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Between assimilation and transnationalism: the debate on nationality acquisition among Koreans in Japan

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Political identifications among postcolonial Koreans in Japan have been characterized by a tension between assimilative and transnational orientations. The tension has been reshaped in the course of a recent debate on nationality acquisition, which Korean activists and commentators started in response to Japanese policymakers' move in the 2001 National Diet to simplify the naturalization process for postcolonial Koreans. At the heart of the debate stand the issues of citizenship rights and collective memory, which are central to Koreans' political identifications. Advocates of nationality acquisition accept the reality of cultural and socioeconomic assimilation and are ready to become ethnic minority members of the Japanese state in return for getting full citizenship rights. Guided by the collective memory of the colonial past and social discrimination against Koreans in postcolonial Japan, critics of nationality acquisition refuse incorporation into the Japanese state and seek the possibility of transnational citizenship and identification. Koreans in Japan are predicted to become more diverse in identification, but their diversity will probably continue to revolve around the two orientations.
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Keywords: Japan; Koreans; assimilation; naturalization; transnationalism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, North Carolina State University,

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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