Shin-se-ta-ryong, Kidong Kangs
collection of 200 haiku centered on the experiences of the
Zainichi (Korean residents in Japan), was published in October
1997 by the Sekifu-sha publishing company. Kangs work
reveals the sad circumstances that Zainichi face.
Kidong Kang, a South Korean citizen but a second-generation
Korean resident of Japan, was born in Kôchi prefecture,
Japan, in 1937. He was a member of Shûson Katôs
Kanrai Winter Thunder haiku group for
twenty-five years. After Katôs death, Kang quit
Kanrai and became a member of the Machi Town
haiku group and the Gendai Haiku Kyôkai Modern
Haiku Association. A man who has worn many hats, Kang
currently runs Art Nature Co., Ltd., the top-ranking hairpiece
manufacturing company in Japan, as well as several other
companies. He lives with his Japanese wife in Fukuoka prefecture.
Kangs Shin-se-ta-ryong is unique in that it
is an autobiography written as a collection of haiku. Kang
himself states in the postscript,
This book is not your ordinary haiku collection. This
book is the autobiography of a Zainichi Korean, the record
of a man called Pan-chokpal [a disparaging word
for Zainichi that means half-Japanese in Korean],
and his resistance to the prejudice, discrimination, poverty,
and inequality that he experienced as a Zainichi, using
haiku as a medium. On reflection, it is not natural for
me as a Korean to think, speak, and write in Japanese.
Unnatural or not, this is who I am, what my haiku is about.
Kang explains that Shin-se-ta-ryong, the title of
the collection, means a personal history in Korean. In
it, with singing and crying, I tell endlessly of misery,
he explains. Shin-se-ta-ryong is the story of a resilient
man who uses the unfortunate inheritance of his descent
as a springboard for his haiku.
There is a style of writing in haiku that uses the events
of daily life rather than the beauties of nature as material
for composition. While haiku inspired by nature focus mainly
on aesthetics and beauty, poems inspired by everyday life
do not shy away from gritty realities, such as poverty,
sickness, disability, old age, and the death of a family
member or the complex emotions that come with such realities.
The eminent haiku poet and editor Hakyô Ishida once
said, haiku is an I novel, one that
not only narrates personal experiences but also reveals
the inner emotions and thoughts of the author. Kangs
haiku, which are based on his life story, fit Ishidas
The use of yûki teikei season words
and fixed form and the old kana orthography
are some of the features of Kangs haiku. We can see
him as a second-generation Korean resident educated in Japan
who got his hands on haiku, one of the traditional Japanese
literatures. The themes of his haiku are Zainichi, sôshi-kaimei
adoption of Japanese for Korean names, pan-chokpal,
and kika naturalization, which we will
introduce through Kangs haiku and notes.
First, however, it is important to understand the meaning
of Zainichi. According to December 1998 statistics, approximately
640,000 South and North Korean nationals reside in Japan.
The population of Japan is 126,930,000 (per the 2000 census),
so ethnic Koreans comprise about 0.5% of the population.
These people are called Zainichi. The authoritative Kôjien
dictionary defines Zainichi as Koreans who settled
in Japan as a result of Japans colonial rule over
Korea before World War II or were forcibly brought to Japan
as labor during the war and who remained in Japan involuntarily
after the war because of the postwar division of Korea and
the restrictions against carrying back personal property,
as well as their descendants. Kang explains the word
Zainichi in the notes to Shin-se-ta-ryong, The
number of Koreans who were obliged to migrate to Japan or
were forcibly brought to Japan as a labor force during the
Pacific War exceeds 1,190,000. Even after Japan was defeated
in World War II and Korea was liberated from Japan, the
Koreans who were forced to stay in Japan because of the
division and occupation of South and North Korea by the
United States and the Soviet Union, and the outbreak of
the Korean War, and their descendants are called Zainichi.
Comparing the definitions of Zainichi in Kôjien, which
describes the general situation, and the note in Shin-se-ta-ryong
based on Kangs personal experiences we see that the
latter description is more concrete.
The following haiku deal with the theme of Zainichi:
nokoru en zainichi ware wo kasume tobu
swallow left behind
makes me want to fly
Nokoru en (settled swallow) is an autumn
season word. In March the swallow comes flying over the
sea from southern countries to Japan, where it makes a nest
in the eaves and on the beams of a house. Later in the year
it returns to the south with its fledglings. This haiku
compares Kangs circumstances to those of a swallow
that cannot return home for some reason. We can nonetheless
see the authors positive attitude and strong-mindedness
through the swallow that continues to fly, even if it cannot
en kaeru zainichi ware wa sentô e
swallows go home
we Zainichi go
to a public bath
En kaeru (swallow returns) is a season
word of autumn. In autumn the swallow returns to the south,
but, I, a Zainichi, do not have a place to return to. Kangs
present feeling, that he will make a living as a Zainichi
no matter how it will be, is condensed into the phrase of
go to a public bath.
harakara ni aitaki hi ari fuyu no mozu
wanting to meet
a fellow exile
Harakara means a compatriot who lives in a foreign
country. The shrike is a bird that breeds in Japan and northern
China. From autumn to winter a shrike screeches in the high
treetops in order to expand its territory. The author probably
wants to meet a Zainichi in the same unfortunate circumstances
as himself. The shrike refers to the author himself.
