Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Commentary on thoughts about visiting North Korea as a Zainichi Korean from Japan

By miho kim, Eclipse Rising
Aired on Apex Express of KPFA 94.1FM, a Pacifica Network syndicate, on June 19, 2008
(archive available at:

The one thing I look forward to visiting in North Korea is Lim-jin
River. Limjin River flows from North to South through the Korean
peninsula, right across the 38 parallel and the demilitarized zone.
Back in the mid-‘50s when a North Korean poet named Se-yong Park wrote
the song “Lim-jin River,” he must have stood by its riverbank -
watching the gushing water steadily flow downstream towards his
ancestral land amongst the vast rice fields in southern Korea -
wishing to be reborn as a bird, to fly over the river hundreds of
miles away to the south. In the song, in fact, he calls out to them in
yearning: “please, messengers of freedom who know no borders, please,
tell me, who divided our motherland? Why can I not return home to the
south? Who took my home away from me forever?”

This song was banned in S. Korea for decades, because of its
controversial “pro-reunification” message. Those who kept asking such
questions were arrested and tortured, because they posed a threat to
S. Korea’s national security. No doubt, it was a criminal offense to
ask such a thing.

Twenty years after Lim-jin River was released, far across the sea on
Japanese soil, I cried out this very question, covered in blood,
having just been rescued by strangers from a lynch mob of classmates,
their teachers and neighbors. Except I asked my mother and not a bird.
And my mother, instead of flying high up in the clear blue sky, buried
her head low into her apron, as if she’d transformed into a trembling
mass of flesh, sunk into the floor into the dark depth of nothingness.
Though she said nothing, her tears told me somehow, that she
desperately wanted to give me an answer and tried hard to look, but
could not, because she was inferior as a Korean, and I, inferior as a
Korean, deserved no answer. Then, we both wailed, mending my fresh
wounds and stitches, for the god-awful curse to have to be Koreans in

And so, I also learned at an early age through my mother’s tears, that
this is a criminally awful question to ask.

Clearly, I lived a colonial experience, thirty years after
colonization of Korea supposedly ended. And so did tens of thousands
of other zainichi Koreans who, despite being overwhelmingly from the
southern rural regions of the Korean peninsula, “returned” to N. Korea
so they could finally live as Koreans, as human beings, with dignity
and pride, and join the cause for true liberation of Korean peoples
from foreign occupation.

Seyong Park was a newly arrived N Korean returnee from Japan when he
wrote Lim-jin River in 1957. He was finally ‘home’ now - and yet, he
still yearned for the long-lost home to the south. What’s really
tragic is that he, or any zainichi for that matter, had the least to
say in the installation of the “38 parallel,” one of the most heavily
fortified borders in the world. Just like they had the least to say in
the installation of a Japanese colony on their territory half a
century earlier. One hurdle after another befalls us – so massive,
absolute, and beyond our humanly control – pushing the “home” we keep
searching for farther and farther away from us, cutting off our spirit
from the source of its very roots, one generation after another.

Zainichi Koreans are those for whom the dream of being rooted, that
solid sense of belonging, whether it be motherland, ancestral home, or
adopted home, has always been a reward magnanimously bestowed upon us
by the host nation-state, whether it be Japan, S. Korea or N Korea.
It’s not free – but a reward for acquisition, if not performance of, a
fully nationalistic identity and ethnic consciousness as prescribed to

A Korean saying goes, “fighting of whales break the backs of shrimps.”
Politics of the Cold War and ever-growing imperialist endeavors of the
United States and its cronies like Japan have broken the back of the
Korean peninsula as well as the Korean people, including the zainichi
communities. Thoroughly embarrassing, the US demonstrates its sense of
exceptionalism when it utters references like “axis of evil” for N
Korea without any indication that it recognizes itself to have been
the whale for as long as N Korea has been in existence, if not even

Standing on the riverbank of the Lim-jin River, I hope to pick up
where Se-yong Park left off, seeking the very answer to his question,
so that my generation is the last to shed tears that he, or my mother
did. Somehow, we must ensure for the next, if not the current,
generation of zainichi the right to redefine their “homes” as freely
as the birds above the Lim-jin River - and reclaim their roots like
its ever-abundant watershed in the pristine mountains north of
Pyongyang. And when all Korean people find their respective ways
there, that’s what I call reunification of a nation. 

