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Tei Taikin on nationalism and Koreans in Japan

The wrongs of "Zainichi" victimhood and the rights of naturalization

First posted 15 February 2006
Last updated 1 July 2011

Tei Taikin Chung 1978 | Kawamura and Chung 1986 | Chung 1992 | Tei (Chung) 1995 | Tei (Chung) 1998 | Tei (Chung) 2001 | Tei (Chung) 2002 | Tei (Chung) 2003 | Tei (Chung) 2004 | Tei 2006 | Tei and Furuta 2006 | Tei 2010 | Kobayashi 2011 | Tei 2011

Tei Taikin has been a good friend for over thirty years, and I count myself as one of his critical fans. This article consists of a very general sketch of Tei's family, and an annotated list of his books and selected articles. Some works receive more commentary than others. None have been given color ratings according to the scheme I developed for the Bibliographies section of this website, long after I began this overview as part of the Korean issues in Japan feature in the Nationalism section, where Tei's works shared space with other works on or reflecting nationalism in Japan and Korea. I moved the part on Tei's works here when I decided to dedicate the Korean issues feature to Ken Kanryō comics and related books.

Tei Taikin

Tei Taikin is the strongest proponent in Japan of naturalization as a means of securing rights to fully participate in Japanese society as a Japanese. He is also a prolific critic of ethnonationalism in both Korea and Japan, and of "Zainichi" victimhood advocacy.

No other writer in Japan today has contributed more to the forging of an objective (as opposed to ideological) understanding of Korean and Japanese nationalism and their continuing consequences for, and effects on, Koreans in Japan than Tei Taikin, who used to also write as Chung Daekyun. Several of Tei's most important titles have been brought out in the paperback series of two major publishing houses.

Tei has also contributed numerous articles to newspapers, magazines, and other books. Some of his own books are compilations of articles published in periodicals, while others were originally written as books.

Tei's books -- unlike those of Kang Sang-jung, which have helped popularize the Zainichi victimhood that Tei opposes -- have not been the kind that TV talk shows like to hype into bestsellers. His views, however, are slowly but surely affecting public understanding of Korea-Japan relations when Korea was part of Japan, and the legacy of migration -- most voluntary, some forced -- from the Korean peninsula to the prefectures.

Tei has also been the leading proponent of naturalization. Defining "Zainichi" as Korean aliens who are recognized as Special Permanent Residents, he argues -- correctly, I believe -- that remaining Zainichi is to maintain a legal status tied to the past, rather than a status tied to the present and the future. Remaining Zainichi is to be a national of a country one is not really part of, from which one feels a linguistic, cultural, social, and political estrangement. Naturalizing means becoming a full member of the country where one was probably born and raised and knows as a native, and is most comfortable and prefers to live.

Tei received a BA from St. Paul's University in Tokyo and an MA from the University of California at Los Angeles. He taught Japanese at universities in Korea from 1981-1995 while continuing his research and writing on Korea-Japan relations and ethnicity, and has been a professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University since 1995.

I first met Tei in 1975, when he called himself Chung and also Saitō -- his mother's original family name. We have kept in touch over the years and he, more than anyone, has inspired my current views of ethnicity, nationalism, and the importance of Japanese nationality as a mark of membership in Japan's sovereign, democratic, civil, raceless nation.

Tei's family background


Tei's mother, Saitō Ai (斎藤アイ 1909-2003), was born in Iwate prefecture, in the Naichi (Interior) jurisdiction of the empire. When his parents married in the 1940s, she entered his father's Chōsen register, and as an effect of this migration from a Naichi to a Chōsen register became Chosenese, as did their three children under the family lineage rules that applied to territorial registers.

The entire family, including Tei's older brother (1944-2000) and younger sister (b1950), lost their Japanese nationality the day the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect in 1952. When Tei's mother naturalized in 1985, she wrote in a letter to him -- "Yesterday I returned my Gaitō (Alien Registration Certificate), and was liberated" (Tei 2006, page 63).

