Remembering (the other) war victims in post-occupational Okinawa

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Presented by Dr Shin Takahashi

Lectures, talks and seminars

School of Languages and Cultures Research Seminar Series

15 Aug 2019 4:10 pm to 15 Aug 2019 5:00 pm

von Zedlitz 606 (vZ606)

Listen to the meanings and practices around the commemoration of non-local victims such as Korean forced labourers in post-occupational Okinawa, Japan.

Commemoration is the action to remember the deceased, whether privately or publicly at a ceremony, in the aftermath of devastating events such as war. This is also a social practice by which to frame a sense of belonging and an ethical relationship among the living in time and space. In this presentation, I discuss commemorations of Korean laborers and sex slaves, often referred to as “comfort women”, in post-occupational Okinawa and how the memory of “the other war victims” contributed to making reflective historical consciousness.

The history and memory of Koreans in the Battle of Okinawa, the very last and most devastating ground battle during WWII, were for a long time kept quietly among some local communities until the mid-1980s. So, when the stories about the role of Korean forced labourers and sex slaves during the war were revealed for the first time in public, the islanders received them as unsettling given the fact that they still endured the war wounds upon which the narrative of victimhood was built. However, remembering the Korean victims, including facing some confronting stories, enabled Okinawa to realise its similarities with Korea in terms of historical experiences. Okinawa and Korea were both once “colonised” by Japan and then transformed into America’s military strongholds, although Okinawa was treated as part of Japan’s internal territory, while Korea was not.

In this presentation, I highlight the first encounter between Okinawan locals and Korean war survivors in 1986 and examine the meaning of this event through the lens of transcultural memory. I argue that transculturalisation of the local memory is crucial in understanding not only the complication of Okinawa’s victimhood but also its shared history with Asian neighbours, which eventually enabled Okinawan citizens to create a new agency in their local identity, regionalism.

For more information contact: Seminar Convenor - AProf. Marco Sonzogni

Speaker Bios

Dr Shin Takahash is a lecturer in Japanese.