Third-Generation Koreans' Entry into the Workforce in Japan
La Trobe University Melbourne, Australia
A case study of third-generation Korean high schoolers in Japan reveals how they perceive employment market realities and decide upon and obtain employment. Sharing a collective perception of the labor market, these students exhibit intragroup variation in their destination preferences and the strategies taken. This article uncovers how the school intervenes in students' decision making and points to the potential for school intervention in linking minority students to employment.
Gaiseki is the term used at school by both students and teachers to describe the identity of Korean students, although the students themselves often choose to hide that very identity from others. It is an abbreviated form of gaikokuseki, which literally means foreign nationality. Korean high schoolers are third-generation, speak only the Japanese language, adopt Japanese names, and are hardly distinguishable from their Japanese classmates. Nonetheless, in contrast with that of successful Koreans in the United States (Kim 1993; Yong Lee 1991), the academic performance of Korean students is poorer on average than that of their Japanese counterparts, and the Korean adult population is represented in only a limited section of the work force (Nakajima 1994:237; Rohlen 1981:194-203). What these young Koreans make of this situation and how they enter the work force is the subject of this article.
This article examines how non-university-bound Korean high school students make decisions about and obtain employment in the last year of high school. In deciding on postschool employment, some Koreans chose jobs in the Korean ethnic community, while others entered mainstream Japanese companies. These distinctive decisions are likely to have a significant bearing on their future. How and why did these differences emerge? What are the implications of these differences?
I begin with a brief discussion of theories relating to minority school performance. After examining the situation of ethnic Koreans in Japan and their participation in schooling and in the employment market, I introduce the two schools in my study. I will examine the employment market that Korean high schoolers faced and the ways in which the schools tried to protect these students in the dominant employment market. My discussion then moves to the article's focus: how the
Anthropology & Education Quarterly 28(4):524-549. Copyright No 1997, American Anthropological Association.
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individual Korean students interpreted and responded to both the employment market and what the school offered them. The article argues that Korean high schoolers maintained the collective understanding of the world that has marginalized them as a social group, but they also showed intragroup variations within that broad understanding and in their destination preferences and strategies taken. I argue that Korean students' decisions are subject to "intervention" on the part of the school and underline the school's potential to intervene in linking minority students to employment.
Theories on Minority School Performance and Beyond
Challenging earlier cultural discontinuity theories, Ogbu (1978,1987, 1991) explained the poor school achievement of some minority groups by focusing on the nature, origin, and persistence of such cultural discontinuity. He devised two categorizations of minority groups, voluntary (immigrant) and involuntary minorities, and concluded that the involuntary minority groups are more prone to failure at school. Voluntary minorities migrated in pursuit of better lives in the host society. They do face discrimination and poverty, but maintain "cultural models" that lead them to appropriate opportunities through mainstream methods such as hard work and academic success, which Gibson (1988) calls "accommodation without assimilation." In contrast, involuntary minorities are those forced to become subordinate through various forms of oppression on the part of the dominant group, such as colonization. They have developed their own collective perception of the workings of the society, making psychological and cultural adaptations to their oppressed conditions.
Critics have argued that Ogbu's theory is economic-determinist (Erickson 1987:342-343; Foley 1991; Trueba 1988) and does not account for members of involuntary minority groups who succeed against all the odds. The continued debate over Ogbu's theory and the "cultural discontinuity" thesis are well represented in a special issue of Anthropology and Education Quarterly that discusses minority students' school failure (Jacob and Jordan 1987). Foley (1991) and Levinson (1992) provide an useful review of these debates.
The above-mentioned "determinism" critique has been addressed to a certain extent by more recent studies on intragroup differences. Ogbu himself, for instance, illustrates eight different types of coping strategies adopted by African Americans (1989:197-200; 1991:29-30). Heterogeneity in patterns of school performance in a minority group has been documented (Achor and Morales 1990; Delgado-Gaitan 1988; Hayes 1992; Matute-Bianchi 1991). Indeed, Ogbu's categorization allows us to see an ethnic group as comprising both voluntary and involuntary groups (e.g., Hayes 1992; Matute-Bianchi 1991). This applies to the Korean ethnic minority in contemporary Japan, recent arrivals, and third-generation Koreans displaying different life trajectories.
The class location of children belonging to a minority group is also important in understanding their experiences. The working-class background of the Korean youths in this study made their experiences different from those undergone by middle-class Koreans. Poor school performance of working-class children has been explained in terms of inadequate material conditions (Davie et al. 1972), child-rearing practice (Midwinter 1977), language differences (Bernstein 1971; Corson 1985), and cultural difference (Bourdieu and Passeron 1977). More recent ethnographic studies suggest the indeterminate nature of individuals' school performance by revealing variations within working-class youth (MacLeod 1987; Walker 1988; Willis 1977).
In addition, studies have shown that institutional mechanisms within the school can have some systematic impact on patterns of school performance. Mehan, Hubbard, and Villanueva (1994) revealed that Latino and African American students who were untracked in high school developed the "accommodation with assimilation" strategies, which subsequently had positive effects on their academic performance. Matute-Bianchi (1991) asserted that the school can expose minority students to careers and jobs beyond what the students know through their daily reality by providing access to information and successful role models. Mickelson's study (1990) contended that black youths hold a positive "abstract" attitude toward education (that reflects the dominant achievement ideology), but their "concrete" attitude (that derives from their daily experiences) negatively affects their achievement behavior. These studies suggest that schools need to intervene with students at the "concrete" level in order to make a difference.
In examining third-generation Koreans from working-class families, this article seeks to contribute to the discussion on intragroup divergence within an involuntary minority group that has a common class background. First, the study focuses on the point of entry into the workforce. Given that the assumed link between schooling and work is not equally effective for minority groups, minority youth's decision making and actual entry into the workforce are pertinent areas for investigation. Second, my concern is with what Boudon calls the "secondary effects of stratification" (1974:29-30), that is, differences in destination preferences of students with similar school achievement (i.e., what students do with their achievement), as distinct from differences in actual school performance. Third, the study explores the potential effects of institutional mechanisms in linking minority students to employment destinations.
