Beyond the criticism of assimilation: rethinking the politics of ethno-national education in postwar Japan
Abstract This study analyzes Japanese and Korean ethno-national (minzoku-kokumin) education in postwar Japan. During a period of political unrest in Japan (1945–1955), some of the Korean residents and Japanese worked together to overcome the culture of Imperial Japan and its assimilative education. They also regarded themselves as people colonized by the United States, and pursued a political-cultural movement for their liberation and independence from American imperialism. The Koreans in Japan rejected compulsory education in the Japanese language. As a result, since 1956, Korean schools (Chōsengakkō), funded and supported by North Korea, were founded all across Japan. Their ethno-national education was in fact incorporated into North Korean politics, and has been considered by many studies as having overcome Japanese assimilation and ethnic inequalities. Such a view was a result of many academic Zainichi Korean studies that come from an “insider’s perspective” to criticize Japanese colonialism and discrimination. In order to go beyond this insider’s view, I focus on the political alliance between Zainichi Koreans and the Japanese people in their pursuit of ethno-national education. Since 2010, the Japanese state funding for Korean schools has become a major controversy in Japan. By tracing the historical background, this article intends to explain why this political issue has arisen. The ultimate purpose of this article is to suggest an ethical perspective to resolve the current political conflictregarding Korean schools in Japan.
Keywords: assimilation, education, Zainichi Korean, multiple identities, North Korea, Korean schools (Chōsengakkō), anti-American nationalism, anti-American Asianism, Fundamental Law of Education, documentary film.
Jo Gwan-ja is assistant professor in the Institute for Japanese Studies at Seoul National University. She received her doctoral degree in intellectual history from Tokyo University. Her research interests include cultural Nationalism in Japan and Korea, Cold War history and memory, and diaspora studies. Her publications include The Cultural Linkage between Colonial Korea and Imperial Japan: Nationalism and Repeating Colonialism [植民地朝鮮／帝国日本の文化連環：ナショナリズムと反復する植民地主義] (2007), Landscape of Knowledge in Postwar Japan [전후 일본의 지식 풍경] (2013), and Japan, beyond the Era of Loss [일본, 상실의 시대를 넘어서] (2014).