There are many Zainichi (Korean Japanese) people who became very famous and popular among Japanese masses; musicians, baseball players (Oh Sadaharu, the homerun king, is one of them), martial arts founders etc. I want to introduce this interesting figure Rikidozan (力道山) to those who don't know about him. (Sorry for my randomness)
Rikidozan was actually not a Zainichi but a Korean man who grew up in Korea, but came to Japan to become a sumo wrestler. Sumo training is always hard, but he experienced great hardship as Korean in the traditional Japanese sumo community as well. In fact, he was not very successful as a sumo wrestler. He decided to learn the western style wrestling, and moved to the US. A year later he came back to Japan, estabslished a whole new genre of puro-resu (professional wrestling) in Japan, and became a superstar in 1951. He kept defeating American wrestlers and becamse a national hero. I heard many times my parents recall the excitement as little kids to see Rikidozan literally throwing huge western wreslers out of the wresling ring. My mother's family was the only household that owned a TV in the neighborhood, so all the neighbors gathered at her house to see the wresling games.
Ok. I have not read any scholarly work on him: I only heard about him, watched a Korean movie "Rikidozan," and read a few journalist works on him. What really interests me is the scene in the movie, when Rikidozan tries to pursuade the sponsors to back him up in establishing the western style wrestling industry, and goes "Japan needs national pride. Japan needs a national hero. They lost spirits since the end of the war. I want to give Japanese people hope by showing Asians defeating big western guys!" (I might be distorting it a bit since it has been a while since I watched the movie.) I am not sure if he really said that or not, but what an interesting thing it is for a Korean man to say in a Korean movie. Even if this is totally fictional, it is true that Rikidozan became the most important national hero in the immediate post war Japan. He did give hope and pride to many Japanese kids, apparently.
Another interesting thing about him is his deep involvement in the underground society in Japan. "Tokyo Underworld" by Robert Whiting is a fun reading if you are interested in stories of foreign mafias in Tokyo in the 1950s and 60s. While the movie almost completely ignores this aspect of Rikidozan's life, Whiting thinks Rikidozan knew everyone important in the underground society and was involved in many things himself.