Ethnic Koreans in Japan
Koreans form the largest ethnic group in contemporary Japan. They are also a diverse group. The most important boundary lies between "newcomers," who are a "voluntary minority," and "old-timers," who are an "involuntary minority." The newcomers were born and mostly educated in South Korea, and came to Japan to obtain better economic
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benefits. They do not intend to reside in Japan permanently. Many of them are illegal workers, estimated to number 320,000 (Hoffman 1992:480). Newcomers are younger, more self-confident, and more aggressive; they are more driven to succeed, compared with the old-timers (Hoffman 1992). Like immigrant Mexicans in the United States (Matute-Bianchi 1991), the newcomer Koreans have achieved greater success in their businesses than their old-timer counterparts (Hoffman 1992).
Among the long-term resident Koreans, further divisions exist. The majority are permanent residents of Japan, representing 688,144 of a total 1.28 million registered foreign residents (Soumuchou Toukeikyoku 1994:55). Others have taken up Japanese citizenship: The number of ex-Koreans who were naturalized in the period 1952-90 is estimated to be 155,547 (Youn 1992:133). Differences are observed in terms of generation, affiliation with North and South Korean organizations, regions of residence, and social class. There are university-educated young Koreans from middle-class backgrounds who are self-confident and who take leadership roles to improve the situation of the Korean community.
This article focuses on a particular group of Koreans. At the time of the fieldwork, they were third-generation, 18-year-old Korean permanent residents in urban Japan who came from working-class families, were studying at vocational high schools, were poor academic achievers relative to their age group as a whole, and subsequently entered the workforce directly from high school. Let me first explain the status quo of the long-term Korean residents in Japan.
Long-term Korean residents in Japan are an involuntary minority group. The existence of the Koreans in contemporary Japan is a direct result of Japan's colonization of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945. The original Koreans fled to Japanese cities in pursuit of employment after being dispossessed of their farming lands by the Japanese colonial authorities, or from 1937 to 1945, being shipped to Japan as forced labor to fill an acute shortage of workers in the war economy (Y. Lee 1980:340-435; Lee and De Vos 1981; Mitchell 1967). The Korean population in Japan at the end of the war was almost 2.3 million, about three quarters of whom returned to Korea within a year of the end of the war (Y. Lee 1980:181, 185; H. Tanaka 1991:57; Youn 1992:131). Those who stayed on longer in Japan soon faced the division of Korea in 1948 and the outbreak of the Korean War, which made their repatriation difficult. Under Japanese colonization, Korean were Japanese subjects, but in 1952 when Japan regained sovereignty, Koreans living in Japan suddenly and unilaterally became foreign nationals.
There remains a legacy of the colonial period when the dominant Japanese defined Koreans as an inferior and second-class group of people and deliberately discouraged the maintenance of their language and ethnic culture. Koreans, as well as Japanese, are said to have internalized this definition: they hold a negative identity of themselves and their culture (Wagatsuma 1981). Had a different definition been applied to
Koreans as an ethnic group, they might well have experienced different treatment.1 While facing symbolic prejudice and discrimination in interpersonal relations in common with the other three involuntary minority groups (the Ainu, the Okinawans, and the buraku),2most Koreans face the added disadvantage of not possessing Japanese citizenship, such as limited access to government employment.
Why, then, have they not taken Japanese citizenship, which will, in principle, legally entitle them to what is available to Japanese nationals? The question is discussed extensively by Japan-born Korean intellectuals (Y. Lee 1980:202-224; Youn 1992), whose views I briefly summarize here. The first reason is practical barriers imposed upon them: for instance, the government's numerous conditions for granting naturalization (Youn 1992:140). Since the number of Korean applicants for naturalization is unavailable (the total number of successful applicants between 1952 and 1990 was 155,547), one is left to speculate to what extent such barriers operate. The second reason, which I consider more important, is an affective or expressive need among Koreans to maintain a separate identity, even though this may inhibit their upward social mobility as defined by the majority Japanese. Now that many have lost the Korean language and other cultural mores, Korean nationality has become one of their few remaining identity markers. Third, those who took Japanese citizenship are not fully accepted by the Japanese, while at the same time they lose membership in the Korean community, which no longer considers them to be Korean and, to some extent, regards them as "traitors" (Y. Lee 1988:202-203; Youn 1992:153-158).
Over 90 percent of Korean long-term residents possess Japanese names in addition to their real names, and use the former in daily life (Kana-gawa prefecture 1984 survey, quoted in Youn 1992:148). Having undergone Japanese schooling and acquired Japanese mannerisms and social mores, second- and third-generation Koreans are outwardly indistinguishable from Japanese. The majority of second- and third-generation Koreans in Japan do not have functional Korean language skills (Lim 1993:64), while most families speak Japanese even at home (Lim 1993:76). Changes are observable across generations. Marriages between Japanese and Koreans have increased: in 1989, in 81 percent of Korean marriages the partners were Japanese (H. Tanaka 1991:156). Among those Koreans naturalized in 1987, over three-quarters were in their twenties and thirties (Youn 1992:135-136). Concerned parents and teachers have initiated "ethnic education classes" as extracurricular activities at public schools in the areas where many Koreans reside (Bae et al. 1991:131; Uchiyama 1982:171-190). The success, or otherwise, of these classes remains to be seen.
Korean Participation in Schooling and Employment
Since the late 1970s, over 80 percent of school-age Koreans have been enrolled in Japanese schools (Miyawaki 1985:1). The majority of the
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remainder have been enrolled in North Korean-affiliated schools, leaving only one percent attending South Korean-affiliated schools (Y. Lee 1980:248; Rohlen 1981:186). Although enrollments in Korean schools were declining in the late 1970s (Y. Lee 1980:147,162-164), the presence of Koreans in Japanese cities can be felt most vividly when one sees commuting female students wearing the chogori, school uniforms, of their North Korean schools. On Japanese school grounds, Korean students are not discernible, even to average Japanese people. Teachers at the two schools in my study referred to Korean and Chinese students as gaiseki when talking amongst themselves, but no such reference to nationality was made publicly at school. High school-age gaiseki students are aware of their nationality, even if their parents have not revealed it previously, since Korean nationals were until recently legally required to hold an alien registration card from the age of 16 (C. Lee 1981).