In 1960, Tei's mother and her children had to go to the Sendai Family Court to confirm whether they wished to remain in Japan or go to ROK with Tei's father. The day they appeared for the hearing, Tei recalls, they encountered a skirmish between police and demonstrators protesting the talks then resuming between ROK and Japan. His father, he believes, was also in Sendai at the time, but he did not see him. The last time he saw his father in Japan was a few months earlier, when his father, having decided to return to Korea, called a taxi, something unheard of in their family, and e had never done and pressured the children to go with him. They resisted, and Tei thinks someone might have reported the commotion, because the police came to intervene in the domestic feud as the neighbors looked on from a distance. Looking back on what he counts among the more nightmarish experiences of his youth, Tei now thinks that the situation was probably the most painful for his father. But at the time, he took a little joy in seeing his father in such misery. (Tei 2006, pages 56-57)

The artifacts of legal status

Writing with the emotional detachment of a good novelist dramatizing his own life, Tei does not wax sentimental or mince his words. His descriptions of his parents and siblings, and of his relations with them and ultimately with himself, are passionately honest.

Tei's family story is very personal and unique, as all such stories are for those who experienced them. Some elements of his familiy story are atypical of families generally, while others are common to families in similar circumstances. One of the commonalities in his family story is the manner in which the laws of the times affected the legal status of his parents and then their children.


Tei's father was born in the Empire of Korea to a family that was considered Korean because they had a household register affiliated with a local polity within the country. Laws and regulations concerning household registration were strenghened As a child of parents in a household register affiliated with Chōsen, as Korea had been renamed when annexed by Japan in 1910, Tei was also a Chōsenjin (Chonesese, Korean) under Japanese law, hence a Japanese national. At the same time, under the status rules established by Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in Occupied Japan, and under Japanese laws and ordinances affected by SCAP directives, he was "non-Japanese" of Japanese nationality for certain legal purposes until the nationality of Chosenese (Koreans) and Taiwanese (Formosans) could be determined by treaties between Japan and concerned states.

In 1952, when Chōsen and Taiwan were formally separated from Japan's sovereign territory as a result of the effects of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, Chosenese and Taiwanese lost their Japanese nationality. Hence Tei and his family -- his father (born in Korea in 1899), his mother (born in Iwate in 1909), his older brother (born in Tokyo in 1944), and his younger sister (born in Iwate in 1950) -- became aliens of Chōsen nationality. This was a virtual rather than actual nationality, since the territorial "nation" of Chōsen had no state. Or, more precisely, the former Japanese territory of Chōsen had two states, ROK and DPRK, both of which claimed to be the sole legitimate government of "liberated Korea". In 1950, however, DPRK had invaded ROK, and in 1952 the two states were still at war. Talks between ROK and Japan in late 1951 and early 1952, to establish normal relations and resolve issues related to the status of Koreans in Japan, stalled, and though they resumed several times, the two countries did not sign a normalization treaty and status agreement until 1965. While Japan at this point recognized ROK as the sole legal government of Chōsen (in the Japanese version of the normalization treaty), the treaty did not resolve issues between Japan and DPRK, and the status agreement covered only Koreans in Japan who sought and confirmed their possession of ROK nationality.



Chung 1978

Chung, Dae-Kyun
Japan-born Koreans in the U.S.: Their experiences in Japan and the U.S.
Master's Thesis
M.A. in Asian American Studies, 1978
University of California, Los Angeles, 1978
iii, 83 pages (typescript)

At the time he wrote this thesis, Tei was calling himself Chung, one of several romanizations of the Korean reading of the character read "Tei" in Sino-Japanese. Already experienced in community work with Koreans in Japan, he spent three years at the University of California in Los Angeles, where he conducted this very original study of people like himself in the United States.

One litmus test of who you are is to plunge into another world and see who you make friends with. Do Koreans born and raised in Japan, where they are surrounded by Japanese and are like most Japanese in all but nationality, discover their "Koreanness" in Los Angeles? Do they meet Koreans from the Republic of Korea and suddenly feel at home?

The answer to the second question is generally no -- most discover they have nothing in common with "real" Koreans and may not even be welcome in their communities. The answer to the first question is usually yes -- most find themselves mixing with, and socially and culturally most comfortable in the company of, and even most accepted by, Japanese.

