Constructing the self in Megumu Sagisawa’s and Miri Yu’s travelogues: a case study of two Japan-based female writers of Korean origin
This paper compares the travelogues of two contemporary zainichi Korean writers: Kenari mo hana, sakura mo hana [Forsythias are flowers, cherry blossoms too] by Megumu Sagisawa (1994) and Pyonyan no natsuyasumi: Watashi ga mita Kitachōsen [Summer vacation in Pyongyang: The way I’ve seen North Korea] by Miri Yu (2011). Sagisawa recalls her experiences as a foreign student in Seoul in 1993. Yu describes three visits to North Korea between 2008 and 2010. The aim of this paper is to examine the literary identity of the two writers and develop this notion into a more specific critical device. As the analysis shows, Yu describes a scenery of North Korea that is appropriate for the portrayal of herself to others, while Sagisawa tries to form a self between Japan and South Korea. Identity here is a sense of belonging with respect to the question what group to connect with. Sagisawa wonders whether to assign herself to the pre-existing category of the zainichi kyoppo [Korean nationals in Japan]. She creates a story about the search of herself, in which her identity is subject to change during the narrative. By contrast, Yu creates the Korean peninsula as her homeland in the literary space. She presents a uniform self-image that remains unchanged by the dynamics of the narrative.