Given the limited resources they possess, one would expect that Koreans would see success in schooling as important for future employment and what that employment brings. There are some very successful Koreans, but overall, Korean young people have benefited less from mainstream schooling than their Japanese counterparts. In comparison with their cohorts, proportionately more Korean students leave school at 15. If they do go on to senior high school, they are more likely to attend schools with relatively low entry requirements, and proportionately fewer numbers of Koreans undertake university study (Rohlen 1981:194-197).
It is public knowledge that Koreans face barriers in the employment market, although its extent is difficult to quantify.3 Koreans have been denied access to employment in public service, which requires that applicants be Japanese nationals. Osaka prefecture eliminated its restrictions in respect of public school teaching in 1973 (Uchiyama 1982:277), a decision followed by several other local governments in the 1980s (H. Tanaka 1991:134-138). The elite government law school from which all of Japan's aspiring lawyers must graduate was closed to foreign nationals until a young Korean resident won his case in the Supreme Court in 1977 (H. Tanaka 1991:128-134). In the 1970s, several court cases against prestigious employers who refused Korean applicants on the basis of foreign nationality were resolved in favor of the plaintiffs (H. Tanaka 1991:120-123; Uchiyama 1982:236-261). Inspite of improvements brought about by these cases, Koreans have yet to achieve equal access to the employment market. Disillusion is experienced by all young Koreans seeking a place in the workforce but is felt more keenly by better-educated Koreans who have formed high expectations for their adult life (Y. Lee 1980:45).
Korean high schoolers also face barriers when entering the workforce. However, they are more protected from blatant discrimination and bias by their schools, since the recruitment process for high schoolers is
regulated by a school-based institutional arrangement called the Job Referral System (Okano 1993).
The Job Referral System is operated by three parties: the school, employers, and the Public Employment Security Office (a government agency). The Department of Guidance for Life After School (DGLAS) is the focal point of the Job Referral System at each school. DGLAS develops and maintains a long-term social network with employers throughout the year, receives recruitment cards for available positions from employers in July, processes the employment data, and then provides "market contacts" and relevant data to all its students. Each school conducts an internal selection process to minimize job application failures. In September, students take examinations set by individual employers for jobs that start the following April. The majority of students get jobs through this school channel, although a small number use family social networks. School-based job referral thus enables the school to provide job opportunities and related information equally to all students regardless of their family backgrounds, and to promote rational decision making amongst students (Okano 1995).
By contrast, such a systematic job-referral system is not offered by secondary schools in the United States and Britain, often leaving youth to search for jobs on their own or through their family and peer group social networks. Studies in Britain and the United States have shown that recruitment through "grapevines" or personal networks is widely observed across all categories of jobs (Moore 1991:289-290; Peterson and Rabe 1986:60; Roberts 1984:51-52; West and Newton 1983:66), and that this practice discriminates against those who lack access to network membership, often members of stereotyped minority groups (Moore 1991:291; Peterson and Rabe 1986:60; Roberts 1984:52). The Job Referral System assists Korean students in obtaining employment first by providing "market contacts" in the mainstream employment market and second by offering affirmative action programs, which I will discuss below.
The Data Collection
This case study derives from a larger project on the school-to-work transition. The project involved a yearlong observation of final-year students and their teachers at two vocationally oriented, coeducational municipal senior high schools in an industrial city I call Saki (population 1.5 million). These two schools, Sasaki High and Imai Tech High, had higher proportions of gaiseki students (5.9 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively) than the average for all city schools (1.9 percent). There were 65 gaiseki students out of a total enrollment of 1,097 at Sasaki High, while Imai Tech had 20 gaiseki students out of a total of 679 for the 1989-90 academic year. The two schools also included a higher proportion of students from other "disadvantaged" families, such as buraku, low-income, and solo-parent families. This results from the fact that
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vocational high schools occupy a low ranking in the high school hierarchy and admission to them is less difficult to obtain.
At these two schools, I closely observed the final-year students in the same three homeroom classes (to which I was attached) during subject periods, field trips, and ceremonies in order to trace the students' employment-related decision making and their entry into the work force throughout the 1989-90 Japanese academic year. Besides being observed daily, 90 students were interviewed. Out of these, six students turned out to be gaiseki. These gaiseki students' experiences of employment decision making and acquisition differed from those of non-gaiseki students. This article is a case study of these six gaiseki students that incorporates my daily observations of the other gaiseki students (79) and non-gaiseki students in the two schools.
The decision making process was examined from three perspectives: as I saw it, as the teachers perceived it, and as the students themselves experienced it. The collection of data and its interpretation was the product of a close and trusting relationship gradually developed between the actors and myself over a 12-month period, my reflexive introspection, and various forms of triangulation of data sources. Data collection consisted of narratives from daily observations, informal and semistructured interviews, document collection, questionnaires, and photographs. Hour-long interviews were conducted after six months in the field, when we had developed mutually trusting relationships and the students were aware of their postschool destinations. All place names, school names, and personal names have been changed to protect the privacy of participants.
The process of my negotiation with several schools to gain access for my fieldwork quite unexpectedly provided me with rich information as to how the schools wanted to deal with minority issues. I learned that schools endeavor to make the presence of minority students invisible to outsiders. My questions regarding "family backgrounds" were tactfully ignored and unanswered. Sympathetic education board officials subtly advised me that students' family backgrounds are so sensitive that schools would not make such information available to outside researchers like myself. From then on, I did not raise questions regarding family backgrounds or minority student enrollments. Therefore, when the two schools in the study were decided on as my fieldwork sites, the extent to which Korean students were represented in their enrollments was unknown to me. When visiting the two schools, I consciously did not raise family background and minority issues but waited for the actors themselves to raise these topics, which provided me with an opportunity to inquire in detail.
Shortly after my entry into the two schools, I was briefed about the presence of students from "disadvantaged" families at the two schools. Homeroom teachers in the final year knew about the status of these minority individuals from the school's records, but no names of minority
students were revealed to me. I was told by the schools that there was extreme sensitivity surrounding minority issues in relation to obtaining employment, and understood that the schools were not officially able to provide information regarding minorities in the schools to a researcher. The gaiseki students' physical invisibility meant that I did not recognize their identities. Later in the fieldwork, I gradually learned which students were gaiseki through informal interaction with teachers, but still had to wait for the students to reveal their own identities to me in order to discuss the gaiseki issue. Gaiseki students seemed unaware of my knowledge and themselves revealed their identity in interviews with me, saying, "You may not know this, but to tell the truth, I am a gaiseki." Once they revealed their identity, students talked about their past experiences and their views on being Korean. In addition, much later in the year, some teachers spoke of both the school's and their own experiences with, and views on, the plight of gaiseki students, including the two teachers (both committed unionists) who were closely involved with the choubunken (Korean cultural study club).
