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Cablegate: Green Passports, Red Hearts? Koreans in Japan

VZCZCXRO5621
OO RUEHFK RUEHGH RUEHKSO RUEHNAG RUEHNH
DE RUEHOK #0033/01 0430727
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 120727Z FEB 08
FM AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1010
INFO RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO IMMEDIATE 8150
RUEHKSO/AMCONSUL SAPPORO PRIORITY 0216
RUEHNAG/AMCONSUL NAGOYA PRIORITY 2330
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA PRIORITY 0205
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA PRIORITY 0228
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0420
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 1125
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 0053
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 0022
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 0111

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OSAKA KOBE 000033

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CVIS PREL KN KS JA
SUBJECT: GREEN PASSPORTS, RED HEARTS? KOREANS IN JAPAN

REF: A) 1989 STATE 403761 B) 06 OSAKA 00238 C) 06 TOKYO
00841

1. (SBU) Summary. Ethnic Korean permanent residents in
Japan are increasingly switching from GOJ-issued travel
documents to ROK passports. The ease with which ethnic
Koreans can change nationality makes it difficult to
assess ties to the DPRK and apply visa clearance
requirements. As this trend continues, it may become
nearly impossible to assess these ties, particularly as
the ROK no longer requires ethnic Koreans in Japan to
renounce membership in pro-North Korean organizations
to obtain a passport. End Summary.

Ethnic Koreans at Home in Osaka
-------------------------------

2. (U) Japanese permanent residents of Korean descent
account for 16.9 percent of Post's third-country
national visa applicants and pose unique issues for
interviewing officers. The Osaka-Kobe consular district
is home to about half of JapanQs ethnic Korean minority,
which totals between 515,000 and 900,000 people,
depending on how the group is defined. Descended from
Koreans who arrived during the colonial period and
earlier, the 650,000 Koreans who remained after the
second World War lost their claim to Japanese
citizenship and were officially registered as nationals
of "Chosen," (Korean: phonetic Cho-sen) the Japanese
name for the Korean peninsular kingdom before
annexation. When the North and South divided in 1948,
Chosen nationals were allowed to voluntarily re-
register as nationals of the newly created Republic of
Korea, but those on the political left typically chose
to maintain Chosen registration, the choice being
mainly a reflection of ideology rather than of a
familyQs place of origin on the Korean peninsula. An
estimated 50,000 Chosen nationals currently live in
Japan, 40,000 of whom are in PostQs consular district.

3. (SBU) How to classify nationality Q as ROK, DPRK or
something else - is the main issue the Chosen group
presents in the context of visa adjudication, with
implications for visa validity and whether special
processing is required. While the term "Chosen" has
gradually become associated with North Korea, this was
not a choice actively made by the Chosen population
itself or often even by their parents' generation.
The travel document they most often carry is one
issued by the Japanese Ministry of Justice that
classifies the bearer as nationals of Chosen Q a
country that does not exist. PostQs current practice
is to classify bearers of these documents as XXX
"Stateless," as this best fits the historical reality
and distinguishes them from the relatively few holders
of actual DPRK passports that we see (ref A).

The Lure of ROK Nationality
---------------------------

4. (U) Complicating the picture, the Chosen community
has been steadily shifting from GOJ-issued travel
documents to South Korean passports since the beginning
of this decade, with the trend accelerating in recent
years. In 2002, nationwide nearly 12,000 ethnic Korean
permanent residents of Japan changed to ROK passports
following DPRK's admission of involvement in abductions
of Japanese citizens (ref B), and a representative of
the Chosen community in Post's district reports that
the figure has been around 4000 a year since that peak.
Post's experience on the visa line tracks with this
trend: whereas in 1998 Post issued approximately 1,700
visas to holders of GOJ-issued travel documents, Post
issued only 55 to this group in 2006, and the figure
fell further to 31 last year. Correspondingly, the
Mission has noted an increase in applicants who have
recently switched to ROK passports (ref C).

5. (U) Line officers have found that ease of travel is
the reason ethnic Korean applicants most often cite for
switching from one travel document to another. GOJ-

OSAKA KOBE 00000033 002 OF 002


issued Chosen travel document holders were largely
barred from travel outside Japan until the early 1980s,
and the travel documents still do not afford the same
ease of travel as ROK passports. Schengen visas, for
example, may only be issued to passport holders.
Manifesting the barriers this group has to surmount in
order to travel internationally, it is not uncommon to
find applicants who hold multiple types of travel
documents. Typically these will be a DPRK passport and
a GOJ-issued travel document, but Post has also
encountered applicants in possession of both a DPRK and
an ROK passport. These applicants rarely present any
evidence of allegiance to either the ROK or DPRK and do
not appear to view holding both passports as
contradictory.

Shifting Identities: The New "Ko-ri-ans"
--------------------------------------

6. (SBU) In addition to ease of travel, the shift in
travel document preference accompanies a relatively
recent evolution in how ethnic Korean permanent
residents choose to self-identify. Whereas in the past
the term "Chosen" was popular, members are now much
more likely to call themselves "Ko-ri-an," using the
Japanese pronunciation of the English word. This
change reflects a recognition that has become more
conscious in recent years of a collective identity
separate from that of both Japan and the two Koreas. A
backlash against DPRK misconduct, particularly the
abductions issue, is also a major source of this change
(ref B).

Assessing DPRK Ties
-------------------

7. (SBU) The shift to ROK passports has made assessing
ties to the DPRK much more difficult. Before the shift
away from GOJ-issued Chosen travel documents reached
its current extreme, line officers could rely on
possession of an ROK passport as an indicator of a lack
of DPRK ties. Now officers must be more discerning in
evaluating ROK passport holders for clearance purposes.
Good indicators of potential ties to the DPRK include a
recent switch to an ROK passport, graduation from
Chosen schools, self-employment, lack of a Japanese
alias, and travel to China (often an indicator of
transit to DPRK). Active participation in Chosen
membership groups such as the "Chosen Soren" (General
Association of Korean Residents in Japan) and the
"Chosen Shoko Kaigisho" (Korean Resident Business
Association) is also considered a good indicator of
potential DPRK ties.

8. (SBU) Comment. As the ethnic Korean applicant pool
continues to exhibit changes in national identity, the
need for an interview in order to determine how to
apply visa clearance requirements has become ever more
apparent. Only just over one percent of PostQs ethnic
Korean visa applicants was found to require clearances
in 2007, yet within this one percent the ROK passport
holders actually outnumbered the travel document
holders. According to Post contacts, even leaders of
the Chosen membership groups are switching to ROK
passports since they are no longer required by the
Korean consulate to renounce Chosen membership to do so.
As the day approaches when ROK nationals no longer need
a visa interview, it may become impossible to determine
the necessity for a clearance at all. End Comment.

RUSSEL

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