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The Proletarian Gamble: Korean Workers in Interwar Japan (Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society) Paperback – April 17, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

Review

The Proletarian Gamble provides students of modern Japanese-Korean history with a meticulously researched window into the lives of Korean labor migrants to Japan. Kawashima’s efforts will prove invaluable to students of Korean-Japanese affairs, but also to those interested in labor and migration issues, as well. This book should be required reading for all who enjoy the convenience of Japan’s extensive railway network, given the critical role that the Koreans described within played in laying much of its foundation.” - Mark E. Caprio, Acta Koreana


“[F]irst-rate, indispensible reading on Korean workers in the Japanese empire. . .” - Jinhee Lee, Journal of Asian Studies


“Ken Kawashima’s book The Proletarian Gamble is a much needed and long overdue contribution to the fields of labor history and zainichi (resident-Korean) studies in Japan. . . . Kawashima offer[s] his readers a highly nuanced, eye-opening account of the experience of Korean day labor, and the role that particular institutions played in shaping that experience.” - Samuel Perry, International Journal of Asian Studies


“[T]his book struck me not only for its stimulating methodologies, but also for its careful empirical observation. This seems to me to be a relatively rare and praiseworthy combination in any academic setting.” - Jae-Won Sun, Pacific Affairs


“This book is at once refreshingly old-fashioned and innovative. . . . Kawashima’s study is generally persuasive, in places brilliant. . . . [I]n foregrounding contingency and offering a careful theoretical grounding for his analysis, Kawashima has achieved a great deal.” - Andrew Gordon, Journal of Social History


“Kawashima has delivered a well-researched social history that should be added to the reading list of all serious students of modern Korea and Japan.” - Christopher Gerteis, American Historical Review


“This book establishes Ken C. Kawashima not simply as one of the best students of modern Japanese history in the world, but as one with a rare facility for effective use of theory amid a plethora of primary sources in Japanese and Korean. This book illustrates at once a very detailed daily life of Korean day workers in various Japanese cities, a study thoroughly at home with both modern Japanese and Korean history, and an author who is fully versed in a wide body of theory—Marx, Benjamin, Althusser, Foucault, Žižek, and many others. It is simply the best book in East Asian history that I have read in many years.”—Bruce Cumings, University of Chicago


The Proletarian Gamble provides students of modern Japanese-Korean history with a meticulously researched window into the lives of Korean labor migrants to Japan. Kawashima’s efforts will prove invaluable to students of Korean-Japanese affairs, but also to those interested in labor and migration issues, as well. This book should be required reading for all who enjoy the convenience of Japan’s extensive railway network, given the critical role that the Koreans described within played in laying much of its foundation.”
(Mark E. Caprio, Acta Koreana)

“[F]irst-rate, indispensible reading on Korean workers in the Japanese empire. . .”
(Jinhee Lee, Journal of Asian Studies)

“[T]his book struck me not only for its stimulating methodologies, but also for its careful empirical observation. This seems to me to be a relatively rare and praiseworthy combination in any academic setting.”
(Jae-Won Sun, Pacific Affairs)

“Kawashima has delivered a well-researched social history that should be added to the reading list of all serious students of modern Korea and Japan.”
(Christopher Gerteis, American Historical Review)

“Ken Kawashima’s book The Proletarian Gamble is a much needed and long overdue contribution to the fields of labor history and zainichi (resident-Korean) studies in Japan. . . . Kawashima offer[s] his readers a highly nuanced, eye-opening account of the experience of Korean day labor, and the role that particular institutions played in shaping that experience.”
(Samuel Perry, International Journal of Asian Studies)

“This book is at once refreshingly old-fashioned and innovative. . . . Kawashima’s study is generally persuasive, in places brilliant. . . . [I]n foregrounding contingency and offering a careful theoretical grounding for his analysis, Kawashima has achieved a great deal.”
(Andrew Gordon, Journal of Social History)

About the Author

Ken C. Kawashima is Associate Professor of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto.

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Product Details

  • Series: Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society
  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (April 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822344173
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822344179
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,671,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Red Eyes on August 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
Kawashima's book is essential reading to anyone interested in the Japanese colonial period, and the attempts to manipulate Korean consciousness. Kawashima has uncovered an extraordinary amount of documentary evidence that had hitherto not been discussed much: there have already been a number of authoritative studies on the major abuses Koreans had to endure when the Japanese colonised Korean territory, but it is easy to overlook the smaller details -- the daily grind of discrimination in the workplace and in housing, and in day to day social integration at the `street level', and it is here that Kawashima focuses. He has meticulously, forensically, sorted and sifted through worker's diaries, radical underground press, government and think tank policy records, press releases, hospital, medical, psychiatrists' records, as well as police records and housing records, and in doing so, he reveals a cruelly cynical and soul-less social engineering process.

The Koreans however, put up massive resistance to these perverse, cruel and unjust social engineering methods -- and they have to be respected for that. Like the immigrant workers to UK in the 1950s, the Korean workers did not simply bow down submissively and 'bear the burden' and then pack up and go home -- on the contrary, they put up a spirited fight, and they overcame the odds, with dignity intact.

Kawashima's research brings their struggle to life for the reader.
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