"Kankoku/Chosen" and "Chugoku"

Recognition politics and alien nationality in Japan

By William Wetherall

First posted 2 April 2006
Last updated 15 September 2010


MOJ 1960 (1959) 外国人:朝鮮人、中国人、アメリカ人、その他 Shows ages for these four nationality categories by year and by 5-year age groups.

Figures for 7-year olds and 14-year olds are broken into two components: 7-year olds before (and including) and after 28 April 1952 when the day the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into force, and 14-year olds before (and including) and after 2 September 1945 when the Instruments of Surrender were signed.


As of 1 April 1959, aliens having passports and no passports had the following nationality breakdowns (MOJ 1960, Table 6, Parts 1-4, pages 58-73, my percents).

Passport possession as of 1 April 1959

Nationality   Total   Passports   Percent

Chosenese   607,533         738      0.12
Chinese      44,599       8,290     18.59
Americans    10,548       9,700     91.96
Others       11,635      10,410     89.47


Passing names: Koreans and Chinese in Japan, 1959 Passing names: Koreans and Chinese in Kawasaki, 1971 INTEGRATE PART OF FOLLOWING INTO ABOVE 1959 PAGE

MOJ's 1 April 1959 registered alien report includes a table of kinds of aliases recorded in parentheses on an alien's registration documents for use in daily life. These names are recorded at the wish of the alien. The breakdown for Chosen registrants is very detailed (MOF 1960, page 88, Table 12, my percents)

Aliases of Chosen registrants (1 April 1959)

      Type of name   Number   Percent

          No alias  406,484     66.91
          Nihonmei  196,675     32.37
         Chosenmei    3,850      0.63
     Nihonmei (2+)      280      0.05
    Chosenmei (2+)       51      0.01
Nihonmei/Chosenmei      193      0.03

             Total  607,533    100.00

The footnotes state that, among "Chosenmei" (Chosen names), names consisting of a Chosen surname plus a Japan-style personal-name like 朴太郎 (Boku/Pak Tarō) were classifed as "Chosenmei" (Chosen names), whereas those of the 山本丙鍚 (Yamamoto Heiyō/Pŏng'yang) were classified as "Nihonmei" (Japan names). I strongly suspect that "Pŏng'yang" is some bureaucrat's joke for 平壌 (P'yong'yang).

Chinese alias registration as of 1 April 1959

      Type of name   Number   Percent

          No alias   42,279     94.80
             Alias    2,320      5.20

             Total   44,599    100.00
Aliens in reference to Japan are defined as persons who do not possess Japan's nationality, including stateless aliens. Kan/Cho is short for "Kankoku/Chosen"meaning "Republic of Korea" and "Former Japanese Territory of Chosen". Chugoku is "China" as recognized by Japan -- Republic of China until 1972, People's Republic of China since 1972. Others as I use this term means "aliens affiliated with other states" hence does not include Stateless. See Note on "Kankoku/Chosen" above for more details about the implications of this over-simplified category. See Note on "Chugoku" above for details on who this category actually includes. Cohorts Aliens = persons who do not possess Japan's nationality, including stateless aliens. Kan/Cho = "Korea" meaning "Kankoku" (Republic of Korea) and "Chosen" (former Japanese territory). Chugoku = "China" meaning Republic of China (until 1972) and People's Republic of China (since 1972). Others = Nationals of other countries (Computed by Wetherall). Stateless = Persons having no nationality (Mukokuseki).


The Kankoku/Chosen cohort is a compound of (1) Koreans who, as Chosenese, migrated to, or were born in, Japan's prefectures during the period that Korea was Chosen, a part of Japan, and Chosenese were Japanese, and their postwar Japan-born descendants, and (2) postwar, but especially late-20th-century migrants and their descendants.

The vast The vast majority of pre-postwar Chosenese-descended Koreans in Japan are Special Permanent Residents, a status tied to treaty settlements following World War II, and for this reason is a "legacy" or "residual" and population. ation that has been rapidly decreasing. Migration from the Republic of Korea has increasing since the 1980s (see breakdowns by residency status below), but not enough to offset the decrease in the legacy population, hence the overall decline of Kankoku/Chosen aliens.


Data from 1952 to 1965 reflects only "Chosen" affiliated aliens -- meaning legacy Chosenese -- meaning "Koreans in Japan" who were affiliated with the former Japanese territory of Chosen.