Henceforth, I will frequently use the term gaiseki, since both students and teachers always used it when talking about Koreans. Since gaiseki literally also includes Japan-born Chinese, I am aware that their use of the term gaiseki might have covered any Chinese students as well. However, almost all gaiseki students at the two schools were Koreans.
Gaiseki Students at the Two Schools
What is it like to be gaiseki at these high schools? All gaiseki students at the two schools (65 at Sasaki High and 20 at Imai Tech High) adopted Japanese names, except for two third-year students at Sasaki High. One was a Chinese boy who had come from a local Chinese junior high school and had always used his Chinese name, while the other, a Korean girl, "came out" and started using her real name in her second year at Sasaki High. This was as a result of her involvement in the Korean cultural study club. The club provided a place where Korean students shared their experiences of being Korean and learned about the Korean language, culture, history, and human rights, under the leadership of a teacher committed to equality issues. Only a few gaiseki students joined the club at each school, since joining the club meant "coming out."
At Imai Tech High, two of the four gaiseki students in the third year were open about their Korean identities. Hisaji was active in the Korean cultural club, and tried to get other gaiseki students to join the club. At Sasaki High, Korean students did not seem to "hide" their identity, and sometimes talked about the gaiseki issue with close Korean and Japanese friends. The headmaster explained to me that Sasaki High's openness toward Koreans and their situation was perhaps due to the fact that over 80 percent of the school's students were from certain inner-city areas, where many went to primary and junior high schools with Korean peers and were already aware of (and accepting of) their identities (Field notes,
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March 8, 1989). Both schools encouraged gaiseki students to accept rather than hide their ethnic identity, but let the students come to their own decisions on "coming out."
The view that many employers still do not wish to employ gaiseki students was shared by the DGLAS at both schools, who nonetheless agreed that the situation had improved over the last 20 years. Exactly what proportion of employers took that stance is difficult to measure, since they are not required to specify this on their recruitment cards nor do they voluntarily make a direct request to the DGLAS. Employers are aware of the "official" discourse that advocates "equal opportunity" for employment. All application forms are, for instance, accompanied by a letter from the local prefectural education board chairperson requesting nondiscriminatory treatment of such disadvantaged students. The Sasaki High DGLAS asked all companies that personally brought recruitment cards to the school if they would take gaiseki, but this request was not made of the companies who sent recruitment cards by mail. As an indication, among 331 recruitment cards sent to Sasaki High by July 20th in that year, 54 positions were available for gaiseki and 29 positions were not, while no indication was shown for the remaining 248 positions. Both schools had lists of those companies that had taken gaiseki before, and kept a record of the students' experiences in these workplaces. Such records were used for future guidance. However, companies often do not want to employ gaiseki every year, saying, "Since we took one gaiseki last year, please excuse us this year."
The Schools' Responses
Responding to such employment market realities, the two schools have developed specific procedures to minimize the effects of barriers and to "protect" gaiseki students' employment.
The schools start "guidance for life after school" for gaiseki students soon after they enter high school. The heads of each DGLAS inform the gaiseki students of the "reality" of the employment market. Sasaki High organizes a special session for gaiseki students and their parents when it holds the general meeting for all first-year students and parents. The school's intended message is that gaiseki students face barriers in obtaining employment and should work hard to counter this "disadvantage" by obtaining extra qualifications and being active in sport clubs, and so forth. At Imai Tech High, the human rights teacher (often with the homeroom teacher) visits new gaiseki students' homes and encourages them to apply for the Korean scholarships, as well as other available scholarships, since gaiseki students at Imai Tech High are from poorer families. The students are thus informed in advance of the sort of hardship they should expect in obtaining employment, and are invited to join the Korean cultural study group. Some parents neither want to apply for these scholarships (since that would reveal their ethnic identity) nor even talk about the issue in front of their sons or daughters.
The DGLAS of the two schools clearly stated their policies on job referral for gaiseki students. The two schools, which have significantly higher than average proportions of gaiseki students, take the gaiseki issue more seriously than some other schools with fewer numbers of gaiseki students. Knowing that gaiseki students face barriers in obtaining employment and that some companies do not take gaiseki students, the schools try to avoid sending these students to such companies from the beginning. Being refused a job (on the basis of being gaiseki), the DGLAS teachers claim, would be too traumatic an experience for such students. The headmaster at Sasaki High commented, "It's a demanding task for teachers to 'soften' the shock that these gaiseki students are likely to face" (Field notes, March 8,1989).
The two schools in my study had basically the same approach when helping gaiseki students to find employment, although individual teachers may perhaps have implemented it to varying degrees. The DGLAS has developed, as a result of past experience, and also from exchanging information with other schools, lists of companies that (1) provide a comfortable working environment for gaiseki students, (2) take gaiseki students but where these recruits have found it uncomfortable to work, or (3) simply do not take gaiseki students. First, the DGLAS tries to persuade minority students to apply for the first category of employers, although they are few in number. Second, before sending a student application form to the first or second category of companies, the DGLAS contacts the company in question and confirms that gaiseki students will be accepted. If the DGLAS does not receive a definite, positive answer, the teachers encourage the student to apply for another company. Third, when a gaiseki student wants to try for a specific company that is not already part of the school's network, the school investigates the company and approaches them to see if they would be willing to accept a recruit with gaiseki background. Again, if the DGLAS receives a negative reply or is otherwise not convinced that a gaiseki student could be successfully placed with the company in question, they will not send the student to the company and will look for an alternative and encourage him or her to apply for a position at another, familiar and "safer" company. This policy was stated at DGLAS meetings at both schools (Field notes, Sasaki High, July 20,1989; Imai Tech High, August 8, 1989, and February 14, 1990).