Classic version of the song 'Lim-jin River' on Youtube:

Saturday, March 8, 2008






Endorse Now: Demand True Justice for the Victims of Sexual Crimes against Hisabetsu Nikkei Women

A posting from Trans-Pacific Research & Action Institute for the Hisabetsu Nikkei!

Action Alert!!!
posted: March 03, 2008

TRAI and our Japanese allies are soliciting endorsements for the statement below.

Please submit organizational and individual endorsements with your full name, organizational affiliation (if any), and address (for identification purposes only) to TRAI-US at!

The collected endorsements will be printed with the statement and delivered to Japanese Parliament by the TRAI-Tokyo office within the year.

For any questions, and to keep posted on developments, please email TRAI-US at

Thank you for your solidarity and support. Please help us spread the word, and forward the link to this page to your friends and allies.

Check out the Protest Statement on the Violent Raid of the Women's Anti-War Museum in Tokyo, by the ultranationalist imperial vigilante protesters by TRAI-Japan by clicking here (Japanese):

Demand True Justice for the Victims of Sexual Crimes against Hisabetsu Nikkei Women

March 02, 2008 Bay Area, CA, USA
Contact: miho kim, TRAI-US,

We, Hisabetsu Nikkei (1) women (women of ethnic/racial and caste minority descent in Japan), condemn the Japanese government for its ongoing and systematic negligence of its fundamental duty in protecting Hisabetsu Nikkei women against ongoing acts of violence perpetrated against them and their feminist allies across the state of Japan.

The violent raid of the Women's Anti-War Museum (WAM) - a non-profit facility founded by feminist activists in Japan that displays invaluable historical evidence and testimonies of survivors of Japan's military sexual slavery - by an ultranationalist vigilante group in January, the rape of a 14-year old Okinawan girl and sexual assault of a Filipina in Okinawa both committed by US soldiers (yet again), and not surprisingly, the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators, are an impermissible violation of inherent rights of women to be free of sexual predatorial assault and to recourse for true justice and reclamation of full human dignity.

Japanese government has a stated duty to protect any person in its territories against ethnic exclusions that incur the effect of impairing the recognition, on equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms.(2) And yet, there is, beyond doubt, a clear disproportionate impact of Japan's increasingly visible agenda for remilitarization and continued militarization of Okinawa - upon Hisabetsu Nikkei women reflected in the ongoing, if not rising, acts of violence perpetrated against them with impunity.

The three incidents (among many to be sure), with no prospects of bringing justice for the victims, are an affront to all Hisabetsu Nikkei women, including the 'comfort women' enslaved by Japan's Imperial Army during WWII, and by systematically condoning mistreatment against them, the Japanese government shows its true colors: its colonial 'mentality' remains intact among Japan's ruling elites and the apathetic public, particularly in regards to female colonial subjects under Japan's dominant system of oppression, the Imperial ideology, known in Japanese as Tenno-sei.

For the Japanese dominant (Yamato) society, the three incidents and the outcomes (or lack thereof) help reinforce still-prevalent and profound prejudice against Hisabetsu Nikkei communities and women, long-justified by the teachings of the Tenno-sei. The ultranationalists are emboldened by Yamato racial/ethnic supremacism vis-a-vis Japan's neighbors throughout the Asia-Pacific - one of the key pillars of the teachings of Tenno-sei - that therefore justifies systemic subjugation of women and non-Yamato ethnic minorities. The US soldiers have seen a lenient sentencing for Lance Corporal (Daniel) Smith in the Philippines for the much publicized rape of a 22-year old Filipina in Subic Bay just last year, and now, Staff Sgt Tyrone Luther Hadnott accused of raping a 14-year old Okinawan girl is released, with the US soldier who violently assaulted and raped a Filipina in an Okinawa hotel just last month virtually immune from Japan's prosecution under US custody. Japan's cowardice, when it comes to ensuring the rights of Hisabetsu Nikkei women - historically considered inherently inferior to the Yamato peoples - in its territories, sends the message of impunity to the perpetrators and their colleagues loud and clear.

