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What are Koreans in Japan called?


Japan has a diverse population that includes people from various ethnic backgrounds. Among them are Koreans who migrated to Japan during different periods. These Koreans have historically faced discrimination and prejudice, and their identity has been a subject of debate. In this article, we will explore the question, “What are Koreans in Japan called?” and delve into the history behind it.

The Historical Background

Koreans have been migrating to Japan for centuries, with some records dating back to the 4th century. During the colonial period in the early 1900s, Japan annexed Korea and forced many Koreans to move to Japan as laborers, soldiers, and servants. After World War II, when Japan lost its colonial power and Korea became independent, there were around 600,000 Koreans living in Japan. However, most of them did not receive Japanese citizenship and were considered stateless.

Japanese Snack Box

Zainichi Koreans

The term most commonly used to refer to Koreans in Japan is “Zainichi Korean,” which literally means “Korean resident in Japan.” This term was first used by the Japanese government in the 1950s to classify Koreans who did not have Japanese citizenship. The term Zainichi is also used to refer to other ethnic minorities in Japan who are not Japanese citizens.

North Koreans vs. South Koreans

There are two main groups of Zainichi Koreans – those from North Korea and those from South Korea. The North Korean residents are affiliated with the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), while the South Koreans are affiliated with the pro-Seoul Mindan.


An alternative term used to describe Zainichi Koreans is “Kankoku-kei,” which means “Korean descent.” This term is used by Zainichi Koreans who want to emphasize their Korean heritage rather than their status as non-Japanese residents. However, this term is not widely recognized outside the Zainichi community.


Some Zainichi Koreans prefer to identify themselves as “Korean-Japanese,” which emphasizes their dual identity as both Korean and Japanese citizens. These individuals typically have obtained Japanese citizenship through naturalization or through being born in Japan to Korean parents who have permanent residency status.

The Struggle for Recognition

Zainichi Koreans have long struggled for recognition and equal rights in Japan. Despite being born and raised in Japan, many face discrimination and prejudice due to their ethnic background. They have also faced challenges in obtaining Japanese citizenship and access to social services such as education and healthcare.

Cultural Contributions

Zainichi Koreans have made significant contributions to Japanese society through their cultural endeavors such as music, literature, and art. Many prominent figures in these fields are of Korean descent, including singers like Crystal Kay and Jero, author Yu Miri, and artist Lee Ufan.

The Future of Zainichi Koreans

The issue of Zainichi Koreans remains a controversial topic in Japan, with ongoing debates about their legal status and identity. However, there are efforts being made to promote greater understanding and acceptance of Zainichi Koreans in Japanese society. For example, some local governments have implemented policies aimed at improving the quality of life for Zainichi Koreans.


In conclusion, Zainichi Koreans are non-Japanese residents of Korean descent who have faced discrimination and prejudice in Japan due to their ethnicity. While they have made significant contributions to Japanese society, they continue to struggle for recognition and equal rights. Acknowledging their identity and promoting greater understanding can lead to a more inclusive society where everyone can thrive.

What did the Japanese call Korean?

When Korea was under Japanese colonial rule, it was referred to as Chōsen (朝鮮) officially, but the previous name was still used internationally.

What is the Japanese term for a person of Korean nationality?

The term “Zainichi” is commonly used to refer to the Korean community living in Japan, including individuals from both North and South Korea.

What Zainichi means?

Despite facing racism and financial exploitation, over 600,000 Koreans chose to remain in Japan and became known as the Zainichi population, which means “residing in Japan.” Although the term can refer to non-Koreans, it has become specifically associated with the Korean ethnic group in Japan.

What are pro Japanese Koreans?

The term “pro-Japan faction” is used in Korean language as a negative descriptor for ethnic Koreans who supported and worked with Imperial Japan during the time when they had control over Korea from 1905 to 1945.

Why do Japanese call Korea Kankoku?

The traditional name for Korea was Joseon, which later became the basis for the Japanese word “chosen.” North Korea continues to use the name Joseon, while South Korea adopted a new name, Daehanminguk or Hanguk for short. This is the origin of the Japanese word “Kankoku.”

What is a Noona in Japan?

In Korean culture, the term “noona” is used by men to address an older female, even if she is not related to them. Similarly, women who are older sisters to younger brothers will also be addressed as “noona” by their siblings. This term is commonly used to show respect and acknowledge age differences.

The Importance of Language

Language is a crucial aspect of the Zainichi Korean identity. Many Zainichi Koreans are bilingual, speaking both Korean and Japanese fluently. However, their use of the Korean language has been restricted due to discrimination and government policies. In recent years, there has been a growing movement among Zainichi Koreans to reclaim their language and promote its use in daily life.

The Impact on Second-Generation Koreans

The children of Zainichi Koreans, who were born and raised in Japan, face unique challenges. They are often caught between two cultures and may struggle with their identity. Some may face discrimination from their Japanese peers or feel disconnected from their Korean heritage. However, there are also efforts being made to support second-generation Koreans and promote greater understanding of their experiences.

Zainichi Koreans in Politics

Despite facing discrimination, some Zainichi Koreans have risen to prominent positions in Japanese politics. One notable figure is Kang Sang-jung, a member of the House of Councillors who was born in Japan to Korean parents. Kang has advocated for the rights of Zainichi Koreans and called for greater recognition of their contributions to Japanese society.

The Role of Education

Education is another crucial factor in promoting understanding and acceptance of Zainichi Koreans. Many Zainichi Korean children attend schools that cater specifically to their community, which can help them maintain their cultural identity. However, there have also been efforts to integrate Zainichi Korean students into mainstream Japanese schools and promote greater diversity in education.

Celebrating Zainichi Korean Culture

There are many ways to celebrate Zainichi Korean culture and promote greater awareness of its contributions to Japanese society. This can include attending cultural events such as festivals and concerts, supporting artists and writers of Korean descent, and learning more about the history and experiences of Zainichi Koreans through education and media.

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