korean children in the same way as Japanese kids. Because of this policy, later generations of Zainichi Korean were assimilated more and more. Now, most descendants of Zainichi Koreans were born in Japan and speak Japanese as their first language with little Korean language skill and many of them use their Japanese name not Korean name. However, they are referred to as ‘foreigners’. In this case, the question what does ‘foreigners’ mean?

Most Japanese people see ‘foreigners’ as someone born outside Japan and come and stay in Japan temporarily. Japanese government had been speaking out that Japan was a monolingual and monoculture state by making the ethnic minorities ‘foreigners’. That is the reason why Zainichi Korean were invisible ‘ethnic minorities’ for a long time. However, this situation changed from 1970s to 1980s.

In 1970s, Dowa problem rose widely in Japan and ethnicity became ‘human rights’ issue. Also, a lot of immigrants came to Japan as guest workers and ‘foreigners’ education were acknowledged in 1980s. These things had impacts on the Zainichi Korean policies. In 1991, the central government finally allowed schools to teach Korean culture and language though lots of policy changes had already occurs in local levels.

Due to these movements, Zainichi Korean were ‘discovered’ as ‘ethnic minority’ in Japan. By becoming ‘visible’, Zainichi Korean got explicitly identity as a Zainichi Korean not Japanese or foreigners. However, whether they chose which identity is their problem. Fortunately, I think they are easy to assimilate into Japanese society more than African people or European people because our culture is similar to each other and physical features are also similar. However, it is not only identity issue but also their legal statement issue. They haven’t got the citizenship and have been discriminated against in terms of education, housing and work. Even though the existence became visible, there are still a lot of difficulties for Zainichi Korean in reality.


Hokkaido Ainu Kyokai.

Lie, John. 2008. “Zainichi Recognitions: Japan’s Korean Residents’ Ideology and Its Discontents.” The Asia-Pacific Journal >

Okano, Kaori. 2006. “The Impact of Immigrants on Long-lasting Ethnic Minorities in Japanese Schools: Globalization from Below.” Language and Education 20(4):338-354.

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