The conditions of friendship are not essentially different in Japan. Most Koreans in Japan I have met, among those who were born and raised in Japan, live pretty much in the mainstream of Japanese society, where they are not likely to meet or make friends with recent Korean migrants -- with whom, in any event, they are not likely to share anything in common except the general legal alienness that all aliens share as non-Japanese.

Accepting the fact that most Koreans in Japan lack "Korean ethnicity" in any practical sense of the term -- meaning native language or naturally acquired cultural sociocultural traits -- is the first step toward liberation from the "Zainichi syndrome" (my expression) -- an obsession with "being a Korean in Japan" that causes some self-styled "Zainichi" to discrimate against themselves more than they may at times be discriminated against by some Japanese.


Kawamura and Chung 1986

川村湊、鄭大均 (チョン テギュン)

Kawamura Minato and Chon Tegyun [Chung Daekyun] (editors)
Kankoku to iu kagami
(Sengo sedai no mita rinkoku)
[(ROK) Korea as a mirror
(Japan's neighbor as seen by the postwar generation)]
Tokyo: Tōyō Shoin, 1986
334 pages, hardcover

The cover, spine, and colophon list Kawamura and Chung as the editors. The titles page lists Tanaka Akira, Kawamura, and Chung. The biographical profiles on the colophon list first Kawamura and Chung, then Tanaka, and finally Kawamura Ako, Kōno Eiji, and Nishioka Tsutomu.

The book begins with a roundtable discussion between Tanaka Akira, Kawamura Minato, and Chung Daekyun. Then come five artices, one each by Kawamura, Chung, Kawamura Ako, Kōno Eiji, and Nishioka Tsutomu. Chung wrote the afterword.

Chung's article is on "The national-language-ization and forbidden-language-ization of the Japanese language" in Korea.

All contributors were born after World War II except Tanaka Akira (1926-2010), a Korea specialist and translator at the Institute of Institute of Overseas Affairs [World Studies] at Takushoku University.


Chung 1992

鄭大均 (ちょん・てぎゅん

Chon Tegyun (© Chung Daekyun)
Nikkan no pararerizumu
(Atarashii nagameai wa kanō ka)
[Parallelism of Japan and (ROK) Korea
(Is a new mutual view possible?)]
Tokyo: Sankōsha, 1992
252 pages, hardcover

This book was republished in a substantially revised edition in 2003 as Kankoku no nashonarizumu (韓国のナショナリズム) [Nationalism of Korea (ROK)] by Iwanami Shoten. See Tei (Chung) 2003 below for details.


Tei (Chung) 1995

鄭大均 (てい・たいきん Chung, Daekyun)
xii、239ページ (中公新書 1269)

Tei Taikin (Chung Daekyun)
Kankoku no imeeji
(Sengo Nihonjin no rinkoku kan)
[The image of Korea
(How postwar Japanese view a neighboring country)]
Tokyo: Chūō Kōron Sha, 1995
xii, 239 pages, paperback (Chūkō Shinsho 1269)

An expanded and updated edition of this book was published in 2010 (see below).


Tei (Chung) 1998

鄭大均 (てい・たいきん Chung, Daekyun)
vi、240ページ (中公新書 1439)

Tei Taikin (Chung Daekyun)
Nihon (Irubon) no imeeji
(Kankokujin no Nihonjin kan)
[The image of Japan (Ilbon)
(How Koreans view Japanese)]
Tokyo: Chūō Kōron Sha, 1998
vi, 240 pages, paperback (Chūkō Shinsho 1439)


Tei (Chung) 2001

鄭大均 (てい たいきん Chung Daekyun)
196ページ (文春新書 168)

Tei Taikin (Chung Daekyun, © Tei Taikin)
Zainichi Kankokujin no shūen
[The end of (ROK) Koreans in Japan]
Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū, 2001
196 pages, paperback (Bunshun Shinsho 168)

This is Tei's first book-length examination of the status and conditions of ROK Koreans in Japan, particularly those who have been in Japan since the day Japan surrendered to end World War II in 1945 and descendants born and raised in Japan. The maintenance of Korean nationality into second, third, and later generations is partly an anomaly of both Japan's and ROK's nationality laws. But it also reflects an attitude toward nationality that doesn't make sense in light of the fact that most Koreans in Japan are so totally integrated into Japan's mainstream that it makes no point not to be Japanese.