How did the teachers actually put the policy into practice? Mr. Shima-hara, a DGLAS teacher, visited Daimaru Furniture Company, where Tarou, a gaiseki student, wanted to apply for a position before the school's internal selection.
Mr. Shimahara: Well.. .ItalkedaboutTarou,includinghisgaisekibackground, and asked if the company is prepared to take gaiseki. The company said, "We have never taken gaiseki, but at Daimaru our company policy is moving in that direction,... so if s okay."
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Mr. Gomi: [another DGLAS teacher, overhearing this] Of course, they
will say that if s okay. They can't publicly announce that they don't take gaiseki!!
Mr. Shimahara: I conveyed the message in various indirect ways that if the company is to let Tarou sit the recruitment exam, they will have to take him unless he writes nothing in the exam. I wanted to make sure that Tarou does not get hurt due to discrimination. Mr. Gomi, do you think I went too far?
Mr. Gomi: No, I don't think so. We need that kind of assurance from the
company. [Field notes, January 30,1990]
The school does not confront employers on the gaiseki issue, as long as the employers follow the rules of the game; that is, once the employer agrees to let the gaiseki applicant sit the employment examination, the applicant will pass the examination, unless he or she does something drastically wrong.
Gaiseki Students' Responses
How did these Korean students respond to the employment market and the schools' protective measures? The six students created distinctive trajectories. Four entered Japanese companies through the schools' recruitment cards, relying to differing degrees on the schools' protection measures. Two girls "returned" to their subcultural group, choosing clerical jobs at a Korean bank.
I must emphasize that all but one (Tarou) revealed their gaiseki identities early in our interview, without my inquiry, when they explained their employment decision making. As the following cases suggest, being gaiseki is one of the most important factors they considered when making decisions about employment destinations. For Orie, Asako, Kako, and Tomoe, employment decision making and acquisition was their first personal experience of concrete discrimination against gaiseki. Their decision making processes radically differed from those adopted by non-gaiseki students whom I studied at the same schools.
Below, I examine their decision making, based on a combination of their own accounts, their teachers' accounts, and my own observations over the year.
Not all gaiseki students were as "strategic" about employment acquisition as the school wanted them to be. In fact, only Orie and Hisaji took seriously the school's early message (at the beginning of their first year of high school) that gaiseki students should make efforts to compensate for their disadvantage in the dominant employment market. Both consciously accumulated academic marks and various certificates over the three years.
Orie. Orie maintained a good academic record (4th place out of 166) and was active in the school's athletic club. She was acutely aware of the handicap that being gaiseki represented in the employment market.
Orie: I can apply only for a limited range of companies. Even if my academic marks are okay, some companies do not let gaiseki in. My homeroom teacher called me as early as April, and said, "How about Mitsubishi? It takes gaiseki who had excellent academic records, and the working conditions there are good."
КО: Had you known about the handicap of your nationality, before your teacher told you?
Orie: Of course. I had heard a lot from my relatives and neighbors, since they are all gaiseki. The school also told us about the gaiseki's handicap when I was in my first year. So I was determined to make efforts to maintain good marks so that I can overcome such a disadvantage. My parents are aware of the handicap. [Interview, January 22,1990]
While performing well at school, Orie actively sought information and advice about gaiseki employment from the school: which big companies take gaiseki clerical workers, where the previous year's gaiseki students ended up, and their experiences of their respective work places.
Orie: Because I knew that I had a handicap, I went to see my homeroom teacher after receiving the list of recruitment cards in July. I asked, "To which companies can I apply for clerical positions, other than Mitsubishi?" Then he picked out about 10 companies for me.... There were only 10 companies where I could apply for a clerical job, although the school received so many recruitment cards--you know, hundreds of them. [Interview, January 22,1990]
Orie investigated these companies using the DGLAS information pool. Knowing that a gaiseki graduate from the previous year felt comfortable working at Mitsubishi, she decided to apply for a position there.
Orie: Among 10 companies, Mitsubishi appealed to me. I have heard good things about the company. It has taken gaiseki students every year, and is about a 30-minute bus ride from home. My teacher gave me the telephone number of last year's gaiseki student from the school who now works for Mitsubishi so that I could ask her questions. My parents were happy. [Interview, January 22,1990]
Hisaji. Hisaji also embraced the message from Imai Tech High and his family that he needed to work extra hard to compensate for his gaiseki disadvantage. He was an active member of the Korean Cultural Study Club and the Experimental Science Club, and maintained good academic marks throughout his high school career (24th place out of 107).
Hisaji: I know that my gaiseki background limited the range of possibilities. I had to work extra hard to be ahead of most of my Japanese peers, so that employers could not turn me down because of poor academic achievement. If I have the same marks as the Japanese students, I will be the one who will be turned down.
КО: Who said that?
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Hisaji: This is common sense. Everyone knows it. We talked about it at home. As soon as I entered this school, the school told me.... They told me to maintain good marks, good classroom behavior, so that employers would not have convenient reasons for turning me down. [Interview, January 10,1990]
Hisaji wanted to obtain a position as a car mechanic, to use what he had learned in the mechanics course at school. He liked playing with engines.
Hisaji: I would like to eventually run my own automotive repair shop, a big one, and offer the same opportunities to both gaiseki and Japanese students, after I have worked for a company and learned the necessary skills. I do not want my children to go though what I am going through.... I first thought of Matsu Motors, but the teachers were against it. One gaiseki student was turned down by the company a couple of years ago, and the teachers do not trust the company. [Interview, January 10,1990]
Hisaji was advised by the DGLAS to try for Isuzu Motors instead, which offered similar car mechanic positions. The DGLAS visited Isuzu Motors to "check" before Hisaji sat the exam.
For both Orie and Hisaji, the DGLAS followed the usual prenegotia-tion procedure for each student. Both students were successful in landing the positions they sought.
Using the School's Protection Measures
Tarou, in the internal furnishings course at Imai Tech, and Asako, in the data-processing course, had not consciously prepared themselves over the three years for the coming employment barriers. However, they used the school's protection scheme once they had decided on the jobs they wanted.
Tarou. Tarou did not reveal his gaiseki identity to me even during a one-on-one interview, nor to anybody else. Only the DGLAS teachers and homeroom teacher were aware of his identity. I am not sure whether Tarou realized that I was aware of his status.
