Zainichi: An Analysis of Diasporic Identity in Japan
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The Zainichi, diasporic Koreans left in Japan after the events of the Japanese colonial period and World War II, are seldom represented in Japanese media, reflecting their overall invisibility in Japanese society. “Japanese New Wave” film emerged in the post-war era as a cinematic movement that discussed many of the unresolved matters of World War II, including that of the Zainichi. Analyses of these films in relation to their historical and political context are sporadic and Japanese film often goes without discussion in Western academia. Using the films Death by Hanging (1968), All Under the Moon (1994), and Blood and Bones (2004), this paper analyzes the genesis, history, and slow wane of the Korean diasporic identity in Japan and attempts to use film as a means of presenting a Western audience with a snapshot of the Zainichi timeline and a look into the nature of diasporic identity. Ōshima’s 1968 film Death by Hanging details the origins of Zainichi insurgents, those who expressed their oppression through criminality and began the discourse on Zainichi identity in film by posing the question “What is a Korean?” All Under the Moon (1993) attempts to “rehumanize” the Zainichi as more than just a political issue or matter of public discourse, and 2004’s Blood and Bones reinvents this tactic in order to reclaim agency over the Zainichi historical narrative. Ultimately, the films display the creative and destructive natures of capitalism on identity and community and highlight some of the idiosyncrasies inherent in the geo-political and ethnic division of East Asia, all in the search for authenticity in representation of the Zainichi.