Data from 1966 to date reflects a conflation of "Kankoku" or Republic of Korea (ROK) nationals, and "Chosen" affiliates as before.

Although Chosen does not refer to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), some people who are classified as legacy Chosenese regard themselves as DPRK nationals, and a few may actually possess DPRK-issued documents. Japan, however, does not recognize DPRK nationality.


Both ROK and DPRK claim to be Chosen's legitimate successor state. However, Japan recognizes only ROK. So all former Japanese subjects of Chosen who remained in Japan after 15 August 1945 and their descendants, who have not elected to register as ROK nationals, or obtain another nationality, are combined with ROK nationals in most statistics, regardless of the locality of their family registers on the peninsula today, whether in the south (controled by ROK), or in the north (controlled by DPRK).


Chugoku conflates the Republic of China (ROC) and the People's Republic of China (PRC). Japan turned Taiwan over to ROC in 1945. Chiang Kai-shek and remnants of the ROC government retreated to Taiwan in 1949 when Mao Zedong won the civil war and founded PRC.

Japan signed a peace treaty with ROC in 1952, recognizing ROC as the sole China. Then in 1972 it signed a normalization agreement with PRC in which it recognized only PRC.

From 1885 to 1911, "Chugoku" in Japan's population and naturalization statistics refers to the mainland provinces of China under the Qing court, which ceded Taiwan to Japan in 1895. From 1911 "Chugoku" designates ROC, which governed the mainland provinces until 1949, and Taiwan also from 1945. From 1949 "Chugoku" means "ROC on Taiwan plus the mainland", and from 1972 it means "PRC on the mainland plus Taiwan".


The "Chugoku" category, though singular, is actually more more complex than the compound "Kankoku/Chosen" category.

Roughly half of people in the "Chugoku" figures through the 1950s and 1960s consisted of legacy Taiwanese who, as affiliates of Taiwan when it was a territory of Japan, had been Japanese nationals. The other half consisted of Republic of China nationals. Both components, however, were comprised of people who migrated to the prefectures from Taiwan or ROC before the end of World War II, and their descendants.

The creation of the People's Republic of China and the retreat of the government of the Republic of China to Taiwan in 1949, and Japan's recognition of ROC in 1952, made new migration from the mainland difficult. Though there continued to be some new migration from ROC (geographically "Taiwan"), there was little overall change in the "Chugoku" cohort because of naturalization and death in the settled population.

Migration from PRC became possible from 1972, when Japan switched its recognition from ROC to PRC, but the rate of migration from PRC did not begin to accelerate until the early 1980s, when PRC allowed more Chinese to go abroad, and Japan allows more Chinese to enter in order to study Japanese, work as trainees in companies, and enroll in vocational schools, colleges, and universities.

The settled prewar population of migrants from ROC (then only the continental provinces, excluding Taiwan), and from Taiwan (then part of Japan), and their Japan-born offspring, has been declining for the same reasons its Korean counterpart has been shrinking. There are now only about 3,000 Chinese Special Permanent Residents (see breakdowns by residency status below).

Significantly, "Taiwan" is the first listed province of affiliation in the breakdown of "Chugoku" affiliation in Japan's annual report on the number of registered aliens by nationality -- an anomaly, since the rest of the list is essentially from north to south, but ending with Hong Kong, an SAR. Breakdowns of nationality by local affiliation within the nationality category are shown only for "Chugoku" and "Kankoku/Chosen" nationality.

1 "Taiwanese" is a civil (non-racial) status defined under Japanese law meaning any person affiliated with a household register on Taiwan as a territory. 2 "Taiwan" and "Mainland" are geographical territories, not state entities. 3 ROC and PRC are state entities which originated on the mainland. Taiwan was part of Japan when ROC was formally established in 1912. PRC was established in 1949 during a revolutionary war on the mainland. ROC, which had occupied Taiwan in 1945, took refuge on Taiwan in 1949. PRC claimed all of ROC's provinces, including Taiwan, in 1949. 4 Japan signed a peace treaty with ROC as "China" in 1952. The 1952 treaty recognized that ROC was in effective control of Taiwan. 5 The 1952 treaty also recognized that ROC laws would determine the status of Taiwanese. Both countries had already agreed that Taiwanese would lose their Japanese nationality in 1952. 6 Japan changed its "China" recognition from ROC to PRC in 1972. However, Japan continues to treat people with ROC documents differently. 7 Some aliens in Japan are Special Permanent Residents because they qualify as people who, as Taiwanese, lost their nationality in 1952, or their descendants.
Note on "Kan/cho" category

Kan/Cho in the following table is an abbreviation of (1) "Kankoku" or "Dai Kan Min Koku" (Republic of Korea, ROK) and (2) "Chōsen" as a former territory of Japan. However, the category also includes (3) "Kita Chōsen" (North Korea), or formally "Chōsen Minshu Shugi Jinmin Kyōwakoku" (Democratic People's Republic of Korea, DPRK).