Tarou: Originally I was thinking of a shoe factory as my first choice, and Daimaru Furniture Company as my second. Then my father told me not to go for the shoe industry, because it is physically demanding. You know, my father and mother both work for a shoe workshop (an occupation in which many Koreans in Saki are engaged). He liked the idea of furniture-making and said that I had better pursue a trade of some kind to become a qualified tradesperson.
КО: Do you think that your father's job influenced your first choice?
Tarou: I do not think so. I first heard about this particular shoe factory from one of our teachers in class. He said that workers in the factory are involved in all aspects, from the designing through to the manufac turing of shoes But then, my father said that the reality of the
Tarou: When I said that being a cabinet maker is also one of my options at the three-party meeting (where parent, homeroom teacher, and student are present), my homeroom teacher suggested a Daimaru subsidiary company.... It is a subsidiary of a big company (one of the biggest department store chains in Japan), bonuses are good, and there is a five-day workweek. One setback is that it takes two hours to commute there. [Interview, November 6,1989]
As described in the conversation between Mr. Gomi and Mr. Shimahara, a pre-examination negotiation on behalf of Tarou took place between a DGLAS teacher and the company.
Asako. Asako, a computer programming student, was thinking of a clerical position at the beginning of her third year, as she considered her school performance (84th place out of 166) and programming abilities too mediocre. She thought that she would suffer at a workplace with such poor skills. However, her teacher's comment on gaiseki employment changed her mind.
КО: Why did you choose a programming position?
Asako: My tatemae (official) reason is that I want to make use of the information processing skills that I learned at school. Do you want to know my honne (real) reason? My homeroom teacher told me that relative to other employment, gaiseki face fewer disadvantages in programming positions, both in obtaining a position and in the workplace. He also told me that I would be okay if I work hard at my programming studies.
КО: How did you feel when your homeroom teacher said this to you?
Asako: [I felt] very sad about such a society. My elder brother and sister repeated that I would not be able to get a job that I wanted because we are gaiseki.... There is no fair chance for us. In fact, many of the companies that I had selected did not take gaiseki. My teacher listed these companies when looking at my list.
КО: Did he tell you the names of gaiseki-friendly companies as well?
Asako: Yes, he did, but not many companies voluntarily say that they will take gaiseki. So I thought that I had to take initiative in making inquires. [Interview, November 1,1989]
Asako chose the CS Company because, she said, it offered five working days a week and a good wage, was a reasonable size, and most important, emphasized individual merit. However, her homeroom teacher suggested other companies that were better known to the school as being suitable for gaiseki applicants. Asako again considered this advice, but still wanted to try for the original company. The DGLAS investigated the company's credibility through various sources and obtained a favorable result.
Asako: When I went for an interview, the company people said, "We have spoken with your teacher. Since being gaiseki is irrelevant, please do not worry about it." I was delighted. [Interview, November 1,1989]
Asako succeeded in obtaining the job she desired.
Okano Koreans in Japan539
"Choosing" Korean Jobs
Kako and Tomoe are in the same data-processing course at Sasaki High, but are not friends with each other. Both "chose" jobs in a Korean bank over other options provided by the school. Kako got her job through enko (a family connection), while Tomoe obtained her position through the school's recruitment cards. In both cases, their families seemed to play an influential role in forming their decisions.
Kako. Kako was one of the top students in her class, and everyone had expected her to aim at either further education or a position as a computer programmer. She originally wanted to be a pharmacist, but her choice to enter Sasaki High virtually eliminated this possibility although she was unaware of it at the time. She then settled on a clerical position at a medical institution, something that she considered akin to being a pharmacist. However, while Kako was examining the school's recruitment cards from the previous year, her father, through his relatives, had started arranging a clerical job for her at a Korean bank without her knowledge.
КО: Why do you think your father did not want you to work for a Japanese company?
Kako: Well,... I myself have not experienced awful discrimination. But in my father's day, Koreans experienced terrible discrimination, and he still remembers that. Even now I hear that there is discrimination in one way or another. So, he seems to have felt that I would be better off and more comfortable working with Koreans in a Korean company. He wanted me to work for a Korean company.
КО: What do you yourself think about it? Did you feel reluctant about working for a Japanese company?
Kako: Not at all. Ever since I entered nursery school, I have been among Japanese. So I have no wadakamari (reluctance). But my parents are reluctant.... They have always been like that. [Interview, January 17,1990]
When the enko was presented to her, she had neither a clear preference nor dislike for the position at the Korean bank. Kako's father had always been protective of her, and strongly recommended the bank job; her mother, as usual, agreed with his suggestion.
Kako's homeroom teacher was opposed to such a step: he had always suggested that she go to a junior college because her family could perhaps afford it. (Kako's father is a taxi driver, and her mother runs a small yakinikuya, a Korean barbecue restaurant, which her parents want her to take over eventually.) In addition, Kako had maintained sound academic achievement. Her homeroom teacher suggested that she could easily enter mainstream companies with "better" working conditions through the school's recruitment cards, and that she should not decide on the Korean bank so early without due investigation of other options.
Kako: To tell the truth, what the teacher said to me affected my decision making. I was starting to reconsider the decision. [Interview, January 17,1990]
In the end, Kako did not change her mind, and she entered the Korean bank. Her family's attempt to pull her under their influence seemed to win over her homeroom teacher's advice. Perhaps Kako "chose" the comfort of the workplace or possibly valued the Korean (subcultural) community bond more than a move up in the mainstream society.
Tomoe. Tomoe had not seriously thought of life after school until the three-party meeting, where she said that she wanted to be a clerical worker. Although her homeroom teacher, Mr. Kodama, advised her to aim at programming positions, she did not think she was good enough to be a programmer. (In fact, her school placing was 48 out of 166, much better than Asako, who eventually became a programmer.)
It was as late as July when Tomoe first came to the concrete realization (she had been aware of the disadvantages gaiseki faced, through her sisters) that few clerical positions were available for gaiseki.
