Sono seimeitai wa watashi no “kokuseki” de atta [That life form was my “nationality”]

Narashino, Chiba
47.1×64.5 cm

Living in this country with my name, I’m subject to unrecognized harassment based on nationality. “What’s your nationality?”
Without hiding, I respond that I am registered as “Korean”, but each time I think, “Just why would you want to know that?”
Born as a third-generation Zainichi (Resident) Korean, I began attending a Korean school from kindergarten until university for 17 years, later teaching at a Korean school for five years. Currently, I help out at events at local Korean schools. By leaving my job as a teacher, I put aside my long-lived involvement with Korean schools for the time being. Once I did that, I understood a feeling I’d never had until that point and began thinking about what exactly a Korean school was.
As an artist, I began wanting to express “Korean school” without consuming or being consumed by that concept.
When I recall the history of Korean schools or the things that happened to me, I get heated feelings. Within that feeling, it’s as if love and growth, conflict and struggle, hope and despair, or life and its intersections have all been undulating.
In my artwork, I paint life forms using characters that resemble the Hangul script.
The lines of characters in the work form an unbroken list of some of the names of the people I met at Korean school.
Their order was decided by random draw. My feelings for each person made it impossible to decide the order myself, so I prepared many lottery ballots from which I pulled names to arrange. Every time I pulled a name, that person’s face, voice and an anecdote came to mind.
While both leaning on and critiquing the values that I acquired from this life form that is “Korean school”, I will continue to build my identity through my own life from here onwards.
If a nationality is the legal link between an individual and a particular nation, and even if I, as a human being, am required to hold a nationality, then neither the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, nor Japan, nor the Republic of Korea fit me well. In which case, even if I consider my nationality to be that of a community and not of a nation, I am no longer feel comfortable with being assigned as Zainichi. And so, this brings me to the place of “Korean school”. This place is not a nation but a life form, yet this fiery life form is a place that connects with me.