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In Session: Looking for an Elusive Motherland: Diasporic Koreans in Soviet Union and Japan
2: The Aliens on a Borderland Island: Rediscovering Zainichi Koreans' Place in Tsushima's Contemporary History
Monday, March 22, 2021
10:00am – 11:30am EDT
Chung-Ang University, Republic of Korea
My task is to shed light on the point from which Tsushima came to be regarded as an island symbolizing South Korean-Japanese exchanges and influenced by the vicissitudes of South Korean-Japanese relationship. To accomplish this task, I will focus on the interrelationship between Tsushima and Zainichi Koreans after 1945 and until the 1970s. The majority of Tsushima-based Zainichi Koreans after 1945 were charcoal production workers. They came to join ethnic Korean organizations to guard their socio-economic interests, as their survival was threatened. They lived as a cross-border minority on an ‘anti-Communist frontline island’ which also had to be guarded against South Korean demands for ‘returning’ it to Korea. Many of them had to leave the island as the charcoal industry declined due to the general energy shift from coal to oil, and the smuggling routes between South Korea and Tsushima ended up being closed off. At the same time the island came to be regarded as a ‘homeland-watching place’ by the first-generation Zainichi Koreans born in southern parts of Korea. However, this flow also came to its end as the second generation replaced the first generation in the mainstream of Zainichi society. More recently Tsushima started to promote itself as a hub for South Korean-Japanese exchanges. In this process, however, the issue of Zainichi Koreans, a result of Japanese colonial rule over Korea, was consigned to oblivion. This presentation is an attempt to focus on this forgotten piece of history and place it into the context of Tsushima’s contemporary history.