Media Representation and the Cultural Politics of Zainichi (Residing-in-Japan) Korean Athletes: A Preliminary Conceptual Analysis

Monday, July 14, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: 412
Oral Presentation
Koji KOBAYASHI , College of Physical Education, Lincoln University, Hwaseong-Si, New Zealand
This paper examines how zainichi (residing-in-Japan) Korean athletes have been represented in the media and mobilised in relation to the cultural politics of Japan. Zainichi Koreans have been the largest ethnic minority in Japan largely due to forced migration during the era of Japanese colonialism. Second and later generations of zainichi Koreans have often strategically hid their Korean citizenship and identity by speaking Japanese and adopting Japanese names in order to avoid daily conflicts with, and discrimination from, Japanese society. Sport is one of the sites where the politico-historical issues of zainichi Koreans are brought to the fore in public consciousness and popular discourse. From the legendary professional wrestler—Rikidozan—to the naturalised Japanese football player—Tadanari Lee, zainichi Korean athletes have been represented in an ambivalent manner—both as ‘Japanese’ and ‘the Other’. This ambivalence of representation is linked to how they self-identify, the role of the media and the context of cultural politics at the time. By examining how representation and perception of zainichi Korean athletes have been maintained or changed over time, the paper highlights the key events and sport stars that have contributed to the re-positioning of zainichi Koreans in Japanese society. Research on zainichi Koreans has been rarely conducted yet deserves attention because it challenges the homogeneous construction of ethnic essentialism and sport nationalism in Japan and reveals the postcolonial politics within a wider context of East Asia. Overall, this paper serves as a preliminary analysis of zainichi Korean athletes with respect to how they might be studied both theoretically and methodologically.