The title reflects Francis Fukuyama's "The End of History and the Last Man" (1992). The number of Koreans in Japan who are categorically "Zainichi Kankokujin" -- by virtue of their treaty-accorded "special permanent residence" status -- is rapidly shrinking through death and naturalization, and the fact that most Koreans marry Japanese and their children are able to acquire Japanese nationality at time of birth. So it is only a matter of time before there will be no significant population of such what I call "legacy Koreans" in Japan.


Tei (Chung) 2002

鄭大均 (てい たいきん Chung Daekyun)
221ページ (小学館文庫 476)

Tei Taikin (Tei Taikin, Chung Daekyun, © Chung Daekyun)
Kankoku nashonarizumu no fukō
(Naze yokusei ga hatarakanai no ka)
[The misfortunes of Korean nationalism]
(Why suppression doesn't work)]
Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2002
221 pages, paperback (Shōgakukan Bunko 476)


Tei (Chung) 2003

鄭大均 (てい たいきん Chung Daekyun)
vi、295ページ (岩波現代文庫 学術 109)

Tei Taikin (Tei Taikin, Chung Daekyun, © Taikin Tei)
Kankoku no nashonarizumu
[Nationalism of Korea (ROK)]
Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2003
vi, 295 pages, paperback (Shōgakukan Bunko Gakujutsu 109)

This book is a substantially revised edition of Nikkan no pararerizumu (日韓のパラレリズム) [Parallelism of Japan and Korea (ROK)], published in 1992 by Sankōsha. See Chung 1992 for details.


Tei (Chung) 2004

鄭大均 (てい たいきん Chung Daekyun)
201ページ (文春新書 384)

Tei Taikin (Chung Daekyun, © Tei Taikin)
Zainichi: Kyōsei renkō no shinwa
[The myth of Zainichi as forcibly brought]
Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū, 2004
201 pages, paperback (Bunshun Shinsho 384)

Over the past two or three decades, a number of researchers have debunked the myth -- commonly reported as fact in mass media and books in Japanese and English -- that Koreans in Japan are the descendants of colonial subjects forcefully brought to Japan to work. Tei, however, has written -- if not the last word on the subject -- the most important overview to date.


Tei 2006

鄭大均 (てい・たいきん)
vii、194ページ (中公新書 1861)

Tei Taikin (© Taikin TEI)
Zainichi no taerarenai karusa
[The unbearable lightness of being (Korean) in Japan]
Tokyo: Chūō Kōron Shinsha, 2006
vii, 194 pages, paperback (Chūkō Shinsho 1861)

This is a very moving book, in which Tei (born in 1948 during the Allied Occupation of Japan) shares many personal and frank thoughts about his father (born in Korea in 1899), his mother (born in Iwate prefecture in 1909), and his older brother (born in Tokyo in 1944) and younger sister (born in Iwate in 1950). He also revels a great deal about himself as he grew up and forged his own way in life, and as his experiences changed his perceptions of the world and who he was and wanted to be.

In the penultimate chapter Tei talks very candidly about his sister's law suit against the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (see review of Chong Hyang Gyun 2006). For the record, he was opposed to her suit. His arguments are at once powerful and, in view of how he phrases his criticism of his own sister, very poignant.

In the final chapter Tei narrates his own journey back to Japanese nationality through naturalization. In an earlier chapter he also talks about his mother's naturalization in 1985. When she married his father, she moved from her family register in Iwate prefecture to his register in Korea, so she too lost her Japanese nationality as a result of treaty settlements after World War II.

Tei's title is inspired by Sonzai no taerarenai karusa -- the Japanese title of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1985). The Czech title is Nesnesitelna lehkost byti (1982, 1984), but the novel could not be published in Czechoslovakia, and apparently Kundera has not allowed it to be published in the Czech Republic.


