At the time of Japan's annexation of Korea in 1910, only several thousand Koreans lived in the main Japanese islands. This population largely consisted of students, merchants, and workers who entered Japan during the first four decades or so after the Meiji Restoration in 1868. In the 1920s, the Japanese economy experienced a shortage of labor. In response, Koreans seeking better educational and employment opportunities migrated to Japan. Until the late 1920s, most were male migrant workers who frequently shifted occupations. Most ethnic Koreans were farmers from three southern provinces in Korea (North and South Kyongsang and South Cholla, including Chejudo). Since many were poorly educated and illiterate, Korean workers engaged in manual and menial work, along with Burakumin and Okinawans. In particular, Korean workers dominated jobs in construction and mining. By 1930, ethnic Koreans constituted a recognizable social group in major Japanese cities. They often received much lower wages than ethnic Japanese and congregated in Korean ghettoes because of poverty and discrimination. In the 1930s, Korean families began to settle down in Japan and the demographics expanded to include women and children. By the mid-1930s, almost a third of Koreans were born in Japan. Between 1920 and 1930, the number of Koreans in Japan increased over tenfold to 419,000. World War II and Enforced Migration
While Korean immigration to Japan prior to World War II was largely voluntary, wartime labor shortages led to enforced migration. Both ethnic Japanese and Koreans colluded in the conscription of Koreans, men and women, to work in factories and mines. Between 1939 and 1945, the Japanese government brought 700,000-800,000 Koreans to work in Japan. Over 200,000 ethnic Koreans fought for the Japanese empire. By 1945, the number of Koreans peaked at approximately 2 million. Many Koreans in Japan suffered war-related injuries and deaths (approximately 239,000 according to some scholars). Up to 30,000 ethnic Koreans died in the atomic bomb explosion in Hiroshima. Following Japan's defeat in World War II, the majority of ethnic Koreans (1-1.4 million) left Japan. By 1948, the population of ethnic Koreans settled around 600,000. These Koreans and their descendants are commonly referred to as Zainichi (literally "residing in Japan"), a term that appeared in the immediate postwar years. Since the end of World War II to the present, the number of Zainichi Koreans has lingered around the same figure. Ethnic Koreans who remained in Japan did so for diverse reasons. Koreans who had achieved successful careers in business, the imperial bureaucracy, and the military during the colonial period or who had taken advantage of economic opportunities that opened up immediately after the war–opted to maintain their relatively privileged status in Japanese society rather than risk returning to an impoverished and politically unstable post-Liberation Korea. Some Koreans who repatriated were so repulsed by the poor conditions they observed that they decided to return to Japan. Other Koreans living in Japan could not afford the train fare to one of the departure ports. For ethnic Koreans who had ethnic Japanese spouses and Japanese-born, Japanese-speaking children, it made more sense to stay in Japan rather than to navigate the cultural and linguistic challenges of a new environment. Ethnic Discrimination of Koreans in Japan
Although Koreans in Japan prior to World War II suffered racial discrimination and economic exploitation, the Japanese authorities nonetheless counted ethnic Koreans as Japanese nationals and sought to fully assimilate Koreans into Japanese society through Japanese education and the promotion of intermarriage. Following the war, however, the Japanese government defined ethnic Koreans as foreigners, no longer recognizing them as Japanese nationals. The use of the term Zainichi, or "residing in Japan" reflected the overall...
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