introduction
Instead of thinking contingency as a modality of necessity, or [as] an excep-
tion to it, we must think necessity as the becoming-necessary of the encounter
of contingencies.
—Louis Althusser, 1982
One morning in 1930, in the Japanese industrial city of Osaka, Korean worker
Koh Joon-sok woke up in his single room in a Korean-managed rooming
house for day workers (doboku beya), ate his breakfast, and then left the
house, pretending to hunt for a job. He felt compelled to at least appear to
be looking for a job; he had been unemployed for over a month, and he owed
money to two fellow Koreans who managed rooming houses for Korean day
workers in Osaka. Koh’s original dream was to work in Japan and study at the
same time (kugaku), and he had borrowed some money from his Korean ac-
quaintances and friends, primarily to purchase books and other study-related
supplies.1
Koh had come to Osaka in 1925 from his native Cheju Island in Korea,
where his family had struggled to make ends meet since the implementation
in 1920 of the Japanese sammai z�shoku keikaku, or the program to increase rice
production. Koh left Cheju Island in search of work to earn much-needed
cash, a portion of which he planned to send back to his family in Korea. But
Koh had been Þred from his Þrst job in Japan, had quit his second job after
one too many racist comments and a ÞstÞght over a bicycle, and had been
Þred from his third job for a minor, honest mistake. Now, not only was he
unable to subsidize his family in Korea, but he also owed money to the room-
ing house managers, men whose generosity, help, and social connections to
factory bosses and sub-contractors had helped Koh secure his jobs in Japan.
Koh was painfully aware that his debts represented a reduction in the room-
ing managers’ monthly incomes.
Finding work as a Korean during an industrial recession in Osaka hadn’t
been easy, but Koh was able to land his Þrst job at a small, family-operated
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