Saturday, February 13, 2010

Japan did not Japanize Korean names

This is the second piece of my rebuttal to Tobias Harris's post.

Japan did not force Koreans to Japanize their Korean names. Japan forced them to use "Japanese style family name system" instead of "Confucian style paternal clan name system". The issue was how to adjust civil laws to the reality at the time with increasing intermarriage.

Japan had already established family registration system to certify birth and death, and rights and duties arising from the kinship, such as inheritance and protection. Modern Japanese family system is not Confucian, meaning that family has a single family name 氏 as that of the head of the family. Family names of children 氏 in the household is automatically the same as the name of the family. This means when two people (usually with different family names) marry, one of the two has to change their family name 氏 to that of the other. The new family name can be maternal or paternal. There is no taboo in marrying a person with the same name 氏, unless they are directly related.

In Confucian system (Korea and China), women do not share their "last name 姓 (which comes first in North East Asia)" with other member of the same family. Names of children 姓 are inherited from the father, so this is paternalistic. The name does not belong to the family, but to the paternal clan. Korean system added the origin of the clan 本貫 to their clan name 姓. There is a taboo in marrying a person with the same clan name 姓 and the same origin 本貫. On the other hand, it is a taboo to adopt a child of a different clan name 姓 or a different origin 本貫. Even when the child belongs to the same clan, it is not permissible to adopt them if the generation order is higher than their future parents in law. This makes it almost impossible to adopt an orphan. As a result international adoption of Korean orphans, as found after the mayhem of Korean war, were much more than Japanese, because in Japan, there is no such restriction.

Aristocratic class (貴族, 両班 Yanban) of Korean people keep 族譜 Jogbo, a family tree book. As a logical conclusion of the paternalistic idea, women are often listed as "women", since they were irrelevant. Others, regular people 中人/常民, or slaves, untouchables, Buddhist priests (白丁/奴婢/倡優/僧侶/駅人) did not belong to Jogbo system. Slaves and untouchables did not have their clan name at all, and they had to respect and obey the aristocrats and upper class.

This Confucius clan name is deeply connected to their religious belief of ancestral worship, since Clan defines the ancestor. It is also deeply connected to the discrimination and caste and out-caste system with magical thinking. How these outcasts had their own place or how women were confined in their own residence can be found in the book of Isabella Bird.

The modernization by Japan is to destroy this archaic system and organize each national into functional members of a family devoid of historical dirty color. A slave 白丁 who was brutally exploited by Yanban 両班 for no other reason than that they were born in that class can now be a soldier or worker. This is why many people from oppressed Chejudo island found their home in Osaka. This is a radical idea, but perhaps this is the only method Japan knew at the time to modernize and militarize a country in Asia, including Japan herself. Obviously the radical reform was opposed by those who have and those who hold the Confucian feeling. Nobody admits they were slaves 白丁, and everybody behaves as if they were from the upper class Yanban 両班, if you ask them. This makes the opposition to the reform politically correct. All Koreans could unite if Japanization of the names were the issue.

The whole point of the reform was to destroy the medieval system. One could say that Japan is guilty of changing the system modern, but not of changing Korean sounding names into Japanese sounding ones. I have other reasons why I think Koreans were not forced to Japanize their names. Many old time Korean residents in Japan use Japanized names, but most Chinese old timers use Chinese name, suggesting that Koreans changed their name as they thought fit. For example, 張本勲 (real name 張 勲) is Korean, 王貞治 (his real name) is Chinese, both are renowned baseball players. Korean residents in Japan use their Japanized name even among themselves, when they were not obviously forced by the Japanese. For example, Shin Sugok 辛淑玉, a famous Korean activist said:

在日の1月1日は日本のような正月をせず、「ミョンジョル(名節)」という法事のようなことをするので、大晦日はおじいさん、 おばあさんの家に行って女の子が台所で準備をします。その時、おじいさんが「節子(私の日本名)、来い」と呼ぶのです。

In this case, her grandfather called her Setsuko, her Japanized name, not Sugok.

She also writes in her autobiographical book:

In this case, her mother called her Setsuko, not Sugok, at this most intimate moment when she was strangling her daughter.

Under Japanese administration, 90 % of Koreans Japanized their name, but in Taiwan, the number remained several percent. Some prominent Koreans used their Korean names any way. The one and only Korean congressman in prewar Tokyo used his Korean name (朴春琴). A lieutenant general executed as a class B war criminal also had a Korean name (洪思翊). Or other military men (白洪錫,金錫源).

Why Taiwanese did not Japanize their names, while Koreans did? Of course there could be numerous individual reasons. Traditional 事大主義 (respect of the powerful) could be one of them. Because of the geological reasons, Chinese influence over Korea runs deep. Korea has been given brutal lessons from China since the conquest by 武帝 of 前漢, Han dynasty, in 1st century AD. Currently, almost all Korean names are Chinese, but before 7th century, there are many records of non-Chinese names, which are long gone now. They changed their names so that they could belong to the powerful and the upper class. When Korea was conquered by Mongols, Korean kings had Mongolian names too. If the Japanese reign were longer enough, I think all Chinese names that Koreans use would have disappeared as they did in 7th century.

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