Until the end of WWII, atrocities against Hisabetsu Nikkei women were committed by Japanese and American colonizers competing over their ancestral territories that were Japan's colonies, such as Okinawa and Korea, among others. Today, Japan and the US are in collusion through the controversial US-Japan security alliance, keeping Hisabetsu Nikkei women practically in the same disempowered state they were during WWII, through colonial policies complemented by the many-faced apparatus (official and otherwise) of the bilateral alliance manifest in diverse, decentralized forms – ranging from the underlying messages of vigilante ultranationalist imperialist groups to the US military and the Japanese cronies aiding in the exoneration of US soldiers. Regardless of explicit intentinoalitiy, usurpation of the rights of Hisabetsu Nikkei women by Japanese or American imperialist forces contains beneficial properties for the preservation of the interests of Japan's ruling elites, as well as the bilateral security alliance that give them ample opportunities to access the bloody fruit of US empire-building efforts around the world, from the Philippines, North Korea, to Iraq.

Meanwhile, Hisabetsu Nikkei women within hostile Japanese territory are struggling just to have their stories validated as historical truths, let alone have their voices heard – to attain and exercise rightful entitlement to speak authoritatively about experiences of their elders and themselves to participate in shaping history, and roam the streets around their homes freely, without fear of intimidation or retaliation. The very absence of acknowledgment of, or adequate fulfillment and protection of such entitlements on the part of the Japanese government reinforce spiritual colonization and deep sense of defeat that render the very voices and experiences of the women a tear-jerking fiction of illusion, and the thought of collective self-determination and cultural sovereignty for their future generations a mere figment of a bygone dream at best.

The three incidents that violate Hisabetsu Nikkei women's bodies and dignity and the way in which they have been 'resolved' as mere isolated incidents with empty rhetoric and brilliant PR tactics by the officials of the government of Japan (and the US in the case of the rapes in Okinawa) all speak to a profound discriminatory disregard for women still subject to Japan's colonial apartheid. We expose the Japanese government as directly responsible for ongoing colonial subjugation of Hisabetsu Nikkei women, and appeal to the international community to demand that Japan urgently and immediately exercise its duty of fully respecting, protecting and ensuring the rights of Japan's ethnic minorities – particularly their women and girls, starting with immediate pursuit of true justice for WAM, the 'comfort women' whose voices the facility represents, and the victims of sexual assault in Okinawa.

Trans-Pacific Research & Action Institute for the Hisabetsu Nikkei (TRAI)


(1) Hisabetsu Nikkei - 'Hisabets' in Japanese literally translates to 'discriminated-against' and 'Nikkei' is a common Japanese descriptive for Japanese origin, background, or descent. The term 'Hisabetsu Nikkei' was coined first in Japanese to respond to the absence of a term that referred collectively to a politically and socially constructed collective identity for communities oppressed in Japan by Japan's dominant system of oppression, the Imperial system or Tenno-sei. It is being adopted for use in English for the same reason - at least that TRAI women are aware of, there is no English word or phrase that carry this definition.
(2) Japan is a state party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which states this state duty in its Article 1.

Who comprise 'Hisabtsu Nikkei' in the state of Japan?

In the process of Japanese nation-state formation marked by the "Meiji Restoration" in 1868 and thereafter as an official imperial entity, the Japanese state took colonies inhabited by Ainu in Hokkaido, Okinawa and Korea. After Japan's defeat in the Pacific War, it was stripped of its colonial holdings in Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula, and China. However, Hokkaido and Okinawa still remain within the Japanese state. Zainichi Koreans also remained within the postwar Japanese state, and continue to live there today while their ancestral "homeland" has been divided amongst other colonial powers. These peoples are subject to Japan's ongoing "assimilation policy" as a primary overarching strategy of continuing colonial rule, and maintain de facto superiority of the Yamato race.

The Buraku-min are descendants of those who were relegated to the 'untouchable' caste under the social stratification system that dates back to the feudal era in Japan. While Japan's insidious caste system was renounced formally by Japan's Meiji government more than a century ago, the Buraku-min continue to experience institutional barriers to achieving full liberation from their "non-human" subjugated caste.

Today, Japan is host to a rising number of migrant workers and refugees from countries around the world, many of whom are subject to interpersonal and institutional racism in various aspect of their lives. These people are the new faces among the Hisabetsu Nikkei and largely remain invisible and vulnerable to egregious exploitation and fundamental human rights violations.

