But in the 30s, most waves of Korean migrants came in because of the policy of forced conscription. Japan's economy rapidly improved at the time and there was a huge demand for labor. This and industrialization led to the creation of a Japanese national mobilization plan. This plan, in turn, led to the conscription of roughly 600,000 Koreans. Japan's military forces continued to expand and the government had to regular the increase in the Korean population. They were required to carry an identification card. In 1942, the government promised them equal citizenship if they extended their work contracts. They became eligible to vote, run for public office and serve in election committees. Conscription was implemented in the same year. Despite official political equality, Korean inferiority remained prevalent. Yet they were expected to observe and practice Japanese culture as a condition to political equality (Minorities at Risk).
With the defeat of Japan during the Second World War, the U.S. administration in Japan had wanted to treat the Koreans as Japanese nationals (Minorities at Risk 2003). In 1946, American official policy stated that those who refused repatriation had to come under the jurisdiction of Japanese law. They again lost their right to vote despite their payment of Japanese federal taxes. In 1948, Korean schools were compelled to use Japanese textbooks and the Japanese language.
Many of the Korean schools refused to implement the Japanese. Schools, which refused to follow, were abolished. In the latter part of 1946, Japanese authorities ordered city resident Koreans to register and bring in their identification card with their picture and fingerprints. The Koreans protested. Implementation of the policy was thus delayed to 1955. The most turbulent issue between the Koreans minority and the Japanese government was on fingerprinting at the time. They refused to submit to fingerprinting from 1978 to 1980. Those who protested were often fined or imprisoned. The Japanese authorities were themselves in disagreement over the matter. The Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs ministries favored the abolition of the fingerprinting policy. The Justice ministry and police, on the other hand, stressed the importance of controlling illegal immigration and communist moves. Many local governments also disfavored the policy. The fingerprinting policy was eventually abolished after a series of reforms was introduced after negotiations in South Korea were held in 1991 (Minorities at Risk).
Although they were not a cohesive group, the Koreans were represented by many organizations, which lobbied for changes and improvement in the lives of the Korean population (Minorities at Risk 2003). They wanted to raise the level of awareness of the issues in all levels of society. These groups included human rights organizations and Korean associations. These Korean associations included the Korean Residents Union in Japan, Chogyon, Chosen Soren and Mindan. These support groups tried to rouse the Korean population to present a more unified stand with the Japanese government. These Koreans in Japan received political support from the government of South Korea and, in some way or extent, also from the government of North Korea. These groups cried out to the government of Japan for support and for these Koreans to become an authentic part of Japanese society. Aspects of their demand included greater participation in the political process, improved economic opportunities of employment, higher paying job opportunities, and access to better education for their children. These were calls for equal civil rights. One more demand was the preservation of their native culture, language and peculiar way of life. Koreans in Japan also needed protection from right-wing Japanese attackers (Minorities at Risk).
On account of their small population, there have hardly been reports of militant activity by Korean residents in Japan (Minorities at Risk 2003). They, however, conducted a few actions. It lobbied the government in the 90s against the disadvantaged treatment they have suffered from. They also held demonstrations and rallies against violence and the lack of acceptance shown them by the Japanese society as a whole (Minorities at Risk).
There are more than 650,000 Koreans living in Japan (Kichan 2001). Most of them are refugees and their descendants from the Korean Peninsula, driven to Japan during the colonial period. In Japan, they experience severe discrimination. Discrimination has provided a base for setting the ethnic boundaries for the first and second generation Koreans in Japan. But recently, the third and fourth generations have accounted for roughly 40% of the population. These young people's sensitivity to discrimination has also been lessened because most of them and their predecessors have been assimilated into the mainstream Japanese culture. Younger generation Koreans in Japan now find it quite difficult to distinguish themselves from the totally Japanese and the Japanese culture itself (Kichan).
Koreans who found their way into Japan and its culture have a full range of disadvantages suffered in the hand of their colonizer. But those in the current fourth generation can hardly feel the suffering and hardly discern the difference between what is Korean and what is Japanese.
Alvin, Koh Zhongwei. Koreans in Japan. National University of Singapore: NUS
History Society E-Journal, 2003.
Kichan Song. The Appearance of "Young Koreans in Japan" and the Emergence of a New Type of Ethnic Education. Vol 9 237-253. Kyodo University: Kyodo Journal of Sociology, 2001
Kyodo. Jong Raps Japan for Historical Crime Against Koreans. Asian Political News.