Artist Interview アーティストインタビュー
Portraying the tough but humor-filled lives of an ethnic minority An interview with the Japan-resident Korean writer Chong Wishing
Chong Wishing is a prolific creator active in both theater and film as a playwright and screenwriter. The grandson of immigrants who came to Japan from the Korean Peninsula, Chong was born in Japan as a 3rd-generation “
[Japan-resident] Korean,” and that life experience is reflected in the groups of characters appearing in his plays and the fortitude they show in their lives, smattered with laughter and collective memories of a people.
Among the Japan-resident Koreans are a group whose nationality is still North Korean, a group who are still South Korean in citizenship and another group who have been granted Japanese citizenship by changing their nationality to Japanese. Together, these three groups residing in Japan total approximately 620,000 (2002 census figure). Among this population are many figures who contribute an important portion of contemporary Japanese culture. Among contemporary playwrights, in addition to Chong Wishing, there are Kohei Tsuka and Yu Miri (presently active as a novelist).
In Japan’s Imperial era before World War II, there was a period when the Korean Peninsula was annexed as a part of the Empire and many Koreans were forcibly brought to Japan and impressed into labor corps and the military where they were exploited as laborers or sent to fight in the War. In addition to these, there were also many Koreans who emigrated to Japan in search of work and a chance for better lives, and the descendants of these immigrants account for a large part of the Japan-resident Korean population today. These people have endured prevailing discrimination and many have sought to assimilate and avoid the discrimination by means such as changing to Japanese names.
More then 60 years after the War that discrimination has by no means disappeared completely, but there is an increasing large number of young people who know nothing of the Japan’s imperialist era. At the same time the “historical facts” are being forgotten and there are movements by some in Japan who would distort those facts. On the other hand, there has been a rapid acceleration of cultural exchange between Japan and South Korea since their joint holding of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, and things like the boom in popularity mainly among Japanese housewives of Korean TV dramas on Japanese television is changing the long-troubled relationship between these two countries. Also, it has become common for the Japanese media to use the Korean reading of Korean names instead of the former practice of using a Japanese reading of the Chinese characters of In 2007 Chong wrote four new works, and the announcement was made that his new of these names. As a popular playwright and screenwriter of this new age, Chong wrote four new works In 2007, and the announcement was made that his new play Yakiniku Dragon (Korean Barbeque Dragon) about the strength of a family running a Korean barbeque restaurant in the face of adversities will be performed in May of 2008 in a joint production by Seoul Arts Center and Japan’s New National Theatre, Tokyo (director: Yang Jung Ung and Chong Wishing). In this interview Chong talks about these and other developments in his career and his art.
Interviewer: Jun Kobori