Tomoe: Because I am gaiseki, there are fewer places I can go. When we were examining the companies in July, my homeroom teacher called me and personally told me to mark the companies on the list that do not take gaiseki.... So I excluded these companies and looked for companies that offer good conditions, such as being near my home and providing a good wage. But I did not find many good companies. Then I remembered what my father had said: "S Bank is run by Koreans. If you go to a Korean bank, you will not have to worry about being gaiseki. Why not go there, if the school has an RC (recruitment card) from a Korean bank?" Then I looked for an RC from a Korean bank and found one. [Interview, December 1,1989]
Tomoe listed the following persons as influencing her decision, in order of importance: her teacher, her siblings, parents, acquaintances, and friends.
Tomoe: When I could not decide on my first choice from the three companies that I chose (including the Korean bank), my homeroom teacher said, "If you are so concerned about being a gaiseki, you might as well put the Korean bank as your first choice." That, I think, was a deciding moment.... My two elder sisters said that I would be able to find a good marriage partner amongst gaiseki people working there. My father was the most worried person in the family, thinking that I may not be able to get a job because of my nationality. He was the strongest supporter of the Korean bank. My mother was different. She told me until the last moment to get a programming job at a mainstream company. [Interview, December 1,1989]
The life story of one of her Korean acquaintances, who now runs a Korean barbecue restaurant, also affected her decision.
Tomoe: She went to a North Korean school (Tomoe is a South Korean) and worked for a North Korean bank for a few years. She said she loved it because almost all the workers were Korean. She felt comfortable
Okano Koreans in Japan541
and increased her own ethnic consciousness and knowledge about Korea. So I thought that this may be good for me as well.... I mean, it may be more comfortable for mukou-no-hito (people from over there) to work among mukou-no-hito. What she had to say was very persuasive, since she had gone through an experience similar to mine. [Interview, December 1,1989]
Tomoe's Korean friends also influenced her decision:
Tomoe: When I talked to my mukou-no-hito friends, I heard that several of them were going for a Korean bank. One friend's relative also worked for the bank. The bank took workers on a trip to South Korea, and there are many opportunities where workers dress themselves in chogori (the Korean ethnic costume).... I like that because it after all hada ni аи(suits my disposition). I hear that if you work for five years, the bank will take you on a trip. [Interview, December 1,1989]
As shown above, Kako and Tomoe never actively avoided entering the mainstream Japanese job market. It was not that the two were completely excluded from the mainstream job market and had no other options but to rely on the Korean bank. In principle, they did have other options, although they were somewhat more limited than those of non-gaiseki students; in fact, both girls underwent a period of intensive deliberation in which they weighed the pros and cons related to information and advice received from family, teachers, and others, before reaching their own decisions to choose jobs at the Korean bank. Their decisions might have been influenced by emotional or "expressive" needs, which De Vos (1992:179-181) suggests affects the instrumental responses of individuals in ethnic minorities, even if these responses are unconscious, irrational, and counterproductive to consciously held instrumental goals.
Divergence of Korean Students' Responses
I have shown that these Korean students shared a collective view of society whereby the dominant Japanese norms operated to their disadvantage. They all came to appreciate that Koreans do not have equal opportunities relative to non-Koreans for obtaining employment or for gaining subsequent promotion. This view derived from their material routines, through their exposure to their family's, relatives', and neighbors' experiences, and also through the mass media (although they were all aware, to differing degrees, that the employment market has become more open than it was for their parents' generation). Based on their understanding of the working of the society with respect to Koreans, they made decisions and took actions to achieve what they considered the best possible outcome for them.
These students seem to have adjusted their aspirations to their perceived objective chances, and some of them conducted self-elimination, often claiming "I'm not good enough for that," or "That's not for the
Koreans." For some individuals like Kako and Tomoe, feeling "comfortable" at a Korean workplace was a very important consideration. These choices may be due to a family opting for known "security." Lack of both concrete information relating to the dominant education system and strategies to effectively use the system might have lead to premature decisions, like Kako's entry into a vocational course. Such premature initial choices (of school and subject department) are often irreversible and impact unfavorably on the student's academic career. Underprivileged Korean students, not knowing any better, tend to be satisfied with less desirable positions than they deserve with their educational achievement.
The schools were trying to prevent such a situation. They explicitly informed gaiseki students of the barriers in the dominant employment market, confirming what the students already knew. They then presented the students with concrete strategies to minimize the effect of such barriers, and actively assisted them in their efforts. Gaiseki students appreciated the actions the schools took in striving to protect them and felt that the DGLAS teachers were on their side and that they were trustworthy. None of these students displayed any "antischool" sentiment.
Within that shared broad understanding of employment barriers, finer variations among the six Korean students existed. First, they each formed a slightly different perception of the employment market. Tomoe saw the Japanese work place as imposing more restrictions and as being less comfortable than other gaiseki students did, and she was more pessimistic about her life after school. She consequently opted for the Korean bank. Because of her pessimism, her teacher, who initially advised her to aim at the mainstream companies, endorsed her decision. One can see that although objective conditions in the employment market exist independently of one's perception, these conditions can be known and understood only by means of particular perceptions available to the student.
Second, individual students had different perceptions of various resources that were made available to them by the school (information, teachers' advice, protective measures, social network) and by the family (information, advice, and social network), as well as different perceptions of individual resources (such as academic achievement, skills, and dispositions). Third, as a consequence, the strategies that they adopted in employment decision making and acquisition were diverse. A similar individual resource can be perceived in quite different ways, leading to divergent outcomes. Similar academic achievement can be perceived as being "good enough" for a position by one student while another might consider his or her marks lacking in relation to the same position. The former student seizes the opportunity and tries for the position, whereas the latter fails to apply and thus eliminates him- or herself from the opportunity. Asako, who had a significantly poorer academic placing
Okano Koreans in Japan543
than Tomoe, was persuaded to aim at programming positions while Tomoe still thought herself inadequate. Kako did not capitalize on her excellent academic record for acquiring an mainstream job. We must remember that these students did not have positive family resources in terms of the dominant employment market, and therefore the more school resources they used, the more potential they acquired to "move up" in the dominant job market.
Those who focus on intergroup variations among minorities might argue that these Korean students' trajectories conform to a predictable scenario: They all followed "similar" paths, ending in the mass lower strata of the occupational hierarchy. However, differentiation patterns within this group of Korean students (who share lower socioeconomic family backgrounds and poor academic achievement, relative to their age group as a whole) suggest that the processes of job decision making and acquisition are not determined by, although they are highly contingent upon, the factors mentioned above. This supports the previous studies on intragroup variations within an ethnic group. The study also suggests that schools' intervention influences the ways in which Korean students perceive themselves, the labor market conditions, and their feasible options, as well as the strategies that individuals adopt to obtain employment.
