Becoming Korean: Japanese wives in the boundary formation of a leftist zainichi community

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Korean–Japanese marriages were common during and after Japan’s imperial rule of Korea. Following the Japanese Empire’s demise, however, Japanese wives in Korean families faced new political dynamics and their ethnic belonging became an issue. This article introduces the experiences of some Japanese women who married leftist zainichi Korean men in the 1950s and 1960s, obtained through interviews and published memoirs. Their self-identification exclusively as members of the zainichi Korean community–or their experiences of “becoming Korean,” despite facing oppression in both the Korean community and Japanese society reflect the specific historical moment of Korean decolonization in post-imperial Japan. Their stories attest that Koreans’ efforts toward decolonization led to the establishment of an autonomous ethnic sphere and a new center of moral authority among zainichi Koreans. These women stood at the boundary between Korean and Japanese social spheres, which developed based on the malleability in women’s senses of ethnic and national belonging. Recovering their experiences can help us integrate post-imperial tensions and decolonization into the history of postwar Japanese society.




Chatani, S. (2022). Becoming Korean: Japanese wives in the boundary formation of a leftist zainichi community. Critical Asian Studies, 54(1), 105–127.

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