What is TRAI?

TRAI is a bi-national (US-Japan) organization founded by zainichi Korean and Buraku women in 2006 with support of Okinawan allies to facilitate and promote capacity-building of the structurally and socially marginalized (Hisabetsu Nikkei) communities in the state of Japan and their diaspora, particularly in the U.S. and its territories, to address and resolve the root causes of injustices that affect them - the Tenno-sei or the Imperial ideology and system in particular as Japan's dominant system of racist/caste oppression, to achieve full social and political equity and cultural sovereignty.

The Hisabetsu Nikkei, we believe, are the living proof of the legacy of unresolved and continuing dominant system of oppression in Japan, Tenno-sei, or the Imperial, Yamato-supremacist ideology. In order to fully eradicate this systemic injustice, it is critical that the Hisabetsu Nikkei who can speak to it from their own first-hand experiences and historical knowledge articulate their own solutions, and effectively inject their voices in the decision-making processes around issues that impact them directly, with support of allies, and in solidarity with other peoples struggling for self-determination and decolonization around the world.

Saturday, January 12, 2008



金 美穂





エテルさんの両親は戦後, 何十万ものアフリカ系の人々と同じく職を求めて南部から移住してきた。公民権取得の10年以上も前の話である。とにかくひもじかったと言う。オークランドの海軍補給センターで雇われた父親はがんばって働き、ボスに見初められて“お前のような模範的な職人には特別の業務を与える”といわれ、ぶ厚いコンクリートの壁に囲まれた部屋の中で普段着のまま不明な液体を処理した。抜擢された「優等生」はみな黒人であった。母親は “作業服にこびりついた無数のおがくずのようなものは一体なぜ暗闇で光るのかしら“と疑問に思いながら毎晩洗濯していたと言う。化学療法のせいであらわになった頭皮が痛々しい。すぐ向かいの海軍の基地で広島に投下された原爆が製造された事は知ってはいた。でも差別と貧困の中、放射性物質だろうと職を選べる立場では無かった。





金 美穂


そこで、環境正義運動を担う人々は、“なぜ我々が健康被害を立証しなければいけないの”という疑問から始まり,予防原則(Precautionary Principles)の導入を要求するキャンペーンを盛り上げた。どんな廃棄物であろうと、垂れ流した際に悪影響は起こらない、ということを証明した上、初めて廃棄を許可するべきである、ということだ。従来、施設の垂れ流しに反対する付近住民側にこの”証明の義務”が課されてきたが、たいてい環境汚染が集中する地域は移民・難民などが大多数の低所得世帯であるから、科学的にヘルス・インパクトの有無を立証するほどのリソースがあるわけがないのだ。しかも、連邦政府が定める超汚染地域(スーパーファンド地域)のクリーンアップの予算も戦争予算の二の次として大幅にカットされているので、事前に汚染を防ぐことしか環境を守る手段はないといっても良いぐらいだ。

さて、成果はやっと実り、昨年の秋とうとう加州EPAの環境正義基本原則が採決された後に、その導入に関して公聴会がオークランドで行われたが、サン・ディエゴ国境地帯からシリコン・バレーまで、300人近くの地域住民がカラフルなポスターを掲げて集まった。会場まで集合場所からダウンタウンをうねり歩き、”Precautionary Principles NOW! Environmental Justice NOW!” などと、元気良く通行人や取材班にアピールする。多くの中高生は休学し、働くお母さん達は休暇を取ってまでこの日のために、おそろいのTシャツとキャップをまとい、団結を示している。楽器や玩具を手にして、それぞれの文化背景を前面に出したデモで、皆の表情が活気付いている。

