As you might imagine, it's not easy for Zainichi Koreans in the US to find each other because our community is not strongly visible and represented in Asian America. While we have some cultural affinities with Korean Americans and Japanese Americans, our unique experiences do not fit into either identity. We have thus relied on personal networks to meet each other initially. The SF Bay Area grassroots communities, San Francisco State University, and progressive Korean American spaces played key roles in bringing us together. After years of isolation and not having anyone else beside our families to make sense of our complex identities, our serendipitous encounters often felt miraculous.
In 2008, two of our founding members participated in the KEEP-D program (Korea Education and Exposure Program) organized by NYC-based Nodutdol for Korean Community Development. They were the first Zainichi Korean participants in KEEP's history, and establishing a Zainichi organization became imperative for fundraising for the delegation to North Korea.
Eclipse Rising was thus born, with the powerful imagery of a solar eclipse that replaces the "rising sun" of Japanese imperialism symbolized by the national flag. The eclipse, despite through few occurrences, is able to cover the sun completely and change our perspective of its power. We would like to view the eclipse as a symbol of Koreans in Japan rising up against oppression and cultural assimilation.
In March 2009, we held our founding retreat to recognize the divergent itineraries that had brought us together, dream of a world in which Zainichi liberation and Korean unification would come true, and commit to the shared mission and vision of our community struggles.
Our work kicked off with a plan to increase our visibility and develop grassroots connections across the Pacific. We held Zainichi Korean film screenings at venues like the Eastside Arts Alliance in Oakland, featuring a series of documentaries: Haruko; Our School; and Zainichi.
In 2010, we formed a grassroots delegation to visit feminist and anti-racist organizations, peace activists, Left-leaning elected officials, and migrant workers union reps in Japan. This education and exposure tour gave us the chance to cultivate organizational and interpersonal relationships with key players in Japan's social justice movement landscape. We then held report-back events to show not only that Japan is not a peaceful country but also how the people are engaged in political struggles.
In March 2011, the triple catastrophes of earthquakes, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown hit eastern Japan, urging us to act quickly to counter the rise of what Haruki Eda calls "disaster nationalism." Because of Japan's colonial history of post-disaster scapegoating - dating back to the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake Massacre - we knew we had to assess the situations on the ground. Unfounded rumors against non-Japanese residents were spreading through the social media, while relief aid was not reaching those marginalized communities in the disaster-struck regions.
Relying on the transnational connections we had cultivated through our delegation, Eclipse Rising collaborated with the Japan Pacific Resource Network to establish the philanthropic pipeline between socioeconomically disenfranchised communities in the US and Japan. Japan Multicultural Relief Fund (JMRF) worked with individuals and foundations to deliver relief aid to migrant workers, single mothers, elders, disabled people, and Zainichi Korean communities within the first few months of the destruction.
In 2015, because of our knowledge and connections with grassroots movements in Japan, Eclipse Rising joined the "Comfort Women" Justice Coalition in San Francisco. Our unique positionality as Zainichi Koreans in the US proved to be an asset to the multi-ethnic effort to establish the first public memorial in a major US city dedicated to the transnational mobilization to support the victims and survivors of the Japanese colonial and wartime sexual slavery system.
The "Column of Strength" was unveiled in SF Chinatown, at St. Mary's Square, in September 2017. As the Coalition donated the memorial to the City and County of San Francisco, Mayor of Osaka began to escalate a diplomatic conflict, terminating the sister-city relationship. The international controversy only worked to increase the visibility of our work and the Japanese government's egregious historical denialism.
We continue to elevate the Coalition's effort to perform public commemorations by bringing supporters from Japan.