Identities Surrounding a Cenotaph for Korean Atomic Bomb Victims
by Yuko Takahashi
In 1970, the Cenotaph for Korean Atomic Bomb Victims was erected in Hiroshima by local Koreans, most of whom were associated with South Korea. In the 1980s, this cenotaph gradually came to be seen as discriminatory against Koreans due to its location outside the Peace Memorial Park. In the 1990s, Hiroshima City and the two major organizations of Japanese-resident Koreans (zainichi Koreans), pro-South Korean Mindan and pro-North Korean Sōren, began negotiations to create a “unified” cenotaph that would be moved inside the Park. However, discussions reached a deadlock due to the rivalry between Mindan and Sōren, and also an internal split that occurred within Mindan. This paper will examine why the debate on the relocation of the cenotaph reached a deadlock in the 1990s, with a focus on the identity of zainichi Koreans. While Mindan and Sōren have their own collective identities, each individual zainichi Korean may identify oneself on various levels, from social to personal. An individual’s social identity develops through belonging to and participating in activities of social organizations. Given the rivalry between Mindan and Sōren, one’s social identity will be influenced by whether one is involved with Mindan or Sōren. In contrast, his/her personal identity may develop through more personal experiences and generally transcends the simple Mindan-Sōren division. The analysis will show that the relocation debate was caused by these various identities, which manifested and became dominant depending on context, leading to consonance or dissonance both between and within organizations.