Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Koreans of Japan

North Korea launched its nuclear tests on October 9th. I’m perplexed as to why President Bush and his entourage of administrators didn’t prevent this from happening, especially after all the trouble they took to invade Iraq so that the world would not fall victim to Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction.” Did they invade the wrong country? And let’s not forget about all those people who died in Iraq.

And about Ms. Condoleezza Rice’s trip to Japan. “She said her mission was intended in part to reassure South Korea and Japan they had no need to develop a nuclear deterrent of their own in response to the North’s weapon program ”(Quoted from Tokyo, Wednesday, Reuters). I wonder if she’ll succeed in convincing Japan, especially since some Japanese and Koreans are not too crazy about each other.

Read on to find out why.

Koreans in Japan suffer the same fate as dominated groups in the United States. In Yongsook Lee’s words, most Japanese “despise Koreans.” Korea became a colony of Japan in 1910. Large-scale immigration of Koreans into Japan started in 1922 when Japanese Industrialists recruited them for their expanding economy.

The resentment of Japanese toward these Korean laborers was expressed in the 1923 massacre of between 4,500 and 20,000 Koreans. During World War II, the government forced 2 million Koreans to come to Japan as laborers and military conscripts. Japanese colonial control of Korea ended with the conclusion of World War II.

Today, Koreans in Japan are discriminated against in employment, and they are not eligible for pensions, insurance, and public housing. They cannot be hired by national and local governments, public schools, and universities. Naturalization has provided legal citizenship but not social equality. Applications for jobs, schools or membership in any group requires a copy of one’s family registration.

Korean school graduates face barriers at every level of employment. In school, Koreans experience overt and covert discrimination. Many private schools will not admit Koreans. Some public schools will only admit Koreans if they take a pledge “not to disturb school order.” Japanese textbooks present a negative image of Korean history and culture.

(Quoted from, The Intersection of Cultures by Joel Spring)


Cultural Differences of Japan and The U.S.

The United States is considered an individualistic culture where a person sees herself or himself as a separate and unique individual, and whose self-definition does not include others. An individualistic culture places emphasis on individual goals.

Japan, on the other hand, is a collectivist culture where a person defines herself or himself in relation to others. The concept of Wa in Japan refers to the harmony of the group, where the self is merged into the group to form a grand harmony. The concept of Enryo refers to reserve or restraint resulting from conformity to the group. Enryo is a response to group pressure to conform.

The United States is a low context and individualistic culture, which emphasizes direct communication. Common phrases in the United States that reflect this cultural style of communication are: “Say what you mean!” “Don’t beat around the bush!” “Get to the point!”

As a high context and collectivist culture, Japanese often use indirect forms of communications filled with qualifiers such as, “perhaps,” “probably” “and “somewhat.” The Japanese are self-effacing and strive to maintain the harmony of the group in their communications.

In Japanese culture, silence is accepted behavior in the company of others. Japanese believe that an indication of good manners is not talking too much. In contrast, North Americans talk more and try to control the conversation.

Japanese like to avoid uncertainty. In conversation they want to know the context of others to avoid uncertainty in the communication. It is considered proper to clearly identify who you are when first meeting. The more context a person can give about themselves the more comfortable the listener feels. This concern about certainty in relationships often results in North Americans referring to Japanese as regimented, rigid and closely ordered.

(Quoted from “ The Intersection of Cultures” by Joel Spring)


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