This article reconsiders the concept of the state apparatus by looking at the micropolitics and history surrounding the largest “Korean welfare organization” in interwar Japan, the Sôaikai (), or Mutual Love Association. As a welfare organization of Korean workers in Japan, the Sôaikai not only operated as the largest institutional supplier of Korean day workers to the construction industry; it was also considered as a “preventive police organization” by the Japanese police. This connection to the police revealed a bloody history that has yet to be accounted for fully in historical studies of Korean workers in Japan.
My thesis is that the history of the Sôaikai teaches us that the concept of the state apparatus must be considered in terms of its internal splitting, between a publicly avowed appearance and its publicly disavowed, spectral, or supplemental forms of organization. The stakes of understanding this splitting of state power, however, is that it compels us to reconsider the concept of the social “margin,” for the Sôaikai did not simply police Koreans in the “margin” of Japanese society. Rather, its work marked the division of Korean surplus populations in Japan as the ground for commodification and political repression. I call this the “divided margin.” The divided margin represented a larger colonial and policing strategy of dividing and conquering Korean proletarian movements and working-class identification by promoting and supporting ethnic identity instead—but only to the point where the ethnic consciousness did not become radicalized to the point of promoting national liberation. The problem of political repression has to be considered in light of the failings of this effort to neutralize proletarian identification through the promotion of ethnic identity.
I then analyze anti-Sôaikai political movements by Korean workers, movements that coincided with the rise to parliamentary fame of the Sôaikai's cofounder, Pak Ch'um-gum, who became the first colonial subject elected into the Japanese National Diet in 1932. The inimitable and not quite indomitable Pak Ch'um-gum was arguably Japan's most famous colonial opportunist, and he failed consistently and miserably as a parliamentarian. As I discuss in the last pages of the article, Pak's failings as a parliamentarian reveal important aspects of how the Japanese empire tried to govern and represent its colonial populations in Korea and in Japan.