The Zainichi, the Korean Japanese Residents (Part 1 & 2)

What is “Zainichi”?

Around one million Koreans are permanent residents or citizens of Japan.  The term “Zainichi” Koreans (from the Japanese word meaning foreigners “staying in Japan”) is used to describe those who are long-term, permanent residents of Japan but who have not acquired Japanese citizenship.  The majority of Koreans in Japan are Zainichi Koreans, often known simply as Zainichi.  Zainichi usually refers only to long-term Korean residents of Japan who trace their roots to Korea under Japanese rule, distinguishing them from the later wave of Korean migrants who came mostly in the 1980s.

The Zainichi (Part 1)

How are Koreans in Japan come to be the Zainichi  (i.e., permanent foreign residents of Japan)?

Japan colonized and occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945 and that led to large numbers of Korean cheap laborers being brought to Japan during that period, as Japan needed to replace its own nationals who were largely engaged in the war efforts.  When World War II ended, there were roughly 2.4 million Koreans in Japan.  The majority repatriated to their ancestral homes in Korea, leaving roughly 600,000 Koreans.  But those Koreans who remained in Japan were not willing to make the necessary break at the time to abandon Korean citizenship in order to be naturalized as Japanese citizens.  Thus, they became “permanent foreign residents” of Japan (or Zainichi) even though many were born in Japan.

The Zainichi (Part 2)

What are “Mindan” and “Chongryon”?

Mindan (also known as Korean Residents Union in Japan) and Chongryon (or General Association of Korean Residents in Japan) are the two main Korean organizations in Japan.  Mindan is a pro-South organization in Japan; while Chongryon is a pro-North organization.  The distinction between these two organizations is more ideological than geographical, however, as Koreans associated with the pro-North or pro-South organization are not necessarily linked by birth to North or South Korea, respectively.