This fascinating ethnography provides unique insights into the history, politics, ideology, and daily life of North Koreans living in Japan. Because Sonia Ryang was raised in this community, she was able to gain unprecedented access and to bring her personal knowledge to bear on this closed society. In addition to providing a valuable view of the experience of ethnic minorities in what is believed to be an implacably homogeneous culture, Ryang offers a rare and precious glimpse into North Korean culture and the transmission of tradition and ideology within it.Through Chongryun, its own umbrella organization, this community directs its commercial, political, social, and educational affairs, including running its own schools and teaching children about North Korea as their fatherland and Kim Il Sung and his son as their leaders. Despite the oppression and ethnic discrimination directed toward the North Korean community, Ryang depicts Koreans not as a persecuted population, but as ordinary residents whose lives are full of complexities. Although they are highly insulated within their community's boundaries, many?especially of the younger generation?are integrated into Japanese society. They are serious about commitments to North Korea yet dedicated to their lives in Japan. Examining these and other complexities, Ryang explores how, over three generations, individuals and the community reconcile such conflicts and cope with changing attitudes and approaches toward Japanese society and Korean culture.
About the Author
Sonia Ryang is assistant professor in anthropology at Johns Hopkins University.