Abe Keita (Franciscan Priest)
The ordinary life of Koreans living in Osaka (Ikuno ward), the largest concentration of the Korean population in Japan, is not much different on the outside to the life of the ordinary Japanese. Their ethnic education differs according to the social awareness of each household and to whether people belong to Mindan (Association of South Koreans living in Japan) or to Soren (Association of North Koreans).
Nevertheless, the food and colorful goods of the Korean town are different during the festivals of the old New Year and the old Obon, Festival of the Dead. During that time people stop attending the classes of the "Omoni Hakkyo" school. Again, during the events of the Coming-of-Age Day and wedding ceremonies, participants wear the customary dresses giving a special ethnic flavor to the events.
Koreans usually eat typical Korean food and Kimchi, but, since nowadays, Japanese also enjoy Korean dishes there is not much difference, except that, in daily life and especially during seasonal festivals and other events that are considered important to their lives, Koreans become conscious of their ethnic culture and their country of origin. By doing that, they consciously transmit to the young generations their ethnic characteristics.
In other respects when we compare Koreans and Japanese, the daily life of Koreans appears to be peaceful and, for good or for bad, all various fluctuations remain hidden, although the social system, as much as politics and economics influence them greatly.
For example, only Koreans living in Japan feel discrimination and other extraordinary pressures at various times in their lives, like by using their true names when they proceed to higher education, when they look for a job or when they marry. Even today painful dramas occur due to that. This is one reason why it became big news when, in the past, a Korean was employed as a public servant or a Korean living in Japan passed the judiciary examination.
When they want to start a new business or when they look for a loan to buy a house, Koreans are completely at the mercy of the business situation. An example would be the recent bankruptcies of two Korean financial institutions, Chogin and Kogin.
As a result, the life and commerce as well as industrial business of many Koreans were hit hardly, and those who planned to buy new housing were strongly shocked. That was a heavy blow to the existence of Korean communities that had started to flourish. Right after the bankruptcy of Osaka's Kogin the faces of the people of this Korean town standing anxiously in front of the bank were quite striking. In this respect, the ordinary Japanese can still find a financial institution to borrow money from, even if some banks collapse, but in the case of Koreans it is different; the collapsed banks were the only trump card available.
On one hand, many situations play often against them and they tend to experience much suffering, but during the good times their joy overflows. This is true also of international events. At the top-level conference between North and South Korea that took place last year, Koreans in Japan belonging to both organizations, Mindan and Soren welcomed the event with great joy. Koreans of Ikuno ward made great celebrations hanging posters in the Korean town and publishing special extra issues. Again, when Kim Dae Jung was awarded the Nobel Peace prize many groups of Koreans celebrated the event in public drinking places.
And in the field of sports, Koreans celebrated with great joy the common Japanese-Korean holding of the soccer World Cup, and since that decision was made, the Korean town is filled with posters. A similar view could be observed when the Korean boxer, Tokuyama, seized the world championship for the first time. The joy of the Korean community also exploded at that time.
This way the life of Koreans in Japan is exposed to all kinds of fluctuations and possibilities. Nevertheless, the events that show signs of hope throw powerful light on the dark side of their lives, looking as great messages of the Good News.
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