Such intervention, some may argue, only forces Koreans to conform to the existing employment practices without challenging the society that marginalizes them, and consequently acts in the interest of that practice. This contention can be examined at two levels. At one level, I would suggest that schools do intervene in employers' recruitment practices by exerting some pressure on them (although not directly). That is, schools do not simply resign themselves to following what companies request in terms of gaiseki employment. Schools ask employers to provide Koreans with equal access to jobs, and they protect gaiseki students within the existing constraints. Schools ask if the companies take gaiseki and then see how they respond. This acts as a form of pressure, since the state officially requests employers to provide equal employment opportunities regardless of family background. Furthermore, if a company that agreed to a prearrangement (that the gaiseki student will pass the recruitment examination) subsequently turns the applicant down and cannot provide a "valid" reason for doing so, the school may take action against the company. Imai Tech High had such a case in 1985 (Field notes, February 14,1990).
At a second level, the schools' intervention in students' decision making hardly challenges the dominant Japanese definition of employment, however arbitrary it may be. The dominant definition regards a secure, well-paid position in a large Japanese company or in the public service as being most desirable, and degrades typically Korean forms of self-employment (such as operating pinball machine parlors and barbecue restaurants, and working in small-scale Korean-run companies, both
of which had been typical, employment destinations among educated Koreans of the students' parents' generation). The schools encourage gaiseki students to aim for "desirable" jobs while trying to dissuade them from following in their parents' footsteps and taking up employment in the Korean ethnic community, as observed in the cases of Kako and Tomoe. Although the secondary labor market in the Korean communities originally developed because of their exclusion from the mainstream labor market, it is true, as observed in Kako's case, that some Koreans value the communal and Korean-friendly nature of the Korean dominant working environment, and a sense of their own contribution to promoting the well-being of the Korean community.
This study revealed how third-generation Korean high schoolers in Japan decide upon and obtain employment through the school-based job referral system, in response to the realities of the labor market. These students have formed a collective understanding of the way in which the dominant society and the employment market operate, based on their shared past experience as an involuntary minority group. As a result, they have adjusted their aspirations to what they consider "possible." Nonetheless, the students have also displayed finer variations within the collective understanding, and in their destination preferences and the strategies they adopted to utilize the school's protective assistance. I have suggested that the school's interventions in the way that Korean students made decisions were of major significance. Examining the ways in which the schools intervened, both in employers' recruitment practices and in students' decision making, I argued that such intervention subtly challenges the employers' current recruitment practice.
"True," equal access to the dominant employment market requires long-term changes in the notion of Koreans as a social group--in the way Koreans (both Korean nationals and naturalized Koreans) are perceived by both the mainstream Japanese and themselves. The original concept of "being Korean" was constructed by the Japanese when a particular (colonial) power relationship existed between the two groups. However, this definition and notion are theoretically open to change through negotiation. The public view of Koreans has changed considerably in the last decade, albeit slowly, in particular among the younger generations. The large number of Korea-born Koreans who have entered Japan for economic reasons since the 1980s (Hoffman 1992) is bound to contribute to the changing perception of Korean ethnicity held by both Japan-born Koreans and the Japanese. Until that happens, Koreans' true equal access to employment will require equitable conditions in the employment market in an objective sense (i.e., neither overt nor covert discrimination in recruitment and promotion). Over time, Koreans will internalize the equitable conditions in their views of the society, expand their horizons of possibilties, and raise their aspirations. Meanwhile, in the short term,
Okano Koreans in ]apan545
Korean high schoolers continue to need concrete intervention by teachers and schools in their decision making process. The variation in employment decisions exhibited by Korean students with similar socioeconomic backgrounds shows a ray of optimism.
The study offers several implications for the theories on minority school performance and life after school. While studies to date have attempted to explain poor minority school performance, this study has focused on the point of entry into the workforce and examined minority students' postschool destination preferences, decision making, and actual employment. The study confirms the indeterminate nature of minority students' school careers and subsequent destinations by highlighting the significant variations that exist within an involuntary minority group whose members also share a working-class background and a similar level of academic performance, relative to their age cohort. In explaining such intragroup variations, I emphasized differences in students' perceptions of the labor market and the school resources which led to their divergent strategies. The study points to the potential for school intervention, not only in school performance, as the previous studies suggested, but also in linking minority students to employment by offering concrete and specific information, guidance, and assistance for their immediate use.
Kaori Okano is a senior lecturer in the Department of Asian Studies, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.
Min's comparative study (1992) shows that Koreans in China have main tained a more positive ethnic identity and upward social mobility relative to their counterparts in Japan. It is also documented that members of the buraku Japanese minority in the United States are more upwardly mobile than buraku in Japan, since both non-buraku and buraku Japanese migrants were treated similarly by the dominant whites (Ito 1967). A comparative study of Koreans in Japan and the United States also shows a similar tendency (Yong Lee 1991).
The Ainu, an indigenous people, once lived extensively across northern mainland Japan, but fled to the northernmost island of Hokkaido when the Japanese pioneered further north. The population of the Ainu in Hokkaido was 24,381 in 1986, a slight increase from 1979 (Hokkaido-cho 1988:3). Okinawa prefecture's population was 1.2 million in 1992 (Soumuchou Toukeikyoku 1994:37). The Okinawans had maintained their own kingdoms and culture before Oki nawa's official annexation in the 19th century (Hirota 1990:449). From the end of the Second World War until 1972, the islands were governed by the Ameri cans. Government policy has aimed to assimilate both Ainu and Okinawans into the mainland Japanese through modern schooling (K. Tanaka 1964:77-99, 106-130). The buraku are descended from the outcasts of the feudal class system. Although the institutional class system was abandoned in the late 19th century, prejudice and discrimination remain strong in employment and marriage. There
are approximately 3 million buraku living in 6,000 communities throughout Japan (Takagi 1991:286)
3. The standard curriculum vitae form for job applications includes a section on one's nationality.
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