Koreans and the politics of nationality and race during the Allied occupation of Japan, 1945-1952




Nantais, Simon

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Koreans resident during the Allied Occupation of Japan (1945-1952) were in a complex position. They remained Japanese nationals until a sovereign Japan and “Korea,” which was divided into two ideologically opposed states, negotiated their nationality status. Though most Koreans in Japan held family registers in South Korea, both North and South Korea claimed them as nationals, and most Koreans in Japan came to support Kim Il-sung’s North Korea. Moreover, racists in the Allied and Japanese governments used the Koreans as convenient scapegoats. Race, nationality, and ideology thus converged to create a difficult situation for all parties concerned. The hardships Koreans faced during the Occupation have often been blamed on Japanese and American racism. Though race played a significant part in their treatment, this dissertation argues that the mixing of race and nationality as categories of analysis, as well as the mixing of Western legal facts with Japanese ones, has misconstrued the history of Koreans in Occupied Japan. For a fuller understanding of this complex period, this dissertation uses nationality as a lens through which to examine the origins and the growth of the Korean community in Japan in their own words and to analyze the meaning and use of race and nationality as they were employed during the Occupation; and incorporate the American, Japanese, and South Korean point of view by placing the Korean experience in Japan in a wider geographical and political context of the early Cold War. All parties in Japan, including Koreans in Japan, pursued their political goals by employing the concept of nationality in their own ways.



nationality, citizenship, Japan, race, Occupation of Japan, United States, Korean community in Japan, law, diplomacy