The following points need to be kept in mind when considering the "Kankoku/Chosen" category in statistics of registered aliens in Japan.

  1. Korea became the Japanese territory of "Chosen" in 1910 and remained so until 1945 (provisionally) and 1952 (finally).
  2. Chosen affiliates became Japanese nationals in 1910 and did not formally lose their Japanese nationality under Japanese law until 1952.
  3. As people the Allied Powers considered "liberated" from Japanese rule, during the Allied Occupation of Japan, from 1945 to 1952, Chosen affiliates in Occupied Japan were treated as both nationals of Japan and aliens.
  4. The Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) were founded in 1948. The United Nationals provisionally recognized only ROK, and Japan and ROK initiated normalization negotiations in 1951, but they did not establish normal state relations until 1965. Consequently, Japan did not formally recognize ROK nationality until 1965. As of 2010, Japan has not yet recognized DPRK, and hence does not recognize DPRK's nationality.
  5. "Kan/Cho" aliens were all formally affiliates of Chosen as a former territory of Japan until the normalization of ROK-Japan relations in 1965. Since then, aliens in Japan formally affiliated with ROK have been recognized as Kankoku aliens.
  6. Most non-Kankoku "Kan/Cho" aliens -- i.e., "Kankoku/Chosen" aliens not affiliated with ROK -- are regarded by Japan as affiliates of the former territory of Chosen. Some DPRK aliens have been exceptionally admitted to Japan, but only a few have been allowed to reside in the country, usually for humanitarian reasons. These DPRK aliens are, however, lumped together with "Kankoku" and "Chosen" aliens in practically all government statistics.
Note on "Chugoku" category
Chugoku = "Repulic of China" (including Taiwan) until 1972, and "Peoples Republic of China" (including Taiwan) from 1972. 1. Taiwanese in Japan did not formally lose their Japanese nationality until 1952. 2. PRC did not exist until 1949, and Japan did not change its recognition from ROC to PRC until 1972. **********

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) annually published "exit-entry-country control statistics" for the years 1961 through 2007. The 1st (1961) through 26th (1987) editions had no English titles. The cover and title page of the 27th (1988) through 46th (2007) editions included the English title "Annual Report of Statitistics on Legal Migrants". No other English appears in these reports.

The term "legal migrants" includes both Japanese and aliens who leave or enter Japan, since "exit-enter-country" laws apply to all people who cross Japan's border either way. There are no "immigrants". "Immigration Control Bureau" -- the English name of the agency that controls migration across Japan's national borders -- is a relic of American-inspired Occupation jargon which invites some people to believe that Japan has "immigrants".

The 1961-2007 MOJ series, compiled by the Judicial System Department of the Minister's Secretariat, was replaced by a series of thinner publications compiled by the Japan Immigration Association (JIA), beginning with 2006 data. The two series thus overlap by two years.

differentiated "Kankoku" (韓国) and "(Kita Chosen)" ((北朝鮮))) -- enclosing the latter in parentheses, which are explained in a footnote as meaning that the entity is not recognized by Japan. Entry and departure data which conflates nationality, however, shows "Kankoku/Chosen" (韓国・朝鮮). The terms "Chosen" (朝鮮) and "Kita Chosen" (北朝鮮), however, are not equated.

The term distinction between "Kita Chōsen" (北朝鮮) -- while not used on alien registration statistics -- was used in some of the tables in the MOJ reports. The JIA series, which began with data for 2006, uses only of "Korea" (韓国), while differentiation "China (Taiwan)" (中国 (台湾)) and "China" (中国).


The statistics represent all manner of cross tabulations of Japanese and aliens who legally exit and enter the country. In other words, "legal migrants" embraces all nationalities legally crossing Japan's national borders either way.

While statistics on alien residents in Japan conflate "Kankoku/Chosen" (韓国・朝鮮), some entry and departure statistics have have