市民が”政策作りの過程に直接参加する“(これは環境正義運動の要求の一つでもある)場をこの公聴会に確保したのだ。サン・ディエゴ付近の国境地帯に住むラティナの労働者達を引率してきたノへリア・ラモスさんは、まだ20代前半の活動家だ。”私はこの200人のコミュニティの代表らと共に、発電所や海軍基地に隣接した公園で遊び育ってきました。汚染による害はないと言われながらも幼い頃から喘息に困ってきました。遠足には先生が吸入器を鞄いっぱいに詰め込んで行くんです。後になって私が住む地域は、加州で喘息発症率が一番高いと聞いています。長期にわたる健康被害が後ほど排気物質と関連されても、私達には手遅れなんです。貧しい家庭で、緊急対処ができず命を落とした人も多い。弱い命を守ることが先決です。そのために予防原則は欠かせないのです。” ロサンゼルス出身の19歳のラティノ青年、ホルヘ・ビラヌエバ君も、”僕は幼い頃から石油工場付近に住んでいて、喘息や原因不明な肌のできものに悩まされた。生産の過程で環境にかかる負担を僕ら貧しい移民に押し付けるのはおかしい。企業にとってタダでも、代償を僕らは健康で払ってきた。被害を立証するのは汚染企業がとるべき責任で、EPAはそれを取り締まりできなければ責任回避をしていると同様だと思う。どんな物質が僕らの水や土俵や空気に混じっているのか、データさえろくに手に入らないのに“と不満をぶつける。この公聴会は7時間続いた。深夜過ぎに帰宅した多くの参加者は、次の日も休みなく朝早くから出勤した。




金 美穂






アメリカ – もはや世界に君臨するジャイアン - は米軍基地縮小・撤退を要求する沖縄の声を無視している。一方、スネオ役の日本は“東京が安保をほしいのなら、基地も東京に持っていくべき”という最もな意見には耳も貸さない。沖縄を心から愛す沖縄人は、いくら泡盛やエイサーを好きでも米軍の負担を正当に共有するほど沖縄を好きではないんでしょう、と言った。足を踏んでいる側には踏まれた側の痛みが分からないが、足を上げる事をせずにやさしく手を差し伸べてくれるな、と。


Dear Japan: Zainichi Image is Not your PR weapon!

Journal Entry: January 27, 2005

By the 21st century, the zainichi have been the tanakara botamochi (public relations jackpot) for the Japanese government as it tries to appeal this fresh, open-minded, civilized and cosmopolitan image of themselves to the international community.

Conscious of their “homongenous” public, the state must have quietly unleashed a newly crafted self-image of the “international japan” around the time “internationalism” was the national buzzword of the new century. To transform its self-image from one of a secluded island(s) nation often hostile to foreigners whose mere presence threaten japan’s proudly professed ‘homogeneity,’ to that of a diverse and vibrant country that recognizes and welcomes their non-japanese neighbors into the very fabric of society is, quite frankly, an astonishing a breakthrough as the caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly. With what tools and evidence could japan actually convince the world that it now embraced diversity within its borders? All the while they ran a tight ship waving a Hinomaru on the masthead, out to protect the superiority and ‘purity’ of the blood of the ethnic nationals, and more specifically, the elites and their license to rule - the Imperial ideology-inspired system and values that give rise to its legitimacy?

By now, the zainichi from the colonial-era are mostly third, fourth, or even fifth generation in japan. With each generation, life has become easier and easier. Zainichi artists, filmmakers, authors and all types of culture-makers have been making renowned contributions in their respective fields in japan, breaking down the prevailing stereotypes of zainichi being untrustworthy and plain dangerous as criminals and rapists, if not downright sub-human altogether.

But there could not have been a more secure vehicle to execute japan’s public-image agenda as the very ‘minorities’ themselves, who by virtue of their exclusion from citizenship are bestowed the alien identity. In other words, being a zainichi in japan is in itself a qualification to be identified as living proof of diversity and internationalism in an otherwise homogenous japan. It is clearly a case of tokenism at work, but the implication must not be undermined for the transnational social justice solidarity amidst the tightening US-Japan collaboration for a global capitalist spree with capital and weapons in arms.

If you want to preserve your culture, take it to market! The only criteria is to eliminate any implication of injustice in the very existence of ‘zainichi’ fromyour zainichi product, whether it be a movie, collection of poems, or an art piece. The consumer market is not interested in purchasing reminders of complicity in any injustice. Rather, a feel-good cultural commodity in Japanese possession can further foster the reaffirmation that japan is now “catching up to the U.S. and the international standard” of embracing tolerance. Never mind systemic apartheid still in place. After all, that sort of reform is up to the politicians!