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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ethnic Microaggressions: The Experiences of Zainichi Korean Students in Japan

  • Author(s): Yamada, Aki
  • Yusa, Taiko
  • et al.

Critical race theory (CRT) and the framework of microaggressions has been used to analyze concepts such as majority power, discrimination, and the marginalization of minority groups. This study focuses on the application of CRT and microaggressions analysis to examine issues of ethnic discrimination in contemporary Japan. Within Japanese society and its ethnic hierarchy the minority group known as “Zainichi” Koreans are struggling with prejudice and challenging their status as a marginalized group. Even the Japanese term Zainichi, meaning “living in Japan,” reflects their separation from mainstream Japanese society. Koreans are the largest ethnic minority in contemporary Japan as a direct result of Japan’s colonization of Korean Peninsula from 1910-1945. Japan tends to be perceived as homogenous country; however looking deeper, a diverse ethnic presence can be seen. There is a strong ethnic hierarchy in Japan and constant underlying ethnic discrimination that targets minority groups. What issues do ethnic minorities face living in Japan, and why? This paper illuminates the Zainichi Korean struggle, how ethnic microagressions occur within Japanese society, and how CRT can be effectively applied to this case and potentially, other circumstances of discrimination based on ethnic difference.

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