Tei and Furuta 2006

鄭大均 (てい たいきん)、古田博司 (ふるた ひろし) (編)
342ページ (文春新書 520)

Tei Taikin and Furuta Hiroshi, editors (© TEI Taikin, FURUTA Hiroshi)
Kankoku・Kita Chōsen no uso o miyaburu
(Kin-gendai shi no sōten 30)
[Seeing through the lies of Korea and North Korea
(30 contentious points of recent- and present-era history)]
Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū, 2006
342 pages, paperback (Bunshun Shinsho 520)

This book contains a general roundtable discussion between three commentators, and thirty shorter standalone articles about specific issues that reflect the shared view of the contributors that both the Republic of Korea (ROK, Korea) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) are engaged in spreading falsehoods about the past, especially regarding Japan and its treatment of Korea and Koreans. All the articles are titled according the formula "If you're told 'Falsehood'" (「嘘」と言われたら "Uso" to iwaretara).

Tei wrote the foreword and an article entitled "If you're told "Koreans in Japan are decesdants of '[people] forcibly brought [to Japan]'" (「在日コレアンは『強制連行』の子孫だ "Zainichi Korean wa 'kyōsei renkō' no shison da' to iwaretara). Furuta wrote the postscript and participated in the roundtable discussion on the "Mental structure of Korean and North Korean 'self-absolutism'".

All the favorite claims by historians and others who fall in step with the victimhood school that drives Korean ethnonationalism are addressed here. Here is a sample of other claims every bit as contentious as the "forcibly brought" claim countered by Tei Taikin.

Tanaka Akira
If you're told "Korea's nationalism is healthy"

Harada Tamaki
If you're told "The Japan-Korea union [annexation] is invalid [no effective]"

Nagashima Hiroki
If you're told "[Koreans] were deprived [robbed] of [their] ethnic [national] names by the create-family-name change-personal-name [measures]"

Araki Nobuko
If you're told "The Empire of Japan obliterated [expunged, erradicated] the Korean language"

Nishioka Tsutomu
If you're told "'Army attached comfort women" were taken [abducted] by the Japanese Army"

Tamaki Motoi
If you're told "Kim Il Sung and Rhee Syngman toppled the Empire of Japan with [their] resistance movements"

Asakawa Akihiro
If you're told "Japan has responsibility for the tragedy of the return [repatriation] movement to North Korea"

Tei Taikin
If you're told "Koreans in Japan are decesdants of '[people] forcibly brought [to Japan]'"

Harada Tamaki
If you're told "Keijō is a discriminatory word"


Tei 2010

鄭大均 (てい・たいきん
xiii, 266ページ (中公新書 1269)

Tei Taikin (© Taikin TEI)
Kankoku no imeeji
(Sengo Nihonjin no rinkoku kan)
[The image of Korea (ROK)
(How postwar Japanese view a neighboring country)]
[(Revised and) enlarged edition]
Tokyo: Chūō Kōron Shinsha
25 October 1995, 1st edition published
25 September 2010, enlarged edition published
xiii, 266 pages, paperback (Chūkō Shinsho 1269)

Kobayashi 2011

Tei Taikin is featured with five other "new Japanese" who became Japanese through naturalization, in the following collection of in-depth discussions with Kobayashi Yoshinori, the creator of the "gomanism" manga series.

帰化 < Naturalized in Japan >

Kobayashi Yoshinori
Shin Nihonjin ni kike!
[Listen to new Japanese!]
Kika [Natualization] < Naturalized in Japan >
Goomanizumu taironshō
[Gomanism discussion (argument) collection]
Tokyo: Asuka Shinsha, 16 May 2011
333 pages, paper cover

Kobayashi's purpose, in addition to drawing out why the discussaants wanted to be Japanese, is to disseminate their opinions about all manner of issues involving Japan, including the issue of whether nationality should be a requisite for political participation. See Kobayashi 2011 in the Bibliographies section for details.


Tei 2011