Zainichi Korean 'home' as a space of confrontation, before the repatriation to North Korea

This seminar examines the experiences of Zainichi Korean families living in Japan from 1945 to the early 1960s, and how those experiences led to the belief that repatriation to North Korea was a compromise option to resolve political and socioeconomic life problems caused by the post-colonial process and the Cold War. About 600,000 ethnic Koreans residing in Japan—who were rendered stateless after the Treaty of San Francisco—suffered discrimination, surveillance, and hardship.

Rather than repatriating to South Korea, where they were born, as many did after liberation in 1945, Zainichi Koreans started repatriating to North Korea (hereafter, ‘returnees’) in 1959. Based on data from interviews with escaped returnees from North Korea and a literature review, first this talk will explain the meaning of gohyang [hometown or homeland] for first-generation Zainichi Koreans, who were mostly born in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula and migrated to Japan starting in the late 1930s to 1940s. Second, this talk will analyse the contradictory experiences of the ' Zainichi Korean family' in post-war Japanese society. 


Lee Joowhee is a PhD candidate at the School of Culture, History and Language, the College of Asia and The Pacific at the Australian National University. After two years of conducting interviews in Korea and Japan between 2018 and 2019, she is now at the final stages of writing her PhD dissertation. Her doctoral thesis title is 'Memories of Separated Families and the Narratives of Reunification.' The research aims to understand the experiences of ‘North Korean migrants’ using a case study of the Zainichi, who were ‘repatriated’ from Japan to North Korea between 1958 to 1984.

Ms. Lee Joowhee obtained an MA in Cultural Anthropology from Hanyang University (Korea) in 2012. Her research interests include contemporary Korean studies, North Korean migration studies, North Korean socio-cultural history and everyday life, Korean diaspora (especially Zainichi Korean) studies (national and ethnic identity), oral history and family, and Cold war/Hot war culture and political violence in East Asia. 

The ANU Japan Institute Seminar Series showcases cutting-edge research by leading and emerging scholars based primarily in Australia and Japan. It aims to promote networking among Japan Studies scholars in the two countries and will feature innovative research on the bilateral relationship.

The virtual seminar series will run in 10-week blocks over the two semesters of the academic year (from 2021 to 2023), and will subsequently be made available online for public viewing. Join our mailing list to receive updates and reminders ahead of each seminar.

The virtual seminars will take place from:  

  • 5-6PM Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST)
  • 4-5PM Japan Standard Time (JST) 
  • 3-4PM Singapore Standard Time (STST)

After 1 October, with Australian Eastern Daylight Time

  • 5-6PM Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT)
  • 3-4PM Japan Standard Time (JST) 
  • 2-3PM Singapore Standard Time (STST)





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