21 January 2006

The Fun Side of Being Korean in Japan

On 14 January, Asahi Shimbun profiled a wildly successful, independent-minded, Japan-resident Korean, Kwak Choong Yang.
When entrepreneur Kwak Choong Yang was growing up in Japan, it is unlikely he could ever have imagined what would be happening here today. Though just a dozen or so years ago, many Japanese had negative perceptions of Korea, now they can't seem to get enough of all things Korean, and interest in the country's culture has never been stronger.

"True, some zainichi (Korean residents in Japan) are offended by all this. But we should welcome the fact that there is so much interest in our cultural roots," says Kwak, a second-generation Korean resident in Japan. The 49-year-old set up a publishing business eight years ago and has been introducing Korean culture to Japan....

It was before World War II that Kwak's father, aged 7 and all alone, arrived in Japan, where a relative lived. He worked his way up from the mines to management consultancy, the field in which he built a fortune.

Although the young Kwak grew up in comfort in Osaka, discrimination weighed heavily upon him. He was shocked when he secretly read about the "nationality clause" at the junior high school library. He realized there were restrictions on the jobs zainichi could hold in public service. He is still haunted by the memory of running out of a high school classroom after he announced his real name instead of his common name in Japanese. Kwak is therefore respectful of fellow zainichi who are grappling with discrimination.

"Even so, I want to tell people it's fun being a zainichi," he says. "Denial won't achieve anything. We shouldn't fear the changes surrounding the zainichi community."...

Kwak takes a liberal approach not only to the gender of his staff, but also to his employees' academic backgrounds.

He has hired high school graduates, and his company has no age-based retirement policy.

"I see myself as a dropout," he says. "I feel afraid of clean-cut companies where 5,000 people wearing the same suits work. So it was really no use creating a similar, stifling organization. My employees don't call me 'president' anyway."
via Japundit

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