During the colonial period, Japan, using its military power,
forced Koreans to assimilate Japanese culture and traditions
completely. As a part of its assimilationist policy, Japan
forced Koreans submit to sôshi-kaimei (adopting
Japanese names in place of their Korean ones), a policy
that was proclaimed in 1939. Sôshi-kaimei was
intended to transform the Korean family system into that
of the Japanese. The vast majority of Korean residents in
Japan still use Japanese names instead of their Korean ones
in their daily lives, not wanting to suffer discrimination.
Ôyama mo Kang mo waga na yo gajô kuru
to Ôyama and
to Kang the same name:
New Years greeting cards
This is the first haiku in Shin-se-ta-ryong. It
is said that Kang used his Korean name after he was forty
years old. Gajô means a New Years card.
He receives two cards addressed to him with his two different
names. Both names are his, and his history is apparent.
bîru kumu waga hon-myô wo tsugu bekika
my original name
should be confessed
He becomes friendly with someone while drinking. He is
at a loss, however, whether or not to reveal his Korean
name. Since many people shunned him after he admitted the
fact that he was a Zainichi Korean, he equivocates and worries
about what will happen if he owns up.
In Korean pan means half and chokpal
means foot of a pig. When a Japanese wears geta
(wooden clogs), his toes spread apart and resemble a cloven
hoof. Chokpal is a derogatory name used by Koreans
for Japanese. Thus, pan-chokpal means half-Japanese;
a Zainichi is a Korean who has become chokpal (Japanese).
The more a Zainichi develops his self-confidence as a Korean,
the more a real contempt for the Japanese is borne in his
tefu sarite pan-choppari wa mata hirune
again takes a nap
Mata hirune (taking a nap again) suggests
repeated unemployment, as Kang explains in the notes, and
the smart, refined surface impression of this haiku is changed
completely. The image of the butterfly fluttering away hints
at the immediate loss of ones job because one is pan-chokpal.
In this haiku the author expresses the severe and hopeless
realities with smart and refined nuance. His resiliency
kokuhaku no ato no munashisa ao ringo
a green apple
In the notes to his haiku collection Pan-chokpal
(1973) Kang declares that his being a Zainichi Korean may
have been the cause of the lack of appreciation, mercy,
concern, and regard he has experienced. His sense of futility
and sadness are condensed into the phrase a green
apple. There is no despair in this haiku, however.
The image of freshness and youth symbolized by green
apple is the author himself, a man who has not lost
hope for the future.
The Kôjien dictionary defines the word kika
as to desire and acquire the nationality of other
country and to become a citizen of that country. Kangs
elderly parents strongly reject his thoughts of becoming
a naturalized Japanese. His wife begs him to take Japanese
citizenship in order to prevent any discrimination against
their children. His distress over the quandary of naturalization
is absolutely clear in the following haiku:
kika seyo to tsuma naku yoru no aobazuku
my wife begs in tears
owl in the night
kika senu to haha no ittetsu higa kuruu
with a mothers obstinacy
a moth circles madly
fuyu dotû kika wa kuppuku to chichi no gen
surging winter waves
naturalization is submission!
is what father says
higurashi ya ko ni soine shite kika mayou
I lie by the baby,
uncertain over naturalization
Shin-se-ta-ryong is Kangs autobiography as
well as his family history. His elderly parents show a strong
rejection of naturalization. His wife wants him to be naturalized
for the sake of their children. As husband he must consider
all of his familys thoughts on naturalization. To
the members of a Zainichi family the acquisition of Japanese
nationality poses serious problems: what is Japanese? what
is Korean? what is ones own self? Kang also challenges
Japanese to consider how they would cope with such problems.
kan no na wa waga dai made zo tamamatsuri
with my generation
the Korean name ends!
festival of souls
Kangs children have acquired Japanese nationality.
He decides to abandon his Korean name finally for this generation
henceforth. The firmness of his resolution is emphasized
by the final particle, zo ( . ).
mago areba Kaya to nazukemu hanamukuge
when a grandchild is born
name her Kaya
rose of Sharon
Kang wants to name his granddaughter Kaya, which is the
ancient name of Korea. The rose of Sharon, the Korean national
flower, and a granddaughter named Kaya are a good match.
This haiku inspires us with Kangs deep love of his
As a Japanese, I was deeply shocked by Kidong Kangs
haiku, which express so eloquently the Zainichis profound
distress when faced with the prospect of a sort of self-mutilation
of the soul. I hope many of my compatriots will read Shin-se-ta-ryong
and other books about the history of Korean-Japanese relations.
To write down the real situation of the Zainichi in
haiku is to thrust into the breast of the Japanese a knife
called haiku, Kang has said (Tôkyô shinbun,
November 6, 1997). May many Japanese take the message of